Women can’t win

A little while ago I opened two different newspapers to find two very different messages.

As a part of a mini-series, the Globe and Mail discussed the role of women in leadership. The author, Gloria Galloway, points out that while women make up half of Canada’s population, they account for a mere 22 per cent of parliamentary seats. In this respect, she says, Canada lags far behind other countries like Angola, Ecuador, Mozambique, Guyana and Afghanistan, which have more female representation in their governments.

It isn’t that women are undereducated. They’re just stuck in the ranks of middle management, afraid of the familial sacrifices and male-dominated atmosphere they’d face should they move up in the ranks.

That same day, another article—this time in the National Post—took a very different stance on a very different issue. The Post article argued that due in part to older celebrity mothers and faulty medical advice, women think they’ll be able to have children later in life.

The article’s author, Tom Blackwell, spoke to a psychology professor who said that while 28 per cent of mothers gave birth after the age of 36, they shouldn’t wait much longer—by the time a woman is 41, technology-aided birth is only successful one per cent of the time.

The article suggested policies should be amended to help women bear children while also having a career, but it put out limited ideas and really only suggested that women with children move at their own pace through the ranks. It didn’t offer a solution, it offered a white flag.

Women today aren’t fighting for spots in universities or equality in the workplace. They were raised with a sense that they could have any career they could imagine so long as they worked hard enough for it. The problem is that diaper bags don’t match power suits and women end up putting off having babies, putting off having a career or else finding a compromise in middle management.

The two articles have conflicting messages. The Globe tells us that women need to focus on their careers and find their way into more leadership positions. The Post tells us women need to stop putting off having babies because of misconceptions about fertility. Both articles hint that a compromise in middle management is less than desirable.

Lately I’ve been focusing on grad school and job applications and I’ve been panicking—I don’t want to be like any of these media stock types. We’re redefining what it means to be a woman in the workplace and these conversations are being played out through media depictions of the frazzled mother and the emotionally distant career-woman.

Balancing work and family is a reality women will have to deal with for sometime. But for my own sake I hope there’s more room for a happy medium than these articles would like to admit.

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