December Fast Company : LUSENET : M.Ed./International Falls : One Thread

Feminism is Dead

by Keith H. Hammonds

Fast Company

December, 1999

pages 190-196

Helen Wilkinson is a postmodern feminist who lives in Londons East End. Her ideas have achieved clout in Britain because of her knack for packaging and marketing them in terms that people can understand. She believes that the relationship between men and women is in the midst of an historic shift. The values and lifestyles of men and women are converging. The feminist logic began with the importance of individualism. There was a flood of women into the labor force because of the need for a second income and the chance to create new identities through work. At the same time, an economic shift from manufacturing to services occurred along with a knowledge economy that values brains more than it does brawn. Todays workplace values team-based networking and interpersonal skills. These are skills that women have brought with them from the private sector to the workforce.>P> Organizationally, business is becoming more feminine. Companies are becoming more family-friendly, using flexible scheduling, and including mentoring which are all targeted at female workers. Rigid control is giving way to management styles that include team-based approaches. There is a shift away from full-time employment and towards networks of contract workers and free agents which implies a structure that is rooted in more feminine values.

According to Wilkinson, most young women today are comfortable with male attributes and they are reveling in ambition, drive and success. In her discussion groups with men and women in their twenties, only a minority of people believe that there are innate differences between male and female managers and leaders. This convergence is not all good news, however. More and more women are suffering from illnesses that were once viewed as predominantly male, such as heart disease and alcoholism. Some people look at womens adoption of male attributes and say that convergence is all about sameness. Wilkinson disagrees. She believes that it means greater diversity. There is no longer one gender model. We all have the opportunity to become ourselves. A generation ago, gender was the dividing line. The man was the breadwinner and the woman was the homemaker. Today, those roles are more fluid. There may be gender convergence, but theres more economic inequality between income groups. Wilkinson says that the dividing line of the future is going to be between those with skills and those without, and will be defined less and less by gender.

Wilkinson also sees the need for social reform. Policies like paid parental leave are needed so that men will have the same economic incentive to stay home as women do. School hours must be changed to better fit parents work schedules and funding must be available for training sabbaticals and/or periods of parenting.

As a teacher, this article inspired me to reflect on the changes that are starting to take place within schools in order to better accommodate parents schedules. At Falls Elementary School, conferences have been moved to include two evenings between 5:00 and 8:00 p.m. and a morning session from 8:00 a.m. until noon. This was done to allow parents that work shift work at Boise Cascade, to find a convenient time to schedule a conference. I have seen a marked increase in the number of dads that now attend conferences. Providing before and after school daycare is another service that was recently started at our school. This has helped parents who must be at work before the school day starts, to bring their children to school early and know that those children will be fed, cared for, and arrive in class on time.

Over the past four years, I have had the opportunity to attend several Center for School Change workshops. The focus has been on school reform projects that are currently taking place outside of the large metropolitan areas in Minnesota. The connection between the business world and the school community is becoming stronger. We are encouraged to stress the skills that are necessary for success in the workplace such as cooperation, team building, and conflict resolution. Schools that are successful have projects that include parent and community input and involvement. Many of these schools have student run businesses that service the community. These students learn first hand the lessons needed to start and operate a small business; skills that Wilkinson feels are essential for students, regardless of gender, when they leave school and enter the workforce.

-- Anonymous, May 14, 2000

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