Marie-Hélène Budworth

Associate Professor of Human Resource Management, specializing in learning, development & motivation.

Marie-Hélène Budworth

I am not a Feminist!

November 10th, 2010 · No Comments · Uncategorized

Today’s focus groups were very interesting.  Some clear themes are emerging from the discussions.  I have to admit, some of the findings are somewhat discouraging for me to hear.  In particular, there seems to be a strong sense of the ‘practical’ when these young women consider their career options.  I recall being in my early 20s and being incredibly enthusiastic – and anxious – about the possibilities.  The young women we are speaking with are concerned with possible limitations.  I did not start making trade offs until the reality smacked me the face, but these young people are so aware that they are self-limiting in their own aspirations prior to even encountering the limitation itself.  For example, almost every participant expresses in one way or another that one needs to make a choice between family and career.  They have conceded that if they would like to have children, their career will have to suffer – if only for a period of time.  They feel conflicted about motherhood and work before they have either.  It is too much pressure!  As a young woman, I resisted the notion that family and work would conflict until i found myself trying to keep my children quiet during conference calls.  (And I am glad that I did.  My naive outlook motivated me to maintain a productive path even when my children were quite young.)

My generation was told that we could ‘have it all.’  If we worked hard and planned well, a fulfilling life with both family and career was well within our grasp.  I think that women emerging into the workforce today have observed my generation’s attempt at this new model.  They are also privy to so many examples in the media of women who have burnt out from attempting to fit it all in.  They do not find it attractive.  

When we ask, ‘are you a feminist?’  The participants often become visibly uncomfortable or a least a little awkward.  There is often a giggle followed by a rejection of the term in one form or another.  It is a signal to me that perspectives are changing.  There is a clear sense that equality and choice are paramount, but there is also an awareness that life is about partnership with others – particularly family – and sacrifices are necessary.  I need to think this one through.  For better or for worse?


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