Women on Top
A few brief questions for you: Do you work for a company run by
a woman? If she has children, does she take flextime? Is that tolerated
or encouraged in your office? Who represents you in Congress? Any
of them women?
My guess is most, if not all, of your answers were negative. That's
Peggy Orenstein found after spending four years interviewing some
200 women. The result, her new book Flux: Women on Sex, Work, Love,
Kids and Life in a Half-Changed World (Doubleday, $25), examines
the state of women's lives three decades into the feminist movement.
"Beneath a boundless optimism lies a sneaking suspicion that the rhetoric
of 'choices' is in part a con job," she writes, "disguising impossible
dilemmas as matters of personal preference. [Women] see 'choices'
threatening to morph into cruel tradeoffs: double binds that could
ultimately trap them in the narrow roles they're expected to escape."
Orenstein weaves her research into a series of engaging profiles.
One subject, Mira Brodie, is a tough 26-year-old primed to conquer
corporate America. She knows she must play by the boys' rules to
advance at her high-finance job. Like her male co-workers, she values
aggressiveness and assertiveness. But too much aggression ricochets
into a typical female stereotype. "I'm the power hungry bitch,"
Brodie says. "People think I'm unapproachable. I don't exude those
'Come on in, hang out' vibes."
In evidence of the double standard, Brodie says many of her women
friends take off their wedding rings before job interviews. "[Companies]
are not sure if you're looking for a job for a year or two before
you become pregnant," she says. Brodie's right. A 1996 survey of
corporations found that women with children were considered less
committed to their work by their bosses.