Fear no more, fellow females and anybody interested in gender equality, research is supporting ‘optimism about a better world to come’. Thus tells us Tyler Cowen in the New York Times, and he is not talking about any old optimism but about that of John Stuart Mill, one of the great old thinkers of economics. So it’s gender equality optimism with an extra-dose of gravitas and academic credibility. In his NYT piece Cowen reviews two recent books that study gender inequality through an economics lens. According to these studies, women ‘are perceived as easier to take advantage of in … economic settings’ and ‘participate less in many public settings, especially those in which real power is exercised.’ But ‘once women achieve a critical mass in a particular area, their participation grows rapidly’, says Cowen. Read More
by Doris Ruth Eikhof
In the past two years UK universities have frantically prepared their submissions to the sector-wide assessment of their research prowess and output, the Research Excellence Framework, or REF. They have evaluated research outputs, written about their research environment and strategy and poached star researchers from other in institutions to make themselves look good on paper. The REF submissions are being evaluated as I type and the next two years are likely to be spent dealing with the fall-out once results are announced. In the current pause between those two bouts of frantic REF-related activity, I stumbled across a voice from the past that, as so infuriatingly often, succinctly and authoritatively dealt with a key issue this round of REF posed for the first time: that of the relationship between academia and its non-academic context – let’s call it society. Read More
The beauty of contrast is that looking at one thing makes you focus on another. That is true in art but also for work and non-work. Which is why looking at pictures of motherhood can make us appreciate how important our images of work are: work does not work until we know what work looks like.
In late 2013, two contrasting photo series of women as mothers made the news in the UK. The first series was of Licia Ronzuli, Italian member of the European Parliament, and her daughter Vittoria. Pictures taken in parliament showed mother and daughter over three years, Victoria on her mother’s lap, playing with whatever tools of the trade were within the reach of her growing arms (pens, paper, headphones) and learning to raise her arm(s) to vote. In an earlier interview, Ronzuli said she brought her daughter to the workplace as a political act, to make women’s struggle between careering and caring more visible. The second series was the polar opposite: a collection of baby photographs from Britain’s Victorian days. Back then photography required several minutes of exposure, so mothers camouflaged themselves as chairs and curtains to hold their little darlings still for long enough. The babies’ expressions range from sceptical to petrified while their mothers morph into shapeless background figures.
The early 2000s saw the rise of the yummy mummy. Wholly dedicated to all things baby, bib and bugaboo, but with a yoga-toned body and the latest it-changing bag slung across the shoulder where other mums sported baby puke.
In the last five years, the yummy mummy’s business-minded sister has entered the scene: the mumpreneur. Like the yummy mummy, the mumpreneur is 100% committed to a home-centred version of motherhood. Unlike the yummy mummy, the mumpreneur has not given up her identity as a working woman. But because corporate careers are still difficult to reconcile with baby yoga and toddler swimming she has set up a business that is, literally and metaphorically, closer to home: cupcake decorating classes, personalised bunting, a toy comparison site and a French-speaking nanny agency are just some of the many examples from the business directory on mumpreneuruk.com. Run from home and requiring little start-up investments, such lifestyle businesses are promoted as perfect opportunities for combining motherhood and work.