I Am Not A Babe: Sexism, Women & Careers

“See you later, babe!”

I was recently in a situation where I was frequently interacting with journalists, and, in all seriousness, a man said this to me as he departed the room.

I actually felt shocked. Calling a woman “babe” seems reminiscent of 1950s greyscale detectives smoking cigars, not modern-day 2013. Although the journalist probably meant no harm,  it just made me feel like I was being patronized. Using “babe’ as a nickname might seem innocent, but it just detracts from my identity as an individual. “Babe” often connotes images of infants or children. This just helps perpetuate the stereotype women should be  dependent upon men.

I know this might seem strange, but it has been a while since I have experienced such a blatant form of sexism. I read about it frequently in the news. I  studied it in depth in university. I’ve sometimes felt my opinions weren’t respected in mostly-male working environments.

Yet sometimes I honestly forget that I am a women, in the sense that I  am often perceived as different. Inferior. Less intelligent. Less capable. Too emotional. The list goes on.

The experience made me think about my future career, and how this archaic view towards women might hinder it. Although our North American society has greatly improved, gender gaps in salaries unfortunately still do exist. According to recent Statistics Canada data, a woman, on average, earn 72 cents for every dollar a man earns.

It has been argued that this is because women don’t know how to negotiate for their wages. Yet often when women ask for something like a raise, they are seen as too demanding.  Or that these statistics don’t account for the fact that women apparently often choose to work in lower-paying fields.

However, starting salaries also often have a major discrepancy between wages. As well, even in the same job position, sometimes women still make less money.

I feel comforted slightly since women absolutely dominate my current chosen field, public relations. Selfish, I know.  I can’t imagine one good excuse for this gap, which should be completely unacceptable in 2013. Whether it be with women, visible minorities or other groups, we should be past a time where people are discriminating in their hiring practices.

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STM Philosophy: Margaret Wente & University Degrees

“A university degree is no longer an automatic ticket to a decent job and a pleasant living.”

This is a quote from Globe and Mail columnist’s Margaret Wente’s piece  Quebec’s university students are in for a shock, written during a time when massive student protests were rocking Quebec society. It’s been months since I read this column, so it’s a bit funny that I recalled it this afternoon.

Today, on the long commute from downtown Montreal to lovely Dollard-des-Ormeaux, I took out a well-loved book to distract myself from my cold fingers: Haruki Murakami’s “Norwegian Wood.”

After a mere fifteen pages, I read a passage that piqued my interest:

“Yup. When I graduate, I’m going to work for the Geographical Survey Institute and make muh-muh-maps.”

“I was impressed anew by the variety of dreams and goals that life could offer….The thought struck me that society needed a few people – just a few – who were interested in and even passionate about map-making.”

After reading Murakami’s words, Wente’s column immediately came to mind. Juxtapose the previous passage with a quote from Wente:

(speaking about the student protesters) “They’re the sociology, anthropology, philosophy, arts, and victim-studies students, whose degrees are increasingly worthless in a world that increasingly demands hard skills. The world will not be kind to them. They’re the baristas of tomorrow and they don’t even know it, because the adults in their lives have sheltered them and encouraged their mass flight from reality.”

This line of thinking seems so narrow-minded- calling whole disciplines worthless. We need all kinds of people for our society to function. I also believe  that these so-called “soft subjects” are important for our progression into a more tolerable, equal society.

It has often been said that having culture distinguishes humans from animals. I think this is completely accurate. Fields such as medicine or engineering address our basic needs. Yet, humans also need culture and social relationships in order to thrive.

I don’t think a university degree should just be viewed as a means to an end- getting a job. However, it becomes complicated when looking at the current tough economic situation.  Some people might not have the luxury to spend time studying subjects that don’t have a clear-cut path to a steady career.

Which is why I have ended up taking a post-graduate degree in Public Relations at Humber College- I wanted to improve my hard skills for the workplace.

This first blog post has been rather introspective. This comes during a break after a short but hectic (and fun!) few months. Also after a crazy period doing something completely different and beginning to live in a new city. I need to think a lot about where I am headed after I graduate in April.

This blog should help with this journey- it will function as an outlet to practice my developing writing skills and also to vent my opinions on current events.

Leave a comment to start a conversation!