This is a long, and I hope, a valuable post. I have been listening to this
thread for a few weeks.
I have been an Organization Development Consultant to corporate clients for
25 years and have ridden the bucking bronco of "Valuing Diversity" for most
of that time, providing guidance on ending discriminatory policies and
practices on four continents.
The "glass ceiling" is a North American code word for pervasive,
institutionalized discrimination based on sex. Discrimination has been so
difficult to eradicate for the past thirty years.
Women have protected "rights" only since the government mandated initiative
(Civil Rights Act of 1964) and (we) white women were included only by
chance. Southern Legislators (then called "Dixicrats"), attempting to
defeat the Act, added "sex" to the proposed language of "discrimination
based on race, ethnicity, national origin". They were convinced that the
other legislators, overwhelmingly men, would not want "their women to be
drafted, use unisex toilets, be taken down from---their pedestal" (floor
testimony, Congressional Register) They were talking about white women,
since women of color were included in the Act under "race". Since then,
some of us have been encouraging the white male designers of the modern
corporation to live by the spirit of the law. The discrimination is
subtle, pervasive and difficult to address, much less eradicate, since it
resides in the belief systems of all of us. Consider that there are
proscriptions against females embedded in the principles and practices of
all major religions in the world. Judeo-Christian, Muslim, Buddhist,
Shinto...Hindu all have traditions that name female as "less than, purdah,
unclean, not fit to speak in the Temple".
Women delude ourselves by thinking that 1.) There's not "a gender war on";
as male privilege is being eroded. 2.) That the battle has been won.
"There's nothing to be so wrought up about, Mom, Granny!" I witness
discrimination against women in all organizations that I visit. It is
largely unconscious, residing as I said deep in the belief systems of both
men and women. When it is conscious, it is subtle. One CEO told me that
he and his Cabinet could not imagine women as top decision makers in the
company because "one week out of every month, you could not rely on their
ability to make a clear decision."
I help organizations and their members become conscious of the ancient and
unexamined mental models that posit males and their output as more valuable
and females and their output as less valuable. It is instructive along
those lines to consider: Leave from work for military duty is paid and
valued. The participants are learning to take life. Leave for maternity
is unpaid and therefore in Capitalism, unvalued. The participants are
giving life.....and donating the future labor force to corporations,
gratis! And those of us who got a pension (est. 1/3) saw those pensions
cut by "interrupted service"....leave for maternity. Over the pension life
of a longer lived woman this amounts to thousands of dollars lost.
We need to wake up to the fact that a majority of the working women in the
global economy are rewarded for this unique function. Singapore has
excellent state provided day care for every child. They have a policy to
free up every educated woman to work....Maternity is mandated paid in most
of Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand, some of Southeast Asia
(particularly for knowledge workers) and generously paid; also parenting
leave is given in some EU countries for up to three years to mothers and/or
fathers. There is nowhere in the world where women are paid what men are
for the same, or similar, work. (United Nations, UNIFEM Report on Women,
We are not talking small potatoes here. We are a cheap labor force only as
long as we continue to collude with systems that systematically dis' us.
Carlotta Tyler, M.S.O.D.
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