web analytics

Milk and two sugars love

The Chief Reporter leant over the desk, his face florid with frustration. 8 most sexist jobs

‘But isn’t that an engagement ring?’ he demanded of my 19 year old self.

‘Yes. So?’ I was young and insouciant.

‘You’ll just run off and get married and have babies after we’ve invested all that time in training you.’

I gathered I wasn’t going to be accepted into the journalism training scheme. I was too young, too educated (I had already completed my BA in Eng Literature) and importantly, I had made the important error of carrying a pair of serviceable ovaries.

Of course, this wasn’t the end of my experience with sexism during my career. Oh no, it was only the beginning, but it was over two decades ago now and I had hoped that my daughters would leave University for a working world that was more equitable. I had hoped that would be the case, and then I read Newsweek’s article on the eight most sexist professions, and felt so disappointed. What was the point of all that bra-burning? What a waste of Elle MacPherson’s finest!

Guess what’s on Newsweek’s list in the first spot! Journalism.

1/Journalism

2/Law

3/Business

4/Science and Engineering

5/Film and Entertainment

6/Politics

7/Nursing

8/Academia

It’s an interesting list, and the article is certainly worth reading, but I wonder how true to life it is. If it is true to life, is it because workplaces haven’t changed to accommodate women’s lives, which are notoriously stop-start through the child-rearing years? Or is it because society’s expectations of young women have changed and reverted back to a 1960s stance?

I know I’ve experienced some interesting cases of sexism in business and in journalism, but I’ve never been a lawyer, professor or nurse. I did start out wanting to be a nurse but they wisely turned me down. They mumbled something about attitude realignment and pigs flying. I don’t really like being told what to do, and fail to accept that doctors are God’s representatives on earth.

I was once told that I had the wrong voice for radio, despite years of voice training.  Of course the problem was organic. ‘Listeners don’t like hearing female voices, they’re too shrill,’ the Station Manager told me. ‘Some women get away with it by smoking and that deepens the voice,’ he advised but as I was unlikely to get into a two pack a day habit I parked that desire.

When I worked for one of the largest IT companies in the world I was horrified to be asked to manage the sales manager’s diary alongside managing the $200k marketing budget. And yes, I was even asked to get the coffee in a meeting.

‘Milk and two sugars, love.’

But that was over twenty years ago now, surely things have changed?

My friend Muddling Along raised the issue in her post about ‘waity Katie’. In that piece she asks whether sitting around waiting for your prince to come is truly the hallmark of a modern woman with a university degree under her belt.

I don’t think it is but maybe I’m out of touch with the younger generation. Is it the behaviour of a generation who have seen first hand the difficulties of fighting the war against sexism in the boardroom trenches? Is this the reaction of a generation of younger women who have seen their mothers grow old before their time as they struggle for validation as intelligent women in the office and in the home? Has the clock turned back? Is that why these bastions of sexism still prevail?

I’m teaching my daughters that they can be whatever they want to be. I also tell them that what they do is not the same thing as who are, and to guard against trying to do it all! I remind them that Cinderella was a fairy tale and the prince aint coming. I hope that I’m a good role model for them – that being an independent intelligent woman is a thing of pride, and that there is more to life than babies and teatowels.

But I do worry that in this, the Year of the Woman, expectations of women’s contribution in the workplace are so low, particularly in these 8 professions. Please tell me things have changed in your stories about your work place, in the comments below….

Image: Flickr CC

Seunna4

You may also like...

  • http://twitter.com/keatsbabe Suzie Grogan

    Amazes me how so much discrimination is still missed and how much we still accept, not just as women but as a society. Nursing discriminates against men, as does childcare – I knew women who were suspicious of a young man wanting to be a nursery nurse. But it is women first and foremost who have to accept a raw deal and now the (female) Home Sec is changing ‘equality’ to ‘fairness’ seems things may slip backwards once more…

    • Anonymous

      I absolutely agree that sexism can work against men too, particularly in the areas of education and nursing. Don’t think two wrongs make a right particularly in this sense.

  • Guest

    From a man’s perspective – why do you need a level playing field? I’m yet to come across a ‘Year of the Man’ – its the women (and her partner’s) choice of whether they want kids etc – why should my business be affected because of this? I dont see my kids usually in the evenings on weekdays but they also know that it is the reason that they can go to private school and get a Wii when they ask for it..

    You choose your path – you take the consequences – why should that mean I, who sacrifice a bit in my own way should suddenly accommodate you as well?

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for commenting Guest. It’s always good to have another perspective. I have worked alongside many guys who work so incredibly hard they rarely see their children, or partners/wives for that matter, so I completely understand where you are coming from. I’m not up with the legislation surrounding maternity leave, here in the Uk but my impression is that it is a heavy burden for an employer to provide maternity cover, particularly in an SME. I should point out that I didn’t go ahead and have children (nor get married) at 19, that didn’t happen until a decade later and when it did I established my own consultancy working from home – choosing to have it all and make my own rules.

      I was surprised by Newsweek’s list, but then wondered if it’s true whether it actually indicates a change in societal expectations as a whole, back to a simpler age of traditional male and female roles.

  • Pingback: Tweets that mention Milk and two sugars please love | Vegemitevix -- Topsy.com

  • http://www.thesardinetin.com JulieB

    I do think using the term “business’ as some sort of catch-all is too much of an oversimplification – I’m sure there are huge differences between different industries. Simply lumping them all together will not do anyone any favours. It’

  • http://www.muddlingalongmummy.com/ Muddling Along Mummy

    Business is a touch wide ranging

    Interestingly it doesn’t include City professions which, in my experence, are incredibly sexist – I don’t know a single senior female in this field that doesn’t have a dossier of instances of sexism as long as her arm. Its just how it is.

    I would love a level playing field, I would love that people couldn’t pay be less because I’m a woman and they think they can get away with it, I would love that people would not be able to make highly personal comments about my appearance but hey, its the profession I’ve chosen to be in and if I don’t like it I guess I can leave

    What worries me is how prevalent sexism is and that yes, it does in some ways feel as if nothing has or will change

  • http://bloggertropolis.blogspot.com/ Steve

    Sexism, like racism, still exists and flourishes in little pockets. It will be eradicated one day I am sure but that day is still sometime off I’m afraid. Reverse sexist still exists too: one of my work colleagues was made a fuss over this week because she had to pick her sick child up from nursery where I felt frowned upon for doing the same today.

  • http://www.thecarepost.com Find Nannies

    You think the city department is bad, you should try working in manufacturing! It is absolutely intolerable in that industry. That why I am now a nanny!