In The Room Where It Happened

Photo by Picsea on Unsplash

The cover editorial in today’s NYT Sunday Review asks “Who Is Going To Save The American Family?

That’s a loaded question if ever there was one, and the editorial is written by a conservative woman who has predictably conservative answers. The decline of the American family is the fault of feminists. By sending women into the workplace we’ve created a “two-income trap” where families can no longer survive on one income. And this is a problem because, you see, men want to be breadwinners and women want to be caregivers.

The two-income trap is real, but what the analysis is missing is discussions of what has caused men’s wages to fall. It’s not women entering the labor force.

But the piece is also missing any discussion of how women would gain true economic and political power within a system that is bifurcated by gender. It’s all well and good to say that being a mother is “the most important job in the world,” but that doesn’t change the fact that women are underrepresented, relative to the population, in all spheres of influence. Yes, of course this means political power, where despite significant gains in 2018 (notably on one side of the aisle) women are still less than 50% of elected representatives and we’ve never had a women president. (Despite many qualified female candidates, 2020 isn’t looking great for that to change.) But I also mean power more broadly. Women hold fewer than 5% of Fortune 500 spots. Most estimates put women at 15 to 20% of C-suite positions. Women of color, of course, have even less access to power.

Does that matter? I saw “Hamilton” on Broadway last night. My favorite song, by far, was “In The Room Where It Happened.” It is sung by Aaron Burr and it’s his lament that he was not in the room when Hamilton and Jefferson made a deal to move the capitol to Washington, D.C. He reprises the song later, when he’s running for President, because he wants to be sure he’s in the room where it happens.

Women need to be in the rooms where stuff happens. Where laws get passed. Where corporate decisions get made. It matters. Nancy Pelosi remarked that when she first ran for Speaker it was Democratic men who asked her “who said you could run?” They pleaded “Just tell us what you want and we’ll do it.” Um, I don’t think so.

Does this mean we need to turn every American woman in a corporate wage slave and every American family into stressed-out hamsters running on a never-ending wheel of bills? Of course not. But there are plenty of proposals that would support all families and also support women who want to participate in civic and corporate life. And, by the way, policies that would support men who want to play a greater role in the lives of their children.

It strikes me that we are at a point in our cultural history where we could start to think different about our economy, family life, and gender roles in ways that would open up a lot more possibilities for everyone. Harkening back to the ideas of Phyllis Schlafly isn’t the way forward — it is literally the way back.

Making Room For Women’s Voices (Literally)

Image result for alison stewartOne of the media organizations that was impacted by #MeToo was WNYC — New York City’s public radio station. Three men were accused of harassment — Jonathan Schwartz, Leonard Lopate and John Hockenberry. Two of them — Lopate and Schwartz — were fired as a result (Hockenberry had left when his contract expired before the incidents were made public).

One result of these changes is more women on the radio. The lineup used to be:

  • 10am Brian Lehrer
  • Noon Leonard Lopate
  • 2pm Teri Gross
  • 3pm John Hockenberry

And now it’s:

  • 10am Brian Lehrer
  • 2pm Teri Gross
  • Noon Alison Stewart
  • 3pm Tanzina Vega and Amy Walter

In terms of hours it’s now 4  hours of women’s voices and 2 hours of a man vs. 1 hour of a woman and 5 hours of men. Also significantly, the one hour of a woman in the past was Teri Gross with a nationally syndicated show broadcast out of WHYY in Philadelphia. I love Fresh Air, but sort of shocking to consider that it was not very long ago that WNYC didn’t have a single female voice represented in it’s weekday line-up.

Have Certain Elite Men Leveraged the Women’s Movement to Consolidate Power?

I’m pretty obsessed with how it can be that decades after women have reached and even exceeded parity with men in academia they haven’t come close to parity where it really matters — in the halls of power.

And the thought I find myself having lately is this: Has women gaining parity in  attaining higher education and consequent lack of parity beyond school led to a situation where a smaller number of elite men rule the world? Has power ultimately been concentrated in an even small number of hands?

I think about the famous Warren Buffet quote — “I was so successful because I was only competing with half the population.” Is it possible that today’s Warren Buffets are competing with even fewer people?

Don’t Ever Leave Me a Voicemail Like This

“Hi Tami, this is [name redacted] from [company redacted] at [phone number redacted]. Again that’s  [name redacted] from [company redacted] at [phone number redacted]. Have a good day!”

Who? Why? I have no clue who this person is or what his company does. I’m pretty sure I’ve never spoken to him before.

What is the point of this message exactly?

Congratulations if you ticked off the box next to the notation to “call Tami Forman at Return Path” but you should know that the chance that I will call you back is less than zero.

If you aren’t willing to work to get the job, how can I believe you’ll work at the job?

I’ve been stunned, throughout my career, how little effort some people put into finding work.

On the bright side it means that it doesn’t take very much extra effort to make yourself stand out above the bumbling masses.

I’m a fan, when I’m looking for talent, of assigning some little task as a “test.” I picked this up in publishing. It’s basically impossible to get a job in publishing (both online and off) without taking some kind of writing or editing test.

These tests can tell you a lot about candidates, even before you read a word.  A colleague and I are currently searching for an intern for the summer. We got lots of resumes.  LOTS. Some were good, some just okay. We sent them a test and asked for some pre-written samples. The test was ridiculously easy: write a blog post about email and a Tweet to go with it.

So far we’ve gotten completed test from just three candidates. THREE.

My feeling on this is simple: If you aren’t willing to expend just a little bit of effort to get the job, how can I believe you’ll work hard when you have the job?

Of course there is a flip side, too. In my time I’ve been asked to do some crazy things. Looking back on one particularly arduous test — it had six parts, required me to write an editorial letter, come up with ideas for new quizzes and interactive tools, write part of a new quiz AND do a competitive analysis — I should have charged the company a consulting fee! I would now look at that kind of “test” as a red flag. Because the flip side of my question is this: If you are going to make me work this hard to get this job, are you going to expect me to have no life outside work when I get the job?

But the bottom line there is only so much you can learn from resumes and interviews. Some kind of reasonable “try out” just makes sense. If you want to work with me, expect it.