I never knew that you could save so much money through such simple measures.
So many helpful hints. Like, take the kids to a cheaper ski resort this year, or sell your country home. Or (and this one is very revealing)…
“Stop carrying a wedge of cash around with you,” said the ex-Goldman banker. “It reduces the temptation to tip people so much.”
But I think that this one was my favourite one – Make Your Wife Do The Ironing!
Another banker, who used to work at Goldman Sachs and now runs his own business, said he gets his wife to iron his shirts nowadays. “At Goldman there was a service in the basement where I dropped my shirts off for a fee, but now I ask Jane to do it for me,” he said.
“The wife is doing the ironing,” another banker told us. “She’s not loving it, but she doesn’t want to get a job herself so is having to accept it.”
Alas, I don’t have a wife to do the ironing for me.
Today’s Dom Post says that we need more women at top levels in the police force, and argues that a big part of the problem is the entrenched culture of sexism and misogyny. It goes even further than suggesting that the culture in the police force needs to change, saying:
Changing the culture of an organisation takes time, but the time for soft-footing the issue is past. If there are still police officers who cannot deal with women in the workplace they, not their female colleagues, should go.
And it fingers the sexual harassment and bullying of women officers as the big problem that stops women from making it to the top.
There are two explanations for the dearth of women at senior level. One is that the country’s 1564 sworn female police officers are good for patrolling the beat, making arrests and prettying up the station, but do not have the heads for more serious matters. The other is that the police culture is antagonistic towards women. Dame Margaret Bazley’s 2007 commission of inquiry into police conduct and a 2000 review of female participation in the criminal investigation branch suggests the latter is the case.
Dame Margaret’s inquiry focused predominantly on sexual misconduct, but it revealed a workplace in which antediluvian attitudes toward women persisted well into the 1980s and in which elements of the police hierarchy regarded allegations of sexual misconduct in the same way as the Catholic church. They were to be hushed up and tidied away rather than dealt with.
The 2000 CIB review revealed a similar culture. Author Prue Hyman, associate professor of economics and women’s studies at Victoria University, found an, at times, unwelcoming climate for women ”where mild gender harassment and workplace bullying is often tolerated”.
Wow. Tough talk. Watch out for senior police officers denying it all later on today…
But I don’t think that’s the only attitude problem that’s stopping women from getting to the top in the police force. last Saturday’s Dom Post had a full age article about women in the police: What stops women becoming top cops?
There are some clues in the article about another huge problem for female police officers.
“Reviews have discussed how it takes a ‘special kind of woman’ to get ahead; that there are higher standards for women; that the police internal culture demands a certain assertiveness and personal resilience from women; that there is an element of sexism; and that all in all it’s an old boys’ club.”
She points to the recent departure of Ms Rose, and Superintendent Gayle Gibson, who retired last year.
The difficulty of combining work and family are a barrier to career progression, Ms Hornsby-Geluk says.
Dayle Candy, who had risen to the rank of detective senior sergeant when she quit in 2001, says she couldn’t juggle work and family. She had served 26 years.
“There was an atmosphere that persisted that I wasn’t capable of doing the job because I had a family. And there was very little discussion around changing that. The environment wasn’t created to change that.
One former senior officer believes entry to the top of the hierarchy requires a cop to have served as a detective inspector, an area commander and a detective senior sergeant – all demanding roles requiring long, often unpredictable hours that often don’t suit mothers.
Mr O’Connor wonders if the current push to get more officers serving on the front line will stall progress. “Police work is police work,” he says. “The [current] mantra is front line. What that means is, generally, shift work. Shift work is generally less family-friendly.”
He also accepts that many women officers have partners also in the force.
Both Ms Hughes and Ms Candy question whether the nature of frontline policing is compatible with family life.
“Women in every other workplace are balancing their work with their families, their husband. Does it upset families at times? Yes, it does. I think it is no different from any other workplace.”
Notice the theme in all of that? Childcare and family life is a problem. But more than that, notice who it is a problem for. It’s not a problem for male police officers. Instead, it’s a problem for women in the police force. Male police officers with children don’t have to worry about childcare, but female police officers do.
And therein lies a problem. For a woman to succeed in the police, she has to be a superwoman, juggling career and children and shiftwork, because this is all regarded as her responsibility. Who knows to what extent police bosses just don’t get around to promoting women because they look at her responsibilities, and decide that she won’t be able to manage. Maybe they don’t do this explicitly, but just make a casual hidden assumption that a woman who is a mother won’t be able to manage. That’s certainly the casual hidden assumption in all the quotes above.
A woman shouldn’t have to be a superwoman to succeed. That’s one of the key points that Anne-Marie Slaughter made in her article in The Atlantic: Why women still can’t have it all. Men aren’t required to be supermen to make it to senior positions, but women are. And one of the central reasons for that is that people still think that childcare and families are the woman’s responsibility.
I had a huge amount to get through at work this week – study material that simply must be prepared and loaded onto websites and ready to go a week ahead of the second semester starting. The second semester doesn’t start until mid-Juiy, but there are two weeks of school holidays first, and my part-time job means that I don’t work then. As well as masses of work, I had two rehearsals for my choir, and a concert at my daughters’ school, and a meeting for a trust board that I am on. On top of all this, as is reasonably common, Mr Bee was away some nights, for work. I knew that the week would be frantic.
And then, on Monday morning, Miss Ten the younger came into our bedroom, looking very pale and droopy. She has a sore throat and sore ears, and really was quite miserable. She spent two days aawy from school, but by Tuesday evening, she was looking much better. Good, I thought. I can have three really good days in the office.
Except that by Tuesday evening, Miss Ten the younger was getting paler and paler, and clearly getting sicker and sicker. She was away from school on Wednesday and Thursday, and again today, ‘though by late afternoon, she had recovered.
I didn’t get a single day in the office all week.
There are some things that make managing sick children easier for me than for many parents. I have an office to myself, which is standard practice for academics in universities, and it’s large, so I have a sofa in there, which is ideal for sick children. I had meetings on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday that I didn’t want to miss, so on those days, the girls came to campus with me, and languished on my sofa, with books and my iPad to keep themselves amused. My work can easily be done at home, although it’s a nuisance not having ready access to the resources in my office, and not being able to wander down the hallway to consult a colleague over a problem if necessary.
But working at home has its limitations, notably with respect to my laptop. By Thursday I had sore arms and hands thanks to the height of the dining table where I was working, and the clunkiness of my laptop’s mousepad. I could solve both those problems (mouse instead of a mousepad, swapping to a different table), but the ergonomics at home are not nearly has good as my desk in my office. And try as I might, I never get as much done at home as I do in the office.
It was been a tough week. But even then, for me, as a working mother, it has been comparatively easy. Academic jobs are one of the few jobs that are output oriented instead of input oriented. My employer doesn’t really count the hours I put in. Instead, I am measured by the number of students I teach, and the amount of research I do. If I happen to do my work in the middle of the night, that’s just fine. Obviously, I have to turn up for the classes I teach, and as a rule, I ought to be in my office and present in the department during normal work hours, but if I need to work from home, I can. And I am not a sole parent. Because Mr Bee has a Big Job, we have consciously decided that I will work part time, so that we can manage childcare.** However, even though I end up taking most of the childcare responsibilities, if the sky really fell down, I could call on Mr Bee for help.
But what say you have a job where being present is what matters? How many bosses are going to be happy with an employee taking a whole week off to care for sick children? And here’s the thing about children: they are little repositories of disease. They get sick, with winter bugs and illnesses, and sick childen cannot go to school or daycare. That means that you cannot go to work.
And if you are a sole parent, then by definition you do not have a partner with whom to share childcare. This is why the National party’s plan to make sure that all those sole parents are out working will fail. It’s not that that parents don’t want to work. All the evidence shows that the great majority of people who are on the DPB are only on it for a few years, and move off it when they are able too. Many of them find employment precarious and difficult to manage – witness Paula Bennett’s struggle – but they are willing to work. The problem is the lack of jobs where employers are happy for employees to take leave to care for sick children. Add to this the need to take leave for school holidays – 12 weeks school holidays each year, but most employees only get four weeks annual leave – and the minor detail of most jobs running for eight to nine hours each day, while school runs for only six, and trying to find work that enables a sole parent to work suddenly looks very difficult indeed.
It’s Saturday now, and at last, everyone is well. With a bit of luck, I will get a whole clear week in the office before the school term ends on Friday. Fingers crossed….
* Working in paid employment
** Yes, this might create issues in many careers. As it turns out, in an academic career, I should be able to go back to fulltime work fairly easily once my children are old enough. Also, I no longer have a career. I just have a series of jobs which do well enough for the time being.
Earlier posts on the National Party’s policies for sole parents:
- Get those sole parents working
- Keeping its promises
- I did it, so why can’t you?
- Making those slappers cross their legs
In today’s astounding and astonishing research that everyone is completely surprised by, a survey has shown that women are working harder than men to achieve work-life balance.
Well, that’s a real road-to-Damascus revelation, isn’t it.
The causes are standard: women do a double shift at home and look for higher standards. And because they are better at some tasks, it just seems sensible that they should do them, in a gender based division of labour. Here’s how one chap justifies the way tasks are shared out in his household.
One witty reader thought a functioning household should use each gender’s natural strengths. “Each gender has its own strengths in its own areas. For example, my wife can do the washing and ironing far quicker than I can hence she completes these tasks more efficiently than I.
“Comparatively, I can surf the MySky evening programmes much more efficiently than her and decide in a quicker time frame what programmes we will watch. Our work-life balance is kept in check much more efficiently by both of us working to our personal strengths.”
Behind the joke, there is a serious issue. Yes, it does seem sensible that in order to get household tasks done quickly, because most of us really don’t like having to devote time to doing hosuework, we should each do what we are best at. She should cook and clean and iron, he should mow the laws and do the maintenance. But therein lies a trap: he who only ever mows the lawns never learns how to cook, and never becoems able to take on the daily drudgery of preparing meals. And it *is* a daily drudgery. I love cooking, I enjoy trying new recipes, I derive a fair degree of satisfaction from preparing meals, but being responsible for it every day becomes wearying.
And then there are the familiar issues:
spending time deciding which leisure activities to engage in is NOT work;
deferable activities, such as mowing lawsn, do not create the same weight as non-deferable activities (children must be fed everyday, after all, and one can’t simply decide to defer their eating until a less busy day);
the daily drudgery of cooking and cleaning is never done, because it must all be done again tomorrow, whereas a newly painted fence will stay painted for quite a few years;
childcare is actually work, and a person who is responsible for the children is constrained to choose only activities that fit with that work (no heading out for a walk or a run if you have to take care of the children).
So…. I am about to negotiate this day’s work life balance. Mostly it is going to consist in announcing that I will sort out the meals and the children’s washing, and do nothing else… in order that I may spend the day on my paid work.
Perhaps I am missing the point?
A local journalist contacted me for comment on paid parental leave.
A Manawatu academic and advocate for women’s rights has slammed the government for threatening to veto moves to extend paid parental leave, accusing it of ignoring the needs of babies.
Professor Deborah Russell, a lecturer in accountancy at Massey University, working mother and a feminist blogger said while affordability was an issue, there was always a way if the need was great enough.
“We need to have a think about what are the important things to afford and at the moment we are not very good at directing funds towards small children.”
Dr Russell said if parental leave was extended it might encourage fathers to share more of the load of early childcare, giving them a chance to bond better with their children in the early stages of development.
“Women normally take the parental leave and the childcare duties and that can have a long term impact on their careers. If we extend paid parental leave to six months men might take it up or share the leave and so we lose that gendered dimension.”
Just to be clear, I’m not actually a professor, and given that the paper contacted me, rather than me contacting the paper, that word “slammed” is exciting, but perhaps not quite accurate. However, the journalist represented my views very fairly indeed, and captured the two ideas I most wanted to get across.
1. Childcare is heavily gendered, with women more-or-less always being responsible for it. This shortchanges both women and men. Women lose income and career progress, and men lose connection and confidence with small children. More paid parental leave might enable more men to share the childcare in those early weeks and months.
2. Saying paid parental leave is unaffordable only makes sense if we regard it as something that has to be funded in addition to everything else we already fund. If we were willing to re-examine all our existing spending commitments, such as giving farmers a tax break on the emissions trading scheme, and the lack of means testing around New Zealand superannuation, then it might turn out that more paid parental leave was affordable afterall.
The Sunday Star Times reported today that more and more women, and some men, are giving up paid work because childcare costs are simply too great.
The story is familiar: by the time a family pays for childcare in order to enable both parents to earn income, nothing is left over from that second income. It is simply too expensive. This certainly gels with my own experience, and with the experiences that other women have reported to me. Just last week, one of my cousins told me that she gave up on returning to her interesting job when she realised that she was looking around for cheaper childcare. Given the nature of her job, and the extent to which her partner travels, she needs bullet proof childcare, the sort where she is able to call half an hour before she is due to pick her kids up because an urgent task has come in. That kind of childcare is simply not available at a price where she will have money left over from her salary.
But there is a curious anomaly in our funding of childcare and education. As it turns out, for many parents, the turning point is when their children head off to school. School is virtually free, “donations” and stationery aside, and it is freely available to every five year old in the country. We fund reasonably comprehensive childcare and education for five year olds, but not four year olds. The anomaly exists for historical reasons, but it seems to me that it could usefully be reviewed. Just like our existing spending could usefully be reviewed, both a part of a national conversation about what kinds of support we want to see young families getting.