I went to a conference many moons ago, for women leaders in science. I was but a lowly grad student at the time, but there were several hundred high-powered female scientists there, many leaders in their fields. As they gave presentations on their career paths and accomplishments, a theme began to emerge. Finally, one woman stood up and pointed it out.
Every single woman was attributing her success to chance.
“I was lucky enough to get a place in X’s lab.”
“Somehow I ended up with the grant doing Y.”
“For some reason, I was handed the opportunity to do Z.”
The woman who pointed this out suggested that the speakers stop using this phrasing and instead acknowledge that they took advantage of opportunities open to them because of their hard work, talents and skills.
They tried. They were terrible at it.
Now men have no problem with this it seems. I know I’m generalizing, but if you had a series of male scientists speak about their career paths and accomplishments, you’d hear a different story. Men seem to be able to value the work they do in a way the women don’t so much.
This is on my mind lately because I know a number of women writers who are full-time writers, who also handle all the domestic duties. In some ways they fit the scathing cliche of the housewife and/or mother, who also writes. And yet, many of these women are quite successful writers. Maybe it’s not a female thing. Maybe it’s a “I’m home all day so I can handle the home stuff” thing. I’d be interested to know how many male full-time writers follow this same model.
The thing is, I work from home, doing my environmental consulting day job. And I do not handle all the domestic stuff. David does the meal-planning, grocery-shopping and cooking, which is huge, I think. I handle the cleaning, dishes, laundry – which I pretty much save for the weekends. Yes, even the dishes. Ours is not a spotless house. But, I also receive a salary for my day job and I get consistent feedback that it’s valuable work.
Neither of which happens when you’re a writer.
No steady paycheck. No co-workers expecting a certain level of production. No annual performance reviews.
So, I wonder if the full-time writers feel the need to “make up” for the time spent at home, staring off into space, by at least keeping a clean house and providing nutritious meals. But doesn’t that devalue the work of writing?
I’m trying to decide what I think.