Thursday, June 17, 2010

A woman's worth is more than her earning potential

Another day, yet another article assessing women's worth by how much they earn.  Arrgh.  In May a 'Good Weekend' article in the Sydney Morning Herald, titled 'Long way to the top' made me want to scream.  Apparently feminism is failing because there are still only a small percentage of the huge pile of qualified women in high-powered corporate jobs.  And I imagine it's women like me that are stuffing up the statistics (I've got a few university degrees lying around that are currently going to 'waste').

I know that the point of the article is to show how women are simply not being promoted into higher level jobs, but it also places a high emphasis on how much women are worth.  And once again women's worth is measured by her earning capacity.  The dollar value that can be associated with what she does all day.

And it's this that makes me wonder exactly this type of feminist position is supposed to be achieving.  I don't want to be a man.  I don't want my success and value to be assessed by the way the male-dominated corporate world functions.  And I certainly don't want to be assessed as successful or not because of my earning capacity.

Of course it is not OK that there are women who have been discriminated against because of their sex, and not been promoted because they are women.  But my guess is also that many, many women want to do lots of different things with their lives and not just work in one high-powered job.

Sure I'd like to imagine that I could manage to juggle a high-powered job and a family.  But I'm not stupid.  I can't do that.  So even if I wasn't discriminated against because I am a woman, I just can't see how women are single-handedly supposed to do the amazing job, have a family and not end up on anti-depressants.

At the end of the day, our society still values people because of how much they earn.  It's so frustrating for those of us who are working hard, using our time for meaningful purposes but not getting paid for it.  There may not be a dollar value associated with my name but I know I'm worth more than $0.


spally said...

Hi Jenny

Thanks for the post. It's very interesting!

Have you heard about the current campaign that the Australian Services Union is running about fair pay for fair work? Basically they are arguing:

1. People in human services jobs (social workers, aged care nurses, community workers etc) are paid much less than other professional workers.
2. Most of these workers are women
3. Therefore there is still a gender imbalance in how much people are paid
4. These workers are underpaid because "caring work" is seen as "women's work" and "women's work" is undervalued.

I've been trying to work out whether or not I agree with this for a few months and I just don't know! I think it is horrible that these workers are paid so little. But also I hear what you are saying about how we shouldn't measure the worth of someone and their contribution to society by how much money they make.

Part of me thinks "this is an issue of justice!". How come these people don't get paid as much as others? But then I think "what about people who volunteer or do this kind of work unpaid within the family and the community? They don't get paid anything? Are we saying we need to pay them too?

It's all so confusing. Thanks for writing this up and giving me another angle to think this issue through.

(married to Matt - who works with your husband, and
daughter of Grace - who works at Ashbury)

spally said...

Sorry, I didn't mean for that to be so long! Excuse me!

Jenny said...

Hi Alison - I think your comments and my post are both part of a broader issue and a tricky one too. It makes me sad that the most important jobs in our society (caring for the elderly, teaching children) are not paid accordingly. Sadly I think the monetary value reflects a societal value. Teachers are bagged out because they 'only' work 6 hours a day and have holidays. Have you spent more than 10 minutes with 30 kids in a classroom on your own? It is terrifying! And exhausting. And crucially important for the future of our country. I think if as a whole society we started to properly value these 'serving' industries then people like me who are 'just' at home caring for kids wouldn't feel the need to justify how we spend our days.

Jenny said...

Love a long comment Spally!

Kath said...

Thanks Jenny.
Two great posts about value and priorities, today. Definitely got me thinking about our preoccupation with economic value, and why we think having 'stuff' will make us (and our kids) happier.

Sarah said...

Every time I read things like this I'm aware of an uneasy contradiction. If we know that we are not valued by what they earn, why do we care who gets paid what? But yet, it still seems to matter, and what people are paid does seem to indicate something. But what?

Personally, I feel content and thankful that my needs are generously provided for, and I (and my husband) earn diddly squat!