"Where Women are Leaders" a moving book about women tranforming the economic landscape of India "where women are leads" has since become a statement and a question. Undeniably, in India this network of women has transformed the lives of not only the 40,000 women in the network, but their family and community as well. Most importantly as it's lead and promoted through women, it is the women leading this movement and empowering fellow women.
However I also consider how the US has or doesn't have some sort of comparable network for women, based upon our level of need. While there are so many tupes of feminism and disagreement among women for what all women want (see Feministe.com and Penelope Trunk's blog for a disappora of opinions) - it's obvious that as working mothers are becoming a larger and larger percentage of the workforce some common interests emerge like career development, flexible schedule, remote work and childcare / education. Indeed, during WWII this was considered as many women had to work in factories to keep up production of American goods, but what's happened since then?
Where are women leaders?
As I pursue my career ambition and look to where are the women who have probably already started a network for women to advance working women's interests, I'm confronted with either extremely localized interest groups (such as WMN-Miami) or large national PAID networks with celebrity advocates but unclear objectives (such as Star Jones' network for women). I believe that these are well meaning organizations, I'm just a bit mystified at the rudimentary nature of these networks. Again, since women entered the workforce at large in WWII and some general women's interests were presented then - shouldn't there be 50+ years of discussing, organization and advocating on these issues?
We don't even have a mandatory maternity leave yet in the US!?!
How can such a civilized nation tolerate this - I ask myself... and then think and research.
What I find, has been a little more than disheartening.
My first disappointment, in the recent media blitz covering the new Yahoo CEO and former Google employee #20, I found that she will take a (gasp) 2 weeks maternity leave. Well, she thinks she will at any rate. While she didn't sign up to be a role model for working mothers, imagine a male CEO attempting to establish his company's maternity leave policy. He may start by doing a Google search, finding this and think it's acceptable and normal. After all, if you're a CEO (Marissa Mayer) don't you think you would take the time you think you need? And since there's no mandatory leave, well, then 2 weeks must be nice. It may be nice if you can afford a full time nanny, but my friends with children under 4 would tell you otherwise about even being able to carry a conversation 2 weeks after giving birth.
Then, take a look over at Penelope Trunk and she'll share with you how ...
Seventy-five percent of women who work in the US work full-time. And they say they don’t want to, according to Pew Research.
What's more is that many Dutch women don't work full time and don't want to. However even I know that getting part time employment in other countries isn't easy at all or supported. So lovely, we believe that we should just give up working full time and advocating for the system that would assist us or even a support system to establish part-time opportunities, especially for women.
But these are all outcomes and status-quo statements, how did we get here? And again, where are the women who could share their experiences, needs, desires and lessons?
So I set out to do a little research and find out why we are where we are, got me?
I found some blogs about women's issues, interests and feminism. I found some local networks for women interested in politics, crafting and knitting. I found some paid networks for women to network. I even found some mainstream news coverage about top women leaders, CEO's and other directors. BUT unlike many other areas of our lives today, I didn't find information that encompassed working, director level women who promoted women's issues or shared their experiences online for other women to learn from their previous generation and advance the newcomers.
I did find that this may be due to the low percentage of women directors, which is also startling given the fact (from Pew Research) that 75% of women are working full-time in the US.
My thoughts on what's happening.
1. Women settle instead of instigate. Women are too busy with full loads of work and childcare and other familial obligations that we don't take the time to instigate, to organize and press on issues that concern us.
2. Women discussing women's issues are undervalued. Books have flourished ("Bringing up Bebe"), television networks established (Oprah Winfrey Network) and politicians succeeded since Margaret Thatcher, but yet the discussion doesn't cover women and all of their interests, women cover other topics to be relevant and get paid by their employers and advertisers who must be saying that there isn't any interest in covering working women's interests.
3. The Dutch are Happy, how about us? Do we, US women enjoy our state of affairs? Do women directors have what they want? Are you able to work part-time but chose otherwise? Are you instead running your own private business? As you can see, my research has led me to more questions. Questions that I'd like to ask on a larger scale or find, if it is already out there... I'm looking for you!