Tag Archives: stereotypes

A Woman’s Work on Economic Equality is Never Done

This blog is part of the #HERvotes blog carnival!

A divorced janitor, a 27-year employee and the mother of a seventeen-year old son with the mental capacity of an 18-month old, fails to report for mandatory overtime one Saturday when her son’s caregiver could not work because of a sick child. She calls twice and leaves a message for her manager. She gets fired.

As I read about this woman in Reshaping the Work-Family Debate: Why Men and Class Matter by Joan Williams, I wondered what this mother’s take would be on Jonah Goldberg’s proclamation in the Los Angeles Times this spring that “Feminism as a ‘movement’ in America is largely played out. Continue reading

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Filed under Assumptions about Mothers, Current News & Events, Economy, Gender Issues, Money, Motherhood, Remodeling Motherhood, stereotypes, Work-Life Fit, Workplace and Employment

6 Biggest Money Mistakes Mothers Make

Tonight I’ll be leading the chapter meeting for our local Mothers & More chapter on “The 6 Biggest Money Mistakes Mothers Make.” Join us and bring a long a new or gently used purse for our donation to Elizabeth house! Here are the “mistakes” I’ll be discussing with moms tonight.

1. Making “To Work or Not To Work” Decisions Based Solely on Short-Term Family Budget

When mothers wrestle with questions about whether to stay employed or not, or whether to scale back employment to make room for family, the conversation usually centers on whether the current family budget can afford those changes. Can we still pay the mortgage or rent? Could we trim expenses to make up for lost income?

Too often, all the longer-term implications are left out. How will this decision impact my ability to save for retirement? My Social Security benefits? How will this decision impact my future earning potential?

Whenever faced with an employment or financial decision, ask yourself:

How will this decision affect the short- AND long-term finances of my family?

How will this decision affect my own short- AND long-term financial security?

2. Falling Into the “Can I make enough to pay for childcare?” Trap

When our daughter was born, my husband had just started his second year at a law firm and I had just been laid off from a part-time job. We sat down together to decide whether I should look for a new job or not. Estimating the income we thought I could make in a job with reasonable hours, we subtracted taxes, childcare, and work expenses. There wasn’t much left. Working for pay didn’t pay much. So we decided I wouldn’t, because we could afford for me not to.

Three different things lead many mothers into this trap. Continue reading


Filed under Assumptions about Mothers, Career-Life Fit, Economy, Money, Motherhood, Remodeling Motherhood, Remodeling Motherhood Tips, stereotypes

Tips for Mothers for Busting Subconscious Stereotypes

In a recent post, How Stereotypes About Warmth and Competence Impact Mothers , I talked about the Harvard Magazine profile of social psychologist Amy Cuddy, The Psyche of the Automatic, which highlights decades of research on automatic stereotypes and their impact on many different groups. I promised at the end to share some tips for women and mothers in particular to combat these unconscious stereotypes that seem to leave us in a no win situation.

I best make good on my promise because the other day on the Fast Company blog the post Why Women Should Flirt at Work by Alicia Morga summarized the results of yet another study,  “Women at the Bargaining Table: Pitfalls and Prospects,” which showed that women are in a classic double bind: “women may be perceived as competent but unlikable or as likable but incompetent.”

As the blogger tells it,

“The researchers found that both men AND women negatively evaluate women who do not behave in stereotypically female ways.

The choices then are these–work within the stereotypes or be careful in situations to not activate gender stereotypes.”

So let me offer a third option, bust the stereotypes. Continue reading

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Filed under Assumptions about Mothers, Gender Issues, Motherhood, News & Commentary, Remodeling Motherhood, Remodeling Motherhood Tips, stereotypes, Workplace and Employment

Guess Who Said This?

So can you guess who said this?

“The fault line between work and family [is] precisely where sex-based generalization has been and remains the strongest. . . . Stereotypes about women’s domestic responsibilities are reinforced by parallel stereotypes, presuming a lack of domestic responsibilities for men. These mutually reinforcing stereotypes create a self-fulfilling cycle of discrimination.”

Democratic politician? Liberal think tank?


It was former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, William Rehnquist, in a 2003 opinion.

Stereotypes about mothers and fathers impact families of all political stripes. What have you done lately to bust your own stereotypes?

P.S. Check out this quiz for some examples of the types of parallel stereotypes about mothers and fathers that Rehnquist had in mind.

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Filed under Family Work, Fatherhood, Gender Issues, Motherhood, Remodeling Motherhood Tips, stereotypes, Uncategorized

Caster Semenya Cleared to Compete as a Woman

The New York Times reported last week that:

“Caster Semenya, the South African runner whose track career had been in limbo because of questions about her sex, was cleared to compete as a woman on Tuesday by track and field’s international governing body, the I.A.A.F.”

I wrote about Caster – and a story from my own childhood – last summer when this issue broke. In  The Day I Was Miffed No One Thought I Was a Boy I tell the story of the day our girls fastpitch softball team was accused of being boys because we were too good. Despite rumors of exams that would involve “stripping,” that issue was resolved in a matter of an hour or so – thanks to my father – in a way that left us feeling stronger and having learned lessons in advocacy from watching my dad in action.

Caster on the other hand has been in limbo for 11 months…seriously??? Have to wonder if it would have gone any faster if she’d taken my advice…to hire my dad. : )

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Filed under Gender Issues, News & Commentary, stereotypes

Five Myths About Working Mothers from the Washington Post

Thanks to Becky and Hollee for drawing my attention to this article in the Washington Post –  Five Myths About Working Mothers by Naomi Cahn and June Carbone. A great summary of some of the big myths about employed mothers that just won’t die because they’re held up by outdated stereotypes about mothers, fathers, and work.

A few are myths I discuss at length in my book This is Not How I Thought It Would Be: Remodeling Motherhood to Get the Lives We Want Today.

“1. Mothers today spend much less time caring for children than did their parents and grandparents.”  False!

“4. Women who work are less likely to have successful marriages.” False!

“5. Parents don’t experience discrimination in the workplace.” False!

And two that I didn’t have a chance to explore in detail.

“2. Women’s jobs interfere with family life more than men’s.” False!

“3. Mothers with college degrees are more likely than other women to opt out of the workforce.” False!

Of course, there are also plenty of myths about mothers who are not employed such as “Mothers who are not employed are dull.” (i.e. the soap opera and bon-bons myth.) Think you know them? Take my Mental Map Matching Quiz and match the real-life scenario to the outdated stereotype about mothers or fathers.

Which myths about mothers and fathers do you confront most often? Which are the most problematic in your life?

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Filed under Assumptions about Mothers, Family Work, Fatherhood, Motherhood, News & Commentary, Remodeling Motherhood, stereotypes, Workplace and Employment

This “Toolkit for Women Seeking a Raise” Helps Remodel Motherhood

The New York Times recently published a great article called A Toolkit for Women Seeking a Raise. The article combines the explanation of the challenges women face in negotiating raises:

“We have found that if a man and a woman both attempt to negotiate for higher pay, people find a women who does this, compared to one who does not, significantly less attractive,” said Hannah Riley Bowles, an associate professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, who has conducted numerous studies on gender, negotiation and leadership. “Whereas with the guy, it doesn’t seem to matter.”

WITH what to do about it:

“So what’s a woman to do if she feels her work merits a raise? A new study concludes that women need to take a different approach than men. Women, it suggests, should frame their requests in more nuanced ways to avoid undermining their relationship with their boss.”

The article’s approach mirrors my own advice on this topic and others at the heart of my book, This is Not How I Thought It Would Be: Remodeling Motherhood To Get the Lives We Want Today. If mothers become consciously aware of the outdated stereotypes about mothers, fathers, money and work still running amuck, they have a better chance of navigating situations effectively. Continue reading

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Filed under Assumptions about Mothers, Career-Life Fit, Gender Issues, Money, Motherhood, News & Commentary, Remodeling Motherhood, Remodeling Motherhood Tips, Workplace and Employment

The Day I Was Miffed That No One Thought I Was a Boy

Caster Semenya from Times OnlineOver breakfast yesterday and again today, I read in the LA Times about Caster Semenya, the South African runner accused of being a man, Runner Caster Semenya has heard the gender comments all her life. And even in the midst of our family morning rush, I have to admit to being more than a little emotional about the story, and with good reason.

Just a few weeks ago, I was back home in Minnesota for my youngest sister’s wedding. After the reception, I stayed up late into the night with a few of my friends, my middle sister and my parents and we found ourselves reminiscing about our days of playing fastpitch softball all summer with my dad coaching. My friends and I marveled at my father’s memory of it all. He could tell us things like who we were playing, the name of the other team’s pitcher, where we were, and what the score and count was when my best friend hit the homer that won the game that won that tournament that year.

We didn’t remember all that. But one memory that was vivid for all of us and replayed together that night came flooding back once again these past two days as I read about Caster. One summer, playing in a national softball tournament, a team we beat accused of us of being boys because we were too good.

It was 1984. We were 14 and 15 year old nobodies from a small town in Minnesota in our first national tournament in Salt Lake City, Utah. The other team was powerhouse from Kansas, a regular in the tournament, with sharp uniforms and looking like they belonged there. But we were winning.

We were good, really good. Looking back, I’m still amazed at how much talent we had in our small town at that particular point in time. Our catcher and third baseperson in particular had been playing ball together for years. Together they were wicked good, and as the other team’s runners tried to take their standard lead off third base after each pitch, they would pick them off.  So fast no one could see it coming.

Much to the other team’s surprise and dismay, we won the game.

After the game, there was some commotion, but I don’t remember much until someone told us the other coach was accusing us of cheating, that some of our players were too good to be girls and must be boys. He didn’t like losing. Kept saying we all had boy’s names and looked like boys. Well, we did have a lot of nicknames like Pete and Kenny and hardly anyone was called by their first names on the field, and yes most of us had short hair. And while my daughter today plays softball with ribbons in her hair, you wouldn’t have caught any of us dead playing softball with ribbons in our hair back then.

There were rumors of having a nurse examine some of our players. The next thing I remember is standing with our whole team in a dank concrete room in the back of the center stadium building. Several of my teammates were visibly upset. At 14, the idea that we might have to “strip” in front of a stranger to prove we were girls was pretty scary. I can guarantee you we all remember those few moments of anxiety when we didn’t know what was going to happen next. I was miffed, but for different reasons. I was pretty sure I wasn’t on their list of suspects because I wasn’t good enough.

It was like the opposite of being told “You throw like a girl.” Especially in 1984, it was sort of a back-handed compliment to be accused of “throwing like a boy.” So for all of us I think, we were a bundle of conflicted feelings – secretly proud at being so good, horrified to think we might have to submit to an exam, hurt deeply that someone was questioning who we were – our identity as a girl.

My dad, an attorney, wouldn’t let them single any of us out. We would all be in the room to hear the accusation. And all of us remember watching as my dad took them to task, verbally outmaneuvering them at every turn. Just like Caster’s supporters, my dad and our parents were “outraged by the questions and request for testing.” We all had submitted birth certificates as part of the registration. My dad told them in no uncertain terms that they had no good reason to question us, short hair and superior softball skills weren’t evidence of gender. No one would be singled out, he made clear. If there were to be any exams at all, then every girl would have an exam, and if that happened then they could count on a lawsuit as well. We watched in awe as my dad defended us, defended our right to be that good at softball and be girls at the same time. The tournament commissioner apologized, there were no exams, and we were back on the field for another game thirty minutes later.

That one experience contained lessons in so many things it is still hard to unpack them all even years later.

It was a lesson in standing up for yourself, for each other, and for what’s right and fair.

It was a lesson in bouncing back, we had to play again right away. But we lost, and who knows how much of that loss can be attributed to being rattled by it all.

It was a reminder that much of what we learn from playing sports has nothing to do with the sport itself.

And it was a hard lesson in how deep-rooted and combustible the assumptions about girls and boys, men and women are. Gender is still something people want to be black and white. Anything gray, any behavior or appearance just outside the prescribed lines, is tinder waiting for a spark.

This morning, Caster Semenya’s story flashed a spark on the tinder of my own bottled up emotions. Plus, her story is overlaid with the issue of race too. Some claiming that it is also “another example of demeaning Western attitudes toward black Africans, particularly women.”

So to Caster and her family and friends, I share your outrage regardless of the details, I hope your story gives us another chance to challenge everyone’s assumptions about gender and race and make some progress, and I have one piece of advice…

you might want to hire my dad.



Filed under Gender Issues, News & Commentary