Friday, December 30, 2011

Pink Collar Ghetto - And Perhaps My Final Dissertation Topic?

"Let's face it, Ladies.  We are in a pink collar ghetto."  Lily Tomlin as Violet Newstead, 9 to 5. 
I was 5 years old when the movie 9 to 5 came out, but I remember watching it with my mom over and over again.  To this day, if it's on TV, I will stop to watch it.  As a girl of the 80's, I grew up with parents who told me I could do anything, even be President.  My mom always worked at home, and my dad didn't get the chance to finish college.  This movie sang to me the message that women have to stick together and confront the sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigots of the world.  
At the sunset of 2011, the message is still important.  Why?  Because women, as a whole, make only 80% of what men make.  80%.  In 2011.  Are you listening?  And this is supposed to be such an improvement from 1970, when the gap was less than 60%.  Yesterday I did some research on the pink collar ghetto, coined in 1983 by a woman consultant desperately trying to help women crawl out of it.  Yes, the wage gap is mainly attributable to the over-representation of men in higher-paying occupations, such as engineering, sciences and math, and executive leadership, and the over-representation of women in lower-paying occupations, such as education, nursing, and service industries.  How can we let this happen?  Even when women go to college (now at a much higher rate than men), they still make far less than their male counterparts.  This is a travesty and one I must figure out.

So as my dissertation focus has shaped itself, and changed itself, and driven me - and my advisor - crazy, now I think I've reached it.  I have access to more than a dozen women at work who are breaking down barriers in male-dominated industries and making as much money as the good ol' boys.  I have to tap into them and see what makes the difference and how we can help other women become equal in the workplace, and society as a whole.  

Perhaps a more fundamental mystery is this:  Why are some of the most critical occupations to our society the lowest paying ones?  I refuse to believe that educating our children and healing our infirm and weak take any less skill, education, mental horsepower, and critical thinking than building a power plant, or optimizing a search engine algorithm.  We pay CEO's, athletes, movie stars more money than they could ever spend in several generations.  Now, lest you think I'm a socialist, let me clear that up - I'm not.  I believe people have the right to earn as much money as they possibly can.  But let's be realistic here.  We have created a society in which women are stuck in a pink-collar ghetto with very little hope of rising above.  This creates a cycle of poverty for their children, and thus dominates our social landscape with all sorts of problems - crime, drugs, illness that cost society billions of dollars and insurmountable pain.  Wouldn't it make sense to equalize pay for critical jobs in our country and help women become partners in solving the world's ills?  

Think about it. 

Monday, December 26, 2011

Dodged a Bullet

I got a B in Quantitative Research Analysis, a class I was sure I was going to fail and have to repeat, amid the river of tears I would cry if that had happened.  I got a A+ in my favorite professor's class (she also happens to be my advisor, and I am one lucky PhD student for that), and an A- in a class that I couldn't care less about if I had tried.  But this semester taught me something - I can do anything, but I can't do everything.  Three PhD classes, plus a full-time workload that increasingly challenges me, and a life with a man who makes me have fun no matter what (liver and sleep be damned some nights!), is just too much.  I am slowing down my program and graduating a semester or two past what my overly-ambitious goal was.  I'm okay with it.  It's a journey, not a race.  And as I have mentioned, my PhD program does not define me, it only makes a part of who I am. 

I am starting my end-of-year reflecting.  It was a great year.  I had some really great highs - earning my SPHR, making really awesome new friends, kicking @ss at work, and trying to balance my crazy-busy world, and I had some lows - not spending enough time with my favorite person in the world (see:  PhD and work/travel) and nearly alienating him, and sweating 3 classes this semester. 

But as the year comes to an end, I think I'm in a damn good place.  I am rich with friends I never expected to have, I have a wonderful mentor who makes me believe in myself, and best of all, I am married to my best friend, who always makes me believe in myself. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

What Matters

My PhD program does not define me - will not define me.  The memories I make with friends, however, do define me.  Last night was a celebration of new friends and good times.  I love hosting dinner parties.  I learn so much about the people I live and work with, and also learn new things about myself.

Nourishing those who make a difference in my life is one of my favorite things to do.  Last night brought a succulently-rich red-wine braised beef roast, buttery mashed potatoes, homemade bread, and an amazingly decadent Chocolate Guinness stout cake trifle with chocolate ganache and Bailey's Irish Whipped Cream (last minute almost fail - the cake stuck to the pan - but it performed well in a trifle and was the star of the night!).  The company was great, the food delicious, and the memories, priceless. 

I look at my circle of friends and can't help but feel delight, especially during the holiday season when you are supposed to feel blessed.  I have a diverse friend base, and they teach me something new every day.  My friends come from all walks of life, and I am tickled pink that they choose to celebrate a Saturday night at our place.  One friend, from Ghana, brought back beautiful African masks for us, another made soap, and others brought delicious candy confections that I don't have the patience to create.  Together, we laughed, we lived, we loved.  I'm not sure it ever gets better than that.  I am truly rich from the friends who are willing to spend time with us.  Life is grand, and that, my friends, is all that matters. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Behavior Science

It probably doesn't help me to understand why I don't have the motivation to complete my final paper for quantitative statistics and research analysis.  I understand behavior science.  The rules are irrefutable.  They are everywhere.  I am not reinforced for doing this homework, and the only reason I'm doing it is negative reinforcement - to avoid a flaming "F" and hope for a passing "B." 

Humans cannot function without positive reinforcement.  They break down, they lose motivation, they don't give their best.  I see this every single day at work and at school.  Yet people dismiss the science because it seems so hard.  Let me tell you, folks, it's not.  It's remarkably easy.  Treat people the way they (not YOU) want to be treated, recognize them, and praise them sincerely for a job well done.  Yet we get it wrong so many times, and high performers lose motivation to perform.  Aubrey Daniels has it right.  Maybe I can go work for him!