Sunday, February 17, 2008

Still far to go...

This morning I made my cup of tea and switched the TV on while I had breakfast. The grey pool of the screen came to life with colours and I was poised to turn over to the news channel when something stilled my finger mid press. It was not a program I would normally watch but I was riveted all the same. As I watched, my early Sunday morning fugue became infused with disbelief and then anger. What caused this heightened emotional state? Well, a program following the everyday goings on at an airport of course.

Now I usually avoid these programs like the plague as I usually end up getting annoyed by them. I get annoyed sometimes by the jobs-worth people following process rather than applying customer service but mostly I get annoyed at idiot passengers who are trying to take too much luggage on and then get shirty, or forget their passports or something and get shirty as the airline won't hold the flight, just for them. (My views on customer service and bad customers are a whole other topic!).

No, this time I was angry as there was a qualified pilot on the show and she was executing some training flights. Note please the use of the words "she" and "her". Now let me share with you two pieces of the program:

First the Captain who was to supervise her gave his opinion saying that there weren't many women commercial pilots but the ones he had come across "had to be at least as good as the men and in fact were often better". The Captain seems to be a fair minded chap eager for his protégé to do well, but let's examine that sentence: the women have to be at least as good as the men. The phrase is intrinsically sexist and I don't mean that the Captain is a sexist man, rather it is the reality of the situation. A commercial pilot is traditionally a 'male' job so the rhetoric applied is from this perspective. It still annoys me that women are singled out as special or different but this will be the case until the status quo is addressed.

Meanwhile, let's not detract from her achievement. I know what it is like to work in a male dominated profession. I worked as a theatrical technician for years and was the only woman backstage until the dressers joined for the shows. I did have to be better than the men around me, I did have to work harder and I was still not treated as an equal. I was not given the same training opportunities as the men unless I pushed hard for it and I was not given the choice jobs that attracted premium pay (theatre work is often casual or short term contract). Lets be clear, it was definitely not because the men were better than me. I know because time and again I was singled out as being good and given difficult cues by visiting crew and when I left this particular theatre the theatre production manager came and presented me with a bottle of champagne which was unheard of.

Back to the TV program. Having singled a woman pilot out as a novelty, the interviewer then proceeded to tell some of the passengers about her. Predictably, the majority of the men voiced concerns about 'women drivers' (because we all know what perfect drivers ALL men are and how well qualified they are to make their critique). In particular two men, said that had they known, they would not have got onto the plane. Now thankfully, these particular individuals are not ever going to be CEOs of FTSE 100 companies, but this attitude is prevalent and women have to put up with it every day in greater or lesser ways.

My last post was humorous. It is hard to think that within living memory, women were thought of as being not good enough to handle a job when they were clearly juggling running a home and raising a family as well as looking after a husband. The point of view that women are inferior in any way is a bigoted and narrow minded point of view. Let's be completely clear about this. I am not a feminist, I am not some sort of lesbian either for having these views (I have been accused of this!!!), I simply want an equal opportunity in life and want people to see beyond the bumps in my T-shirt to what I am able to do and what I can achieve.

Someone commented on my last post that part of the problem is a lack of female interest in traditional male professions. My answer is simply this: when you are a woman, society and school unconsciously push you towards traditionally female roles. If you think I am wrong just look at the toys that are made for girls and for boys. Notice the difference? If you dare to push the boundaries you are in for a difficult time. For a start you have to be at least as good as the men. I disagree, in my experience you have to be better than your male counterparts to be seen as being at least as good. We have come a long way as society since the article in my last post was published, but we still have far to go.

(Please note that I do not just believe men are responsible for this trend. Women are equally responsible, at least in that respect we are equal. Also, as ever these are my views which are of course coloured by my own experiences).


sage said...

Michele sets me up not only to make your first comment, but to be your first male commentator. Oh well, I agree with you and as for the guys wanting off the plane, they probably don't fly much for there are more and more female pilots on the commuter routes (where pilots generally begin their careers) and in time they'll work their way up to the main carriers. (I hope that doesn't sound too sexist). By the way, my daughter when she was younger wanted to be a pilot--now she says she wants to be a dentist or a vet (she's 9), all traditionally male careers but ones she's seen women in.

Bob-kat said...

Hi Sage. My criticism is not of men per se but of society and the preconceived notions we hold of what a 'woman' should be and how she should act.

I agree that things are improving. Even today compared to 10-15 years ago things are a little better on the whole. I can remmeber being interviewed for a management position after university and being asked if I intended to get married and have children, while my male counterparts were not quizzed on this aspect. That is pretty much unthinkable these days.

Thanks for popping by and commenting.

Jean-Luc Picard said...

Women's roles have certainly changed over the years. I see this significantly in tv ads, where the wife is there at home to greet the husband with dinner at night. Now there is a change where women always seem to be outsmarting the idiotic men who never win. This would never be the other way around.

Michele sent me here.

rashbre said...

I've been on several flights with female pilots, its still not common but also not 'unheard of'. The same applied until recently with London taxi drivers being men, although there's more women drivers now but still a significant minority.

In my type of business there can be male or female folk in charge; it really seems to have evened out.

Last week I was dealing mainly with a lady client; in a couple of weeks when I'm in Germany I meet a 'big boss' who is also female. Next week the client's group of department leaders I meet are two women and a man.

I'm not saying its typical, but I am suggesting that things move along. I humbly suggest that in modern UK, if someone finds themselves in an oppressive environment based upon any diversity factor, then there's a need to either resolve it or move on.


Sleepypete said...

The neanderthals who wanted off the plane make me wonder about accident stats ... They're probably also the people who tailgate at 50 in 40s, expecting the law abiding people to move out of their way.

Whenever you see things on the telly about plane crashes or near-disasters like the one at Heathrow not long ago, how often is the pilot female ? Can't remember seeing anything where the pilot responsible for the crash was female, so where can their link Female Pilot Crashes Planes come from except from fossilised attitude ...

There's also a recognition of female fighter jet pilots being better able to handle the g-forces due to (statistical average) being shorter ...

Bob-kat said...

Hi Rashbre. Always nice to see you here.

I totally agree with you about everything you have said. My intention was not to bemoan the fact that women are not in management positions or not becoming (note the tense though) more prevalent in male dominated industries, rather it was to highlight an undercurrent of inequality that still exists in the attitude of society as a whole.

As I said, we (society) are getting there. There are more women in top management positions, there are more women pilots and engineers and it is a trend which I think and hope will continue. I'm just sayin' we're not there yet. Not in terms of being treated equally. All you have to do is look at the stats to see that male employees are paid more than their female counterparts.

kenju said...

I agree with you, Bob-kat, but I don't know what the solution is. I know many men who have that attitude and it will not change, no matter what women are able to accomplish.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

I ran into this same attitude when I played ice hockey. I had to be twice as good, twice as tough, and twice as thick-skinned. And I had to give better than I got, too.

(I became a master of truly off-color insults that the recipient also had to think about to get, too)

Women roadies have the same hurdles you saw in theater, and a few extras because of the travel in enclosed spaces issues.

We've got a long way to go, but at least we're on the path. Watch for me to post something tonight; Kerri talks about this same issue.

Dianne said...

what a thoughtful and interesting post bobkat, thanks.

I was the first Mom to coach football for my son's little league. I usually didn't do things that embaressed him BUT this was important and he needed to see. Usually boys just want Mom to sit and watch and be quiet and I get that but ...

and this was 20+ years ago - imagine the hoopla! sad but true - I got more grief from the other Moms than from the Dads and it took me a long time to get over that.

as a single Mom I wanted to be part of all my son loved to do and no one was going to take that away from me - certainly not sterotypes. today my son tells people that story with pride ;)

utenzi said...

Michele sent me over, B-K.

I don't agree that women have to be better today though I realize why that concept gets strong recognition. Successful women who are interviewed on their success state they needed to be better than men--which is how they got to where they are. Of course if a successful man is interviewed, he also would have had to be better than the other men to get to where he was. Anyone that is near the top of their field will be better than most of the men (and women) in that field.

The field of commercial pilots is a little different though since so many pilots come from a military background--at least here in the USA--so I'm sure that makes for a more difficult environment for women to break into. And the number of well paid commercial pilots is low, and the career track to get there is onerous. Or something like that.

Of course there's also the media thing where interviewers try to find controversial aspects to everything to help with ratings. They're so Machiavellian!

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

GREAT POst, Bob-Kat...And I agree.....Things are somewhat better than that 1943 concensus, BUT....Not as much as they should or could be! AND you are so right that women HAVE to be better than men in lots of specific jobs, to just get ahead, and be treated with respect.
Back in the 40's, my middle sister learned to fly! She joined what was known as The Civil Air Patrol...and there was no question that she had to be BETTER than any of her male counterparts. How far have we come where women pilots are conceerned? I don't think very far at all. I don't know the answer to this next question---But maybe you do....Are there any woman pilots in Commercial Airlines?? Like American Airlines, or Delta, or Air France, or Virgin Atlantic, etc...?
I'd love to know.

By The WAy: That little Video I told you about which features the fabulous photo book you made for me, is up on my blog!
I am just going to put the link to you after I leave here.....A bit slow on this...We had another power outage last night---over three hours...! In the past month, this is the 3rd power outage....It's like living in a third world country...!

Bob-kat said...

Hi Utenzi.

I agree with your logic, of course women and men have to be more successful than their peers to get to the top but what I am describing is more deeply embedded in everyday behaviours and attitudes and it is insidious.

It is the idea, that a woman is not as good as man. It is best typified by the example of women v men drivers where the popular belief, at least in the UK is that women are bad drivers while men are good drivers. For example, when a woman reverse parks and makes a mess of it she is dismissed as being a bad driver because she is a woman, whereas if a man does the same and makes the same mistake it is because he is a bad driver and not because all men are bad drivers.

So, I am afraid I have to disagree with you about the fact that women don't have to be better. They do. I have experienced it, and many women will tell you the same. The fact that some women (still a minority for a number of reasons and not just sexism) make it to the top does not mean that it wasn't a struggle to get there. Perhaps some of the pressure comes from ourselves, but given that within living memory women have been generally known as the 'weaker sex', it's hardly surprising. Also, think of this, if you are clawing your way to the top in a male dominated work place, which woman will admit to being having 'weaknesses' to her bosses, the same people that are to promote her, or admit that she feels their attitudes are different towards her then her male peers. That sort of thing can be career limiting you know.

Having said this, I do think we as a society are moving more towards what you descibe and in some industries and organisation I suspect women are treated equally.We just need society to follow. Thanks for your view :)

R. Sherman said...

Enjoyed this and the one previously. (I've been away.)

I'm afraid that some of the problems you point out may be generational in nature. That is, for those of us born after say 1960, the idea of a gender disqualification for any given occupation is rare. Of course, troglodytes exist, but they are headed toward extinction.

Where we blunder, I think, is believing that in order to be successful at any occupation, one must become something one is not, and cannot be; in other words believing that a woman cannot be a good trial attorney unless she throws off those attributes which make her "female."

It is clear to me that each of us brings our own unique talents to anything. The trick is to acknowledge the differences and truly see how they are beneficial in various situations.

(I know whereof I speak, having mentored a female trial lawyer who has received accolades for her abilities from those I'd never thought would be complimentary -- all while staying true to herself.)


Star said...

Michele sent me today. Like all other forms of predjudice I hope I am more enlightened than my parents, and my children more enlightened than I, and so on. You can't change it overnight. I do agree, it is madddening to have the qualifier of "woman" placed before a job more traditionally held by a male. Such as female conductor or female astronaut. Of course, we still say male nurse as well. Your previous post on this subject was fun to read.

Bob-kat said...

Randall, if only everyone was as enlightened as you! I feel that you are right about the situation with employment, though there are still industries out there that harbour the troglodytes you speak of. The interesting thing is that it seems that the more professional trades are more forward thinking than the more manual trades. Perhaps this isn't just a generational issue, but perhaps one where IQ is a significant factor?

Employment aside, I maintain that this attitude, that women are somehow not as good as men, prevails in society. In addition to my earlier points, think of the names that men get called if they are ridiculed by their peers. It is not unusual in the UK at least for the term 'girl' to be used in a derogatory manner when a man is not macho enough for his peers and 'old woman' if he is a bit of a fusspot or complains too much. This is perhaps the remnants of the attitude displayed in the magazine article I posted, and I suspect, as you suggest that it will eventually die out with the troglodytes.

Thanks for you visit, it's always a pleasure.

Bob-kat said...

Hi Star!

That is exactly right! Things like this take time. We have come a long way but still have far to go I think and becasue this is about equality it annoys me when we qusalify that a nurse is male or suggest someone is less than a man because he wants to be a nanny (remmeber the Friends episode?). Thanks for dropping by.

Melody said...

I hear you B-K, I hear you. I'm going to email you a photo which I think you may like...*heehee*

David said...

i am glad I stopped by.
have you noticed how women are at least as good as men at blogging?

its true

misti said...

Its a very poignant issue u have raised. In India, the problem is even more intense, as the preference for male child and the grooming of a girl child makes it difficult for a woman to climb the professional ladder and gain acceptance in unconventional jobs. In most cases, a woman tend to work harder than men to prove a point.

Ur post reminded me of Indra Nooyi, the present CEO and President of PepsiCo. In one of her interview she said, "If you want to reach the top of a company, I agree that it can only happen in the United States, but you have to start off saying that you have got to work twice as hard as your (male) counterparts."

moon said...

Great post, very well said.
I remember even only 15 yrs ago, being looked at funny by some because I bought my daughter a workbench and tools to play with. It is what she wanted and she never tired of fiddling with things, taking them apart and putting them back together again. She could watch her dad in the garage for hours, just repairing, she is in college..and as feminin as she is, she can also play hard, climb trees, and sew a dress lol. ...I always tryed to encourage her to do what she felt was right for her...regardless of what the (SUPPOSED OBVIOUS CHOICES) were.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

You're right, Bob-kat. This IS an interesting comment trail (especially Sage, who says that women vets are still rare.).

I hope things continue to improve for us, but as fundamentalist Islam takes hold, women are being pushed farther down than before. And the whole situation with women in India, who are being killed so the men can have another bride-price... chilling.

We've still got a LONG way to go, but I believe by speaking up and making us face the issue, you're helping us get there. Hopefully someone who would be swayed by these anti-women attitudes will rethink that and stand up to help enforce a change.

gautami tripathy said...

In India, one does find women in technical fields. Things are changing for the better albeit slowly. Most of my friends are in positions previously considered only for males.

There are many female dentists, vets along with taxi drivers, auto drivers, petrol pump owners etc etc. India has come a long way in a short time. We got independence only in 1947.

Michele sent me here.

Mar said...

Michele sent me this time, Bob-kat. yes, still far to go but we are seeing some progress and that's positive... Slowly but surely.
Loved Dave's comment :)