Tag Archives: Women's work

Don’t do a PhD

I know, easy for me to say, given that my fancy-schmanzy degree is firmly clutched in my hands. And even easier given my recent appointment to a continuing academic job (not in the area of my PhD, but I do have expertise and qualifications in the field). But should you be contemplating doing a PhD, with the aim of getting an academic job, you might like to read this first.

The disposable academic: why doing a PhD is often a waste of time

H/T: The Witty Knitter

Habitués of universities will know that academic salaires, good though they are, have been losing ground relative to other professions, and that there are many more contract positions, often poorly paid, driving academic pay, on average, down even further. I’ve often wondered if this is linked to the increasing number of women in the profession, another manifestation of the Russian doctors social mobility issue.

In short, my advice to people planning to start on a PhD in order to get a union ticket for an academic career: Don’t.

Blog silence


Preparing house for sale.

Husband away.

Sez it all, really. However I promise Chocolate Surprise Muffins tonight.

Educating Rosie

Head on over to Giovanni’s place, and check out his fascinating post that starts with Rosie the Riveter, and ends up with… well, that would be ruining the punchline, wouldn’t it. Just go read it.

Educating Rosie, at Bat, Bean, Beam – a weblog on memory and technology

In the eye of the beholder

The rules for the Rudd government’s new paid maternity leave scheme enable women to take leave from three months before their baby is due to arrive. That seems sensible to me; plenty of mothers are able to work until just before the birth of their baby, but plenty of mothers need to leave work earlier, for all sorts of reasons. Just because some women are able to manage working right up until their due date doesn’t mean that all women can, or should.

Here’s how The Australian reported it (not on-line, as far as I can tell).

Rules to let mums-to-be rest before birth

Pregnant women would be able to quit work three months before the birth of their child and still be eligible for the Rudd government’s new maternity leave pay under rules unveiled yesterday.

And here’s now The Adelaide Advertiser reported it.

New loopholes allows women to quit work and get paid maternity leave

WOMEN will be able to quit work up to three months before having a baby and still be eligible for taxpayer-funded maternity leave.

The loophole was revealed in draft legislation setting out how the scheme will operate when it comes into effect on January 1.

The story in The Australian was written by Patricia Karvelas and Jodie Minus.

The story in The Advertiser was written by Ben Packham.

Tell me something I didn’t know already

It turns out that getting good quality childcare is critical in allowing mothers to work. This time, policy makers might just get around to believing it; the claim is based on a paper prepared by the Australian Treasury.

Childcare key to mums returning to work

Well, that’s a no-brainer result. It seems perfectly consistent with my own experience, and with the reported experience of women in my family, and my friends.

It’s not just childcare for littlies that matters either. Good school holiday care makes a big difference to me. As you may know, I do adjunct work at local universities (just take all the problems associated with adjunct work as read – I find it too exhausting to think about the difficulties). One of the big problems for me is school holiday care. I need to make special arrangements with my partner, my friends, my mother (bless her!) to cover the two or three hours here or there that comprise my teaching work. Not enough work to justify the expense and hassle of taking the children to a whole day school holiday programme, but far too long to leave them kicking their heels outside the classroom door, or in the classroom reading a book. I’ve yet to find a university that provides school holiday care for permanent staff, let alone adjunct staff, despite all their fine words about gender equity and work life balance and being an employer of choice for women.

Yes, yes, I have my grump on. I’ve just been running up against the gap between ideals and reality in the last week or so.

You can download the Treasury article from here.

Could we update the language please?

Paid parental leave is in the news at present, with Liberal party leader Tony Abbott promoting a scheme where parents with primary care-giving duties are given 26 weeks of paid leave at their current wage rate, funded by a new tax on the 3,200 largest businesses in Australia, in comparison to the Labor government plan for 18 weeks of paid parental leave at the minimum wage, funded through general taxation. (Remind again which party is supposed to be a friend to business?) There’s plenty of discussion about the proposals over at Larvatus Prodeo: Feminism conquers the Liberal party, Abbott’s parental leave non-policy, Unfairness and Abbott’s parental leave non-policy, Reaction to Abbott’s parental leave plan.

But check out the language in this article: It’s back to work after childbirth.

”Mothers returning to paid work in the first six months after childbirth is associated with casual employment, low incomes and changing employers in the 12 months prior to childbirth,” the research [conducted by the Producivity Commission] found.

WOMEN on low incomes are most likely to return to work shortly after the birth of a child because of financial concerns, research shows.

Most women take between six and 18 months off work to care for a new baby.

The first extract quotes the Productivity Commission’s research, but the other two are the journalist’s words. The implication of her words are that paid jobs are work, but staying at home caring for your baby is not work.

It’s an old old story, I know, that work done in the home primarily by women is not recognised as real work. Only work which results in cash-in-the-hand is real work.

I know that caring for a baby is hard, hard work. There have been many times in my working life when I have worked very, very hard, spending long hours in the office, or taking tasks home and staying up late at night to finish, even getting up in the middle of the night to work because my mind was racing and I could not sleep. I have not always worked like this; it is impossible to work at that level for more than a few months, maybe a year at most, without needing to take a break, or being forced into a break by the imminence of collapse. Among those stretches of hard work were the months that I spent caring for my new babies. And unlike paid work, there were no breaks. Caring for infants and small children is work.

Sure, it’s only language. But it’s language that has an impact, and leads to the devaluation of caring work, work that is mostly done by women.

Memo to journalists: refer to “paid work” as “employment”, or even as “paid work”. It’s a tiny language change, an easy change to make, and one that has the effect of valuing women’s work.

The New Zealand Working Women’s Charter – A Celebration

This is the charter that was adopted by the New Zealand Federation of Labour in 1980.

1. The right to work for everyone who wishes to do so.
2. The elimination of all discrimination on the basis of sex, race, marital or parental status, sexuality or age.
3. Equal pay for work of equal value – meaning the same total wage plus other benefits.
4. Equal opportunity of entry into occupations and of promotion regardless of sex, sexuality, marital or parental status, race or age.
5. Equal education opportunities for all.
6. (a) Union meetings to be held in working hours
(b) Special trade union education courses for women unionists to be held with paid time off for participants
7. Equal access to vocational guidance and training, including on the job training, study and conference leave.
8. Introduction of a shorter working week with no loss of pay, flexible working hours, part-time opportunities, for all workers.
9. Improved working conditions for women and men. The retention of beneficial provision which apply to women. Other benefits to apply equally to men and women.
10. Removal of legal, bureaucratic and other impediments to equality in superannuation, social security benefits, credit, finance, taxation, tenancies, and other related matters.
11. Special attention to the needs and requirements of women from ethnic communities as they see them.
12. Wide availability of quality child care with Government and/or community support for all those who need it, on a 24-hour basis, including after school and school holiday care.
13. Introduction of adequate paid parental leave (maternity and paternity leave) without loss of job security, superannuation or promotion prospects.
14. Availability of paid family leave to enable time off to be taken in family emergencies, e.g. when children or elderly relatives are ill.
15. Sex education and birth control advice freely available to all people. Legal, financial, social and medical impediments to safe abortion, contraception and sterilisation to be removed.
16. Comprehensive government funded research into health questions specific to women.

Reading through the list, it’s impressive that so many of these ideals have been realised, at least formally, in New Zealand law and employment practice. But at the same time, it’s a little shattering to realise that in some ways we are still fighting the same battles that women were fighting thirty years ago. Take a look at item 16: we still have medical barriers to abortion, imposed by individual doctors, and by the requirement for women to get two doctors to give consent to abortion. The formal barriers there have not yet been removed. Or look at item 10. Although the legal impediments to equality in superannuation have been removed, the patterns of working women’s lives, with many years taken out for child bearing and child rearing, and more taken out in order to care for other family members, all of it unrecognised as work of value, means that women have less opportunity to save for their old age, and older women figure disproportionally in poverty statistics.

For all that, what a long way we have come. My daughters will grow up with so much more freedom, so many more real choices, because of the work that was done by people like Sonja Davies and Margaret Wilson and Liane Dalziel and Anne Else and Dale Williams. For the story behind the charter, and an account of what conditions were like for women in the years leading up to its adoption, read this piece by Sue Kedgley, The Working Women’s Charter, from a feminist perspective.

The Labour History Project is running a seminar to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Working Women’s Charter, Working Women: Learning from the Past Looking to the Future, on the 1st of May, May Day, in Wellington. You can download the registration form: PDF (2.1mb) here.