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Louise Ripley

Gender Issues in Management
Balancing Your Life

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set of scales

This unit is written mainly in the voice of a heterosexual woman with a note that in most gay and lesbian relationships there is also frequently an unfair division of labour. This doesn't mean that men don't have balance issues in their lives, gay or straight, they do. It's just that traditionally, women who work in management also go home to another management job - the home. Regardless of who you are and how you are partnered or not, read these suggestions for what you can learn for yourself about balance, and what you can do for a partner who may be feeling an unfair balance of workload in the relationship. 

I speak here with a voice of authority - I have lived a hectic life as full-time student/full-time worker and wife and mother, all at the same time. It never got as bad as this picture, but there were many desperate days.   baby in kitchen sink with dishes
Others speak on this issue; Read Barbara Moses from the Globe and Mail  

There are specific things you can do to begin to find some balance in your life. The first one is to remember that absolutely no job is worth sacrificing your family and your health for - not even mine, wonderful as it is! In most companies it is going to have to be you who starts the process of finding balance; some enlightened companies and bosses are starting to insist that people go home at a decent hour, are discouraging weekend work, providing in-house gyms and day-care centres.... but they are the minority. 

What can YOU do to begin to find some balance in your life:

1. Consider Your Health First
There are specific things you can do to begin to find some balance in your life, but the very first one and the most important one is to remember that if the stress you are under is literally life-threatening, absolutely no job is worth sacrificing your health and ultimately your life for. There will be times when you sacrifice some of your time with your children or partner or home, but if you are sacrificing your health to try to be all things to all people and all roles in all places, you are playing with matches at the edge of a gasoline storage tank.

Marion Howell, a graduate of the School of Administrative Studies B.A.S. programme and former member of this class, often comes to speak to the on-campus course. For many years, Marion ran the offices of a dotcom company that made it through the recent crunch. She joined them when they were so small that she did just about everything and the firm since grew so large that she had to hire four people to do the work she used to do on her own. Marion has recently started out on her own as an Executive Coach. Marion was for all the years I knew her as a student and for many years afterwards a single mother of two beautiful daughters whom she reared while pursuing her degree and then while working full time. She is now happily remarried to a wonderful man and seems to have the burn-out devil under control. Some of the signals for burn-out that Marion warns us to watch for:   

short attention span
tired, sleeping all the time, body aching
can't get up in the morning (more than the usual)
can't make decisions
not liking things you used to like (shopping)
feeling hopeless

All of these signs are warning signs of something amiss in the balance in one's life. If ANY of these symptoms seem far too familiar to you, and last longer than a few days, I urge you to seek help through someone you know and trust whether it a counselor, friend, religious leader, to talk about how you can deal with these before they begin to completely overwhelm you, which they can do if left untended.

2. Set Sights Higher
There's nothing wrong with wanting to be a nurse, but there's everything in the world wrong with wanting to be a doctor and being told you can "only" be a nurse. The damage is not only to the person whose dreams are frustrated, there's damage to the profession of nursing if it's seen as only a "second-best-for-women-only" job for someone who really wanted to be a doctor but didn't have the appropriate anatomy. 

male doctor checking patient's temperature   female nurse giving patient medication
male professor in cap and gown   female school teacher with blackboard
male lawyer in court   female legal secretary

Women have to stop listening to and believing people who (yes they still do this) tell us that instead of aspiring to be a lawyer we should become a legal secretary, or instead of being a professor we should teach elementary school. Whatever you want to do in life, set your sites as high as you can and do what YOU want to do

This goes for men too, who may want to work in a field where men have not traditionally worked; do what YOU want to do

3. Act Like Grownups
Drop the little-girl garbage. It may have worked when we were five or even ten, but it doesn't work when we're supposedly grown women. We're so socialized into being good little girls that we often don't even realize we're still doing it. The ditzy designer on the left actually created the dress she's wearing in this photo. From a "woman" who looks like that, we'd expect to hear phrases like  

grown woman in little girl dress My mother wouldn't let me

Teachers always made me be quiet

They wouldn't listen anyhow

It's not my fault

You should have told me in the beginning 

I'm not interested 

I'm too tired

I don't care

It's your fault

If you want to be respected as a grown up woman of considerable presence, start acting like one. Dress like a grownup and speak in ways that indicate you own your words and soul

I said what I believed

I do what's right 

I'll find out   

I got what I wanted

It was my own doing 

I do what I want, even though it's not popular

I intend to try

I did my best 

sophisticated female executive on phone

Watch your gestures; they are a dead giveaway on insecurity. Don't giggle, don't tilt your head to the side, don't shrug your shoulders and look helpless. Speak in a voice filled with authority; lower it a few tones if necessary. Look like you know what you're doing and people will think you do. Pretty soon you'll think you do too and then you will. Hear Sheryl Sandberg talk about this in a TED talk.

Many years ago I went to a workshop given by a black singer at my Unitarian Universalist church named Bill White. From him I learned that if you want to be heard, to be noticed, to have people respond, don't raise your voice, lower it. On the Internet you won't get to see me do this, but I use it all the time in my classes. I do a lot of pair-and-share, two minute breaks, five-minute group exercises, and people talk, it's great; I love it. But I'd wreck my voice shouting at 120 people to come back; I lower my voice instead. Try it. 

4. Support Change
There are lots of people working in lots of places on lots of events and policies and laws to try to make things better for women at work - in Pay Equity, Employment Equity, laws against Sexual Harassment, Anti-Discrimination policies, the Human Rights Commission. Join them, send them financial support, or at the very least, don't bad-mouth what they're doing and yammer about how you could do it better. If you could do it better, go do it! 

As a woman, don't ever say, in any place, at any time, "I'm successful at X but I'm not a feminist." For most things that girls and women are successful in today (think more funding for girls' sports in high schools, think equal pay, think employment opportunities think a thousand things that we didn't even used to have access to), you have the Feminist movement to thank. You are allowed to think it (although you'll be wrong) but don't ever say it in a classroom where I'm teaching! It is one of the few things I come down on hard on ignorance about - if you think you got where you are without any help from the Feminist movement, you need to do some research. 

waving hand Exercise
If you have always said you don't like feminists, it may be just the word you object to, not really knowing all its many definitions. How, if at all, has your perception of this term changed since we started this course? See the  Unit on Feminism for a review of definitions.
Post your answer in the Moodle  Discussion Group.


From a recent posting on the Internet:

On Valentine's Day, a plane passed through a severe thunderstorm. The turbulence was awful, and things went from bad to worse when one of the wings was struck by lightning. One pretty woman on the plane lost it.  She stood up in front of the plane and screamed, "If I'm going to die, I want my last moments to be memorable. Is there ANYONE on this plane who can make me feel like a WOMAN?"

For a moment, there was stunned silence. Everyone forgot their own peril as they stared at the desperate woman at the front of the plane. Then a handsome man sitting in the last row, stood up. With his gaze fixed on the woman at the front of the plane, he removed his jacket and tie, tossing them on his seat. He was gorgeous---tall, well-dressed, with dark brown hair, slightly graying at the temples, and sensuous deep brown eyes.

He began to walk slowly towards her with athletic grace, unbuttoning his shirt as he went.  All eyes turned to him. As he removed his shirt, muscles rippled across his now bare chest, shoulders and arms. Other women, all ages, even men along the way gasped at this earthly Adonis. When he reached the woman at the front of the plane, he leaned towards her and whispered, "Here, iron this ... and get me something to eat."

For things to get better for women, men have got to change. Lots of men are listening and learning and working hard to change, and we need more of them to do so, and they need encouragement from women when they do try. If you know a man who's really trying, tell him you appreciate it. If he still holds open the door for you, don't call him a chauvinist pig and step on his toe, just say "thanks" and hold the door open for him next time. Read Alice Sargent's list from way back in 1977 about the different qualities we tend to find in men and in women and think about how great a world where we all had the best of all those qualities would be.

These cautions hold for gay and lesbian couples as well. When only one partner takes on the bulk of the household work, it's not healthy for a relationship. 

Three Forms of Family Relationships with Respect to Work
(one partner does it all)
woman cleaning housewoman at workplace
(asking your partner to decide what you have to do is only marginally better than doing nothing)
man leisurely reading a book
"Just holler if you need any help, honey!"
Full Egalitarian
(if you're partners, be partners in everything, the unpleasant and the necessary as well as the fun and the rewarding)
 couple both cleaning housecouple rushing clock in background    couple dancing together

Above and beyond the ordinary stresses that all families and individuals suffer in today's overly fast-paced world, two-career families suffer more stress. Margaret Karsten in Management and Gender (Westport, Connecticut: Praeger Press, 1994), gives these the following names:   

Relationship Damage If partners are exhausted trying to do everything, who keeps up the relationship? 
Role Dis-Identity You know what makes a "good wife" - you grew up with her either as your mother or images you saw on TV. Do you really want to be partnered with June Cleaver?
Task Conflict Who does which tasks and how do you decide what's fair?
Transition Disharmony In what state of mind do you leave home for work and what kind of a mood do you come home in? If partners' transition styles don't mesh, it can be hard. 
Distance Marriages More and more people are opting for transfer and commuter marriages out of necessity to keep employed. My own lawyer, a former student at York, is in one of these marriages and it works very well.

6. Overcome Guilt
If you are doing all the work at home in addition to working outside the home and you have a partner who's not pulling their fair share, stop feeling guilty about insisting that the labour be more fairly divided.

Women need to let go of guilt. One of the worst is the guilt laid at the feet of the woman who beats out a man for a promotion or a job, with cries of "Reverse Discrimination!" In the film The Chilly Climate, Glenda Simms, President of the Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women, states,

"When people say 'reverse discrimination,' notice the emphasis. Reverse Discrimination. They have very little against discrimination, it is the reverse part, because they're saying, "I don't want you to do unto me what I have done unto you, because I know it hurts."

It is natural for a group that has previously held the reins of power to resent when it is insisted that that power must be shared, but it is not discrimination or reverse discrimination to attempt to rectify previous wrongs. But no woman ever needs to feel guilty over being hired in an Affirmative Action programme; what it means is that she was at least as well qualified as the best qualified male applicant.

7. Learn From What Works For Men We've looked at the issue of the languages of sports and the military, major factors in traditional male corporate success. What works for men can be adapted or taught to work for women.  Find out what works for men you know and if it can work for you in the kind of company you want to work in, use it. Particularly useful are some of the Lessons of the Military.

8. Learn To Value Diversity
Remember that we are all none of us "normal", all of us "diverse."  Remember that at best you are now Temporarily Able Bodied, be grateful for it, and treat all others with respect for how they deal with their varying stages of ability.

9. Get More Education

Atkinson College Logo Remember credentials. Don't ever underestimate the value of education, especially the tremendously empowering effect it has on your self esteem. 

10. Keep a Sense of Humour  It's absolutely crucial 

typical suburban house The Next Round of "Survivor" (from the Internet; I didn't write it)

Mark Burnett will enlist 12 men who will each be dropped in a house in an unidentified suburb with a van, two cats, a dog, and six kids, each of whom plays two sports and takes either a musical instrument or a dance class, with no access to fast food. They must keep the house clean, correct all homework (receiving at least a "C+" on all papers), complete one science project, cook (they can bring one cookbook) regular meals and two dinners suitable for a spouse’s boss, do laundry and shopping and everything else necessary to keeping a family functioning, including buying new seasonal clothing for the children. They have access to television only when the kids are asleep and all chores are done and none of the TV's has a remote. Competitions will consist of such things as attending a PTA meeting and accurately reporting the results, cleaning up after a sick child at 3:00 am while feeding a baby, making a model of a prehistoric hut with 6 toothpicks and a tortilla, and getting a 4-year old to eat a serving of peas while supervising a 6-year-old’s piano practice.

The kids vote them off, and the winner gets to go back to his job.

11. Find/Be A Mentor
It's long been the way that men are escorted up the rungs of the corporate ladder, and women need mentors too. It's wonderful if a boss seeks you out to mentor. If one doesn't, go find one. 

one woman helping out another Eventually you'll run out of mentors and then it's time to start thinking about being a mentor for others 

Click here to review the Unit on Mentors

12. Work Together
My recommendation to women and men, black and white, gay and straight, rich and poor, management and labour, is that we learn to think of each other as connected human beings, all of a piece, all part of an interconnected web of existence, who MUST work together simply because we're here together on this earth. 

Other units in this course are applicable here:

Consider how discrimination affects division of labour
Resolve issues of power
Watch what your language says about how you regard the other person
Consider how men and women are socialized to behaviours
Learn how subscribing to some of the tenets of feminism can help
Practice assertiveness
Decide when it's time to fight, especially when money is involved
Practice networking regularly
Find and be a mentor

13. Find a Feminist* Organization To Work For
An Ideal Feminist Organization has or nurtures these characteristics (from Karsten Management and Gender):

* For a number of definitions of this term, including mine, see the Unit on Feminism

Shared Decision Making
Meaningful Work
Few Rules
Lateral Communication
Power Based on Expertise
Flexible Schedules, Benefits, and Leaves
Balance in Work, Family, and Personal Life
Cooperation & Teamwork, but also Individuals
Self-Esteem and Actualization

Where the following attributes are valued (found in studies to be things to which women attribute their success)

Hard Work
Communication Skills
Knowledge gained through experience
Interpersonal Skills
Educational Credentials
Willingness to Take Risks
Avoiding Staff Areas and Velvet Ghettos

and companies do the following to encourage women:  (from Karsten )

Enlist the participation of the highest level of management (single biggest factor)

Help with career planning and counseling
Provide appropriate kinds and amounts of challenge, recognition, and support

More companies are beginning to realize that making their workplaces worker-friendly and flexible is just good business.

It's not the 1980's any more 

Establish priorities
Find support groups
Encourage support from your employer
Learn how to handle difficult situations
Let some things go; don't hold on to grudges 
Plan for leisure - a little "me" time
man begging with sign that says now celebrating 3 years of me time, please help
Lower your standards where you can
Spend time with family and people and animals you care about
Eat well; sleep well and often, exercise moderately 
Laugh a lot 

Additional Reading - part of being good to yourself when you're a student and also a worker with perhaps family and home care thrown in on top of it, is finding some time to read something YOU would like to read, fiction or magazine or non-fiction not course related. Check this out here too.

waving hand Exercise
Reading For Fun
Report back to the group on something you read this week or this term just for fun, for your own enjoyment.
Post your answer in the Moodle  Discussion Group.

Sheryl Sandberg's Book Lean In

waving hand Exercise
Sandberg Balance
How does Sheryl Sandbert's book Lean In help you further understand the topic of this unit? Her book is nearly all about balance, in one way or another.
Post your answer in the Moodle  Discussion Group.

In a May 2004 Globe and Mail interview with D. Quinn Mills, who teaches at Harvard University, she spoke of the following six steps to finding balance between work and family:

Commit to wanting both a career and family
(you have to decide you really want both)
Pursue a process that creates balance
(you have to work at it)
Make choices and accept the consequences
(realize you can't have everything)
Choose a career that supports balance
(some career paths are more flexible than others)
Involve your loved ones in creating balance
(don't try to go it alone)
Review your balance to retain or regain it
(do a periodic review of where you're at and how you're doing)

Also from the October 2006 Motherlode Conference of the Association on Mothering, here is a link you may find useful on balance, whether or not you are a mother:

In January  of 2011, Barbara Moses, in a Globe and Mail column titled, "Career Intelligence" listed these nine recommendations for keeping balance.

Forget the Pursuit of Balance - Focus on what makes you happy
Identify What is Important - what will you look back on and say you were glad you did
Know Where Your Presence is Most Valued
Be Engaged, Wherever You Are (very Zen)
Stop Playing the Guilt Game - you can't do everything
Think Life Chapters - realize that different things will be important at different times
Forget Easy Solutions - No one every said it would be easy
Be Steadfast
Accept Less Than Perfect

15. Check out This List of What Every Woman Should Have and Know
(sent to the Discussion Group by Kristi Kater in the Winter term of 2006, a wonderful term when 33 students in this course sent more than 10,000 postings!)

A set of screwdrivers,
a cordless drill, and
a black lace  bra
A good piece of furniture
   not previously owned by
   anyone else in her family  
Eight matching plates,
Wine glasses with stems,
And a recipe for a meal that will
   make her guests feel honored  
One friend who
always makes her
   and one who lets her cry
A feeling of control over her destiny  
How to live alone
   even if she doesn't like it  
That her childhood
   may not have been perfect
   but it's over    
When to try harder... and
When to walk away
(see Fall 2001Test Question for this course!)
Whom she can trust
Whom she can't
And why she shouldn't
   take it personally  
That she can't change...  
The length of her calves,
The width of her hips, or
The nature of her parents  
How to fall in love...
   without losing herself  
What she would and Wouldn't
   do for love or more  
How to quit a job
How to break up with a lover
How to confront a friend
   without ruining the friendship
Where to go...
Be it to her best friend's kitchen table..
   or a charming inn in the woods
   when her soul needs soothing    
What she can and can't accomplish
In a day...
a month...
and a year...

And a list would not be complete without something from the Internet! Here is something sent to me by a good friend and colleague just my age, with whom I've spent many a moment trying to calm down our furiously driven lives:

A young lady confidently walked around the room while explaining stress management to an audience with a raised glass of water. Everyone knew she was going to ask the ultimate question, “Half empty or half full?” She fooled them all, asking instead, "How heavy is this glass of water?" with a smile. Answers called out ranged from eight to twenty ounces.

 She replied, "The absolute weight doesn't matter. It depends on how long I hold it.  If I hold it for a minute, that's not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I'll have an ache in my right arm. If I hold it for a day, you'll have to call an ambulance. In each case it's the same weight, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes." She continued, "and that's the way it is with stress. If we carry our burdens all the time, sooner or later, as the burden becomes increasingly heavy, we won't be able to carry on." 

"As with the glass of water, you have to put it down for a while and rest before holding it again. When we're refreshed, we can carry on with the burden - holding stress longer and better each time practiced. So, as early in the evening as you can, put all your burdens down. Don't carry them through the evening and into the night. Pick them up tomorrow”.

As we end
, I present a collection of names of things needed for success in managing a career and a life, gathered through many years of teaching this course, added to each year by current students. (They are in alphabetical order in each section, each one a noun)

letter A Acceptance, Accommodation, Accountability, Achievement, Action, Adaptability, Adventure, Affability,  Agreeableness, Altruism, Ambition, Amiability, Analytical-skills,   Aspiration, Assertiveness, Assistance, Astuteness, Attentiveness, Attitude, Authencity, Autonomy, Awareness
letter B Balance, Belief, Benevolence, Boldness, Brains, Bravery, Brilliance
letter C Capability, Caring, Challenges, Chance-taking, Charisma,  Cheerfulness, Circle-of-friends, Coaching, Commitment, Common-sense,  Common-grounds, Communication-skills, Compassion, Competence, Composedness, Compatibility, Computer-literacy, Confidence, Conscienciousness, Consciousness, Consideration, Consistency, Contentment, Cordiality, Courage, Craftiness, Creativity, Credentials,  Curiosity
letter D Daring, Decision-making, Dedication, Degree, Delivery, Desire, Determination, Devotion, Diligence, Diplomacy, Direction, Directness, Discipline, Diversion, Diversity, Dreams, Drive, Dependence (we all need help sometimes)
letter E Eagerness, Education, Effectiveness, Efficiency, Effort, Emotional Control, Emotional Intelligence, Empathy, Empowerment, Encouragement, Energy, Enlightenment, Enthusiasm, Entrepreneurism, Etiquette, Exercise, Experience, Expertise
letter F Faith, Family, Feeling, Feminism, Firmness, Flexibility, Focus, Forgiveness (including yourself), Forthrightness, Friends,  Fulfillment, Fun
letter G Gambling instinct, Genuineness, "Get-er-done", Goals, Good-faith, Grace, Gratitude, Grit, Guidance, Gumption, Guts
letter H Happiness, Harmony, Hard work, Head-strongness, Health, Heart, Heroism, Hide-like-leather, Honesty, Honour, Hope, Humanism, Humility, Humour, Hunger
letter I "i"-statements, Iconoclasm, Imagination, Independence, Individuality, Ingenuity, Initiative, Innovation, Inspiration, Instinct, Integration, Integrity, Intelligence, Interaction, Interests, Intuition
letter J Journeying, Joy, Judgment, Juggling, Justice
letter K Kindness, Know-how, Knowledge
letter L Laughter, Leadership, Learning, Legitimacy, Level-headedness, Listening, Love-of-life, Love-of-self, Loyalty, Luck
letter M Magnaminity, Management, Marketing, Maturity, Me-time, Mentor, Might, Money-sense,  Morality, Motivation, Multilingualism, Multi-tasking-ability, Music
letter N Networks, Never-say-no, Niceness, Nirvana, Number-sense, Nurturing, Nutrition
letter O Objectivity, Oomph, Open-communication, Open-mindedness, Optimism, Organization, Orientation-to-present/future, Overachievement
letter P Passion, Partnership, Patience, Perseverance, Persistence, Planning, Play, Poise, Positive-attitude, Possibilities, Power,  Presence, Pride, Privilege, Pro-active-attitude, Professionalism, Promptness, Problem-solving, Progress
letter Q Qualifications, Qualitative Thinking, Quality, Questioning, Quickness
letter R Realism, Referrals, Refusal-to-quit, Relaxation skills, Reliability, Resilience, Resourcefulness, Respectability, Responsibility, Rewarding others, Risk-taking ability, Role Model
letter S Sacrifice, Sanity, Self, Self-actualization, Self-assurance, Self-awareness, Self-control, Self-discipline, Self-esteem, Self-expression, Self-fulfillment, Self-respect, Self-satisfaction, Self-worth, Sensibility, Sensitivity, Sharing, Sleep, Simplicity, Singing, Skills, Smile, Soaring, Solution-finding, Soul, Speaking ability, Speed, Spirit, Sports, Stability, Standing-ground, State-of-mind, Stillness, Strategic-thinking, Strength, Striving,  Stubbornness, Support, Success
letter T Tact, Taking-chances, Talent, Task-orientation, Teaching,  Teamwork, Technology, Tenacity, Tenure, Time-out, Timing, Toughness, Training, Travel-willingness,Trendiness, Triumph, Trust, Trustworthiness, Truth, Trying
letter U Ubiquity, Unblemished-reputation, Unbreakability, Unconventionality, Understanding, Union, Uniqueness, Unstoppability, Up-Beatness, Usually-male-skills, Utilization-of-resources
letter V Valour, Values, Versatility, Vibrancy, Victory, Vigour, Vim, Virtue, Visibility, Vision, Vitality, Voice
letter W Wardrobe, Wariness, Warrior-abilities, Willpower, Willingness, Winning-attitude, Wisdom, Wishes, Women-friendly-organizations, Worth
letter X Xtra-sensory perceptions, Xenomorphic-attitude, Xerox (machine where you learn politics of an organization), Xylophone (to relax with)
letter Y Yardsticks, Yearning, Yes-I-Can!, Yoga
letter Z Zaniness, Zeal, Zen, Zest, Zing, Zip
waving hand Exercise
Do you have a favourite success word that's not here? Send it to the Discussion Group and I'll add it. For consistency's sake, make it a NOUN.  
Post your answer in the Moodle  Discussion Group.

If you are visiting from outside, send to

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Return To Course Syllabus

AP/ADMS/WMST3120 3.0 Gender Issues in Management
York University, Toronto
© M Louise Ripley, M.B.A., Ph.D.