Losing “female” skills

I was quite staggered today to read an incredibly sexist piece by Helen Pow in a News Ltd paper titled, “Generation Y women losing ‘female’ skills such as cooking, ironing and sewing“.  Apparently if you are female and don’t know how to make lamingtons, darn socks, sew hems or iron your clothes, then you’re not a proper woman. *faints*

Research by McCrindle Research, a demographic and generational (and perhaps other things) research company has found that:

Only 51 per cent of women aged under 30 can cook a roast compared with 82 per cent of baby boomers.

Baking lamingtons is a dying art with 20 per cent of Gen Y capable of whipping up the Aussie classic, down from 45 per cent for previous generations.

Traditional skills outside the kitchen are falling by the wayside with Gen Y women woefully behind their older counterparts, the study by McCrindle Research found. Only 23 per cent can grow a plant from a cutting when 78 per cent of older women say this is a breeze.

Driving manual cars is also on the decline with just 40 per cent of women under 30 possessing this skill compared to 71 per cent of older women.

Hold the phone, call the government, something is clearly wrong with the young of Australia, because these essential feminine skills are in decline, the world is going to end… quick, get Wonder Woman in quickly to fix the problem.

Seriously is this a problem or a slow news day article?  I’m not surprised that News Ltd ran with it, hardly the bastion of progressive feminism, and then I did a little digging on Helen Pow, to see what else she’s written.  Turns out that she reports quite a bit on women, so I thought I’d have a quick look at a few of her pieces from January 2010, given they were the easiest to find on Google News.

From 10 January, “Fewer women in management jobs“, providing fact but not much else, about the overall decline of women in management roles, but brought with it this good news bit:

The EOWA report has, however, revealed that the gender pay gap dropped over the year — from 18 percent to about 16.9 percent — and that the proportion of female chief executives had increased slightly, from 10.6 percent to 10.8 percent.

From 30 January, “Firms face scrutiny for gender gap“, another good news story regarding the compulsory reporting for businesses with over 100 staff being identified more actively (by the Tax Office) and then being required to provide hard statistics regarding gender equity.  The article doesn’t actually provide much information about what the companies will be required to report, what has been reported already by companies that are meeting their obligations and what is hoped from the whole experience overall.

THE Australian Taxation Office will hand over previously confidential information to catch out nearly 1500 firms that are shirking their obligation to report on gender equality in the workplace.

Minister for Women Kate Ellis is also overhauling firms’ reporting requirements.

Companies with more than 100 employees are required to report to the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency (EOWA) each year on what they are doing to boost the number of women in senior positions and close the gender pay gap in their workplace.

But Ms Ellis said businesses could no longer pay lip service to the rules by providing meaningless dialogue. Hard statistics would be required, she said.

“Businesses can no longer hide behind ineffective programs or policies. Under the new system, businesses will have to report on clear and meaningful outcomes for women in the workplace.”

And again on 30 January, “Women’s folly as a bloke boss“, an article about how female managers shouldn’t act like male managers because that’s bad (for insufficiently defined reasons):

WOMEN who want to get ahead at work should resist acting like a man, researchers are claiming. Instead of behaving aggressively in the workplace, women should display feminine traits such as listening to others and self-monitor more threatening or bossy behaviour.

The study by the British Psychological Society also found female managers who aren’t feminine are less likeable and have a smaller chance of getting promoted – a finding supported by Jasmine Sliger, an organisational psychologist who has advised Macquarie Group, ANZ and AMP.

She said women with an interactional style of leadership would get ahead quicker than women who act in a stereotypical male way.

That advice above is in constant flux in the workplace, act like a man to get ahead and be respected (which usually means act confident, loud, talk yourself up, aggressively pursue opportunities, etc) and then act like a woman to be respected (listen, don’t be loud, play nice, etc).  Clearly no one is talking to anyone else about this, and it’d be nice if it all were a meritocracy (which it isn’t) and that merit based promotion always existed.  My advice, act the way that works best for you in that workplace.

[UPDATE: I woke up this morning remembering my management studies, and thinking how nice it would be if an article covered the best management styles and didn’t gender them.  That way we’d get good female and male managers with the most appreciated management styles.]

Ok, back to the original topic of this post – gender roles.  How about we start at the point that traditional gender roles, for the most part, are a lot shit.  How about instead of saying, “But the wimminz, they isn’t baking/sewing/gardening enoughs”, we talk about all the things that women are now doing, all the traditionally male fields that women are now working in and succeeding.  How about we talk about all the things that men are now doing, all the traditionally female fields that men are now working in and succeeding.  How about we talk about the change in society being a positive thing for everyone, as Gen Y, Gen Z, and even my Gen X, have so much more choice than the Baby Boomers did, and all the awesome things that everyone can now do.  Or, we could talk about how Gen Y being time poor and relatively affluent has resulted in the creation of niche businesses that didn’t exist before because women had time to do all that stuff.  There are so many more positive stories than “But “female” skills are diminishing” and it’d be a lot more interesting to read that.

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