Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Fun Impinging on Women's Work

The 9/17 issue of the Weekly Standard includes a diatribe by Matt Labash against corporate cultures incorporating Dilbert-esque enforced "fun." It's a length read (I printed it and took it on the subway) but among Labash's sarcasm and vitriol, I found some oblique references to women in the workplace that I think are worth noting.

The first is obvious sexism: Labash visits a "Funsultant" business (note: a "funsultant" is one who consults to bring "fun" to the office), and meets with the firm's Marketing Maven (her actual title) Jayla Boire. His discription of her follows:

I met one of their four principal partners for dinner--Jayla Boire. Her title is Marketing Maven (nobody in the company has a traditional title). She looks like a Marketing Maven too. She is bouncy, perky, tall, and blonde, with sculpted tan legs that start just above her ankles and end right below her clavicle. I wouldn't call them sexy--HR wouldn't approve--but they're fun to look at.

Very professional. I wonder if Boire has read this piece and knows that in addition to making fun of her work, Labash is also pasting her into the article as a piece of tasty meat. When he introduces her male colleagues, there is no description of them outside of their work. Sexism at its best in journalism.

The other part that really caught my eye was how, in creating a "Fun Department" at AstraZeneca--at the expense of women's ability to pump breast milk at work:

Dave later tells me that at AstraZeneca, the pharmaceutical company, the Fun Department has even taken over the company's seldom-used lactation room, dressed it up as a doctor's office complete with a doctor character and a gum-cracking assistant, and wrote "prescriptions to play" while treating people "for terminal seriousness."

I wonder how women at AstraZeneca now store breast milk while on the job. Obviously, the corporate need to inject fun into the work culture overrides a nursing mother's need to pump milk. I'd bet my life this was a decision made by a man.

If you check my booklist, you know I've been reading Getting Even: Why Women Don't Get Paid Like Men--And What to Do About It by Evelyn Murphy. The book spends a lot of time outlining the conditions and discriminations women face and how it affects their paychecks. I can see this one fitting right into the book. A woman needs to pump breast milk, the provided facility is taken away, she is told she can't do it at her desk and no other space is provided, and she ends up either in pain from blocked milk ducts or quitting so she can actually nurse. Really, if you're a woman in the working world, you should read this book. The descriptions of working conditions that cause women to quit and lose pay-benefiting positions/seniority makes my blood boil.

It's enough to make a working woman scream.