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Monthly Archives : May 2013


VANDERBILT (US) — Female graduates from top-ranked universities who become mothers are working less despite the promise of higher wages, new research finds.

The battle for work-life balance among female white-collar employees, especially those with children, is something women have struggled with for decades. Though past studies have found little evidence that women are opting out of the workforce in general, first-of-its-kind research shows that female graduates of elite universities are working much fewer hours than those from less selective institutions.

“Even though elite graduates are more likely to earn advanced degrees, marry at later ages and have higher expected earnings, they are still opting out of full-time work at much higher rates than other graduates, especially if they have children,” says Joni Hersch, professor of law and economics and of management at Vanderbilt University.

Hersch’s research, published in the Vanderbilt Law School, Law and Economics Research Paper Series, finds that 60 percent of female graduates from elite colleges are working full time compared to 68 percent of women from other schools.

It’s all about the kids

The presence of children strongly influences how much a woman works. Labor market activity is lower for women with children, but the gap between those women with and without children is largest for elite graduates. Among elite graduates, married women without children are 20 percentage points more likely to be employed than their elite counterparts with children, while among non-elite graduates, the difference in the likelihood of employment is 13.5 percentage points.

MBA moms work least of all

Hersch found that when comparing graduates from elite and less selective schools, the largest gap in full-time labor market activity is among women who also earned a master’s in business degree.

“Married MBA mothers with a bachelor’s degree from the most selective schools are 30 percentage points less likely to be employed full time than are graduates of less selective schools,” says Hersch.

The full-time employment rate for MBA moms who earned bachelor’s degrees from a tier-one institution is 35 percent. In contrast, the full-time employment rate for those from a less-selective institution is 66 percent. The gap remains even after taking into account the selectivity of MBA institution, personal characteristics, current or prior occupation, undergraduate major, spouse’s characteristics, number and age of children, and family background.

Fewer female CEOs?

Hersch contends these statistics show that the greater rate of opting out by MBA moms with undergraduate degrees from elite institutions has implications for women’s professional advancement.

“Elite workplaces, like Fortune 500 companies, prefer to hire graduates of elite colleges,” says Hersch. “Thus, lower labor market activity of MBAs from selective schools may have both a direct effect on the number of women reaching higher-level corporate positions as well as an indirect effect because a smaller share of women in top positions is associated with a smaller pipeline of women available to advance through the corporate hierarchy,” says Hersch.

Comparing degrees

Hersch found a similarly large gap among women who later earned a master’s in education. Sixty-six percent of tier-one graduates are employed full time compared to 82 percent of graduates from non-elite institutions.

Other factors also contribute to which women are working more hours.

“Estimates show greater labor activity among women with a bachelor’s degree in a field other than arts and humanities; those with graduate degrees; those in higher-level occupations such as management, science, education and legal; and women who are not white,” says Hersch.

Why opt out?

A common question associated with opting out is whether highly educated women are willingly choosing to exit the labor force to care for their children or whether they are “pushed out” by inflexible workplaces. But Hersch says this hypothesis of inflexible workplaces does not explain why labor market activity differs between graduates of elite and non-elite schools.

“Graduates of elite institutions are likely to have a greater range of workplace options as well as higher expected wages than graduates of less selective institutions, which would suggest that labor market activity would be higher among such women,” Hersch writes.

“Without discounting the well-known challenges of combining family and professional responsibilities, increasing workplace flexibility alone may have only a limited impact of reducing the gap between graduates of elite and non-elite schools.”

Gathering the data

Hersch gathered her data from the 2003 National Survey of College Graduates, which provided detailed information for more than 100,000 college graduates. The survey was conducted by the US Census Bureau for the National Science Foundation.

Researcher Joni Hersch says the hypothesis that women with children are “pushed out” of inflexible workplaces does not explain why labor market activity differs between graduates of elite and non-elite schools. (Credit: Even Westvang/Flickr)

To identify schools considered elite and to put these schools into tier levels, Hersch used both the Carnegie Classifications of institutions of higher education and Barron’s Profiles of American Colleges. Barron’s Profiles looks at quality indicators of each year’s entering class (SAT or ACT, high school GPA and high school class rank, and percent of applicants accepted). Barron’s then places colleges into seven categories: most competitive, highly competitive, very competitive, competitive, less competitive, noncompetitive, and special.

The Carnegie Classifications are based on factors such as the highest degree awarded; the number, type, and field diversity of post-baccalaureate degrees awarded annually; and federal research support. For example, Research universities offer a full range of baccalaureate programs through the doctorate, give high priority to research, award 50 or more doctoral degrees each year, and receive annually $40 million or more in federal support.

Source: Vanderbilt University


UC SANTA BARBARA (US) — Upper body strength and socioeconomic status can predict men’s opinions on the redistribution of wealth, according to researchers.

“The link between body size and aggressiveness is everywhere in the animal kingdom,” says Daniel Sznycer, a postdoctoral researcher at University of California, Santa Barbara’s Center for Evolutionary Psychology and co-author of the paper. “It’s there among invertebrates, vertebrates, non-human primates, and human primates—us.”

At the level of individuals, redistribution involves a conflict over resources, so the human mind should perceive issues of economic redistribution through that lens, Sznycer continues.

“We humans are also primates and mammals and vertebrates—heirs to the selective regime on conflict. And so, this study predicts that our human minds will use estimates of fighting ability—in this case, upper body strength—to calibrate one’s own stance in such conflicts.”

In the days of our early ancestors, decisions about the distribution of resources weren’t made in courthouses or legislative offices, but through shows of strength. With this in mind, Sznycer colleagues hypothesized that upper-body strength—a proxy for the ability to physically defend or acquire resources—would predict men’s opinions about economic redistribution.

As reported in Psychological Science, the researchers collected data on bicep size, socioeconomic status, and support for economic redistribution from hundreds of people in the United States, Argentina, and Denmark. In line with their hypothesis, the data revealed that stronger men are more likely to assert their economic self-interest.

What counts as self-interest regarding redistribution, however, varies based on socioeconomic status (SES). Redistribution increases the share of resources of low-SES men, and decreases the share of resources of high-SES men.

“Men of low-SES stand to gain, whereas men of high-SES stand to lose,” Sznycer says. “What we found is that higher upper-body strength exacerbates your self-interested stance. Bigger biceps correlate with more support for redistribution among low-SES men, and with more opposition to redistribution among high-SES men.”

Conversely, men with lower upper-body strength were less likely to assert themselves. High-SES men of this group showed less resistance to redistribution, while those of low SES demonstrated less support.

“Our results demonstrate that physically weak males are more reluctant than physically strong males to assert their self-interest—just as if disputes over national policies were a matter of direct physical confrontation among small numbers of individuals, rather than abstract electoral dynamics among millions,” says Michael Bang Peterson of Aarhus University, one of the paper’s lead authors.

According to Sznycer, the paper’s other lead author, however, socioeconomic status by itself doesn’t predict people’s attitudes about redistribution. “It’s only when you combine the information about strength and socioeconomic status that you can predict these political attitudes,” says Sznycer.

“This suggests that the human mind is ecologically rational and designed for small-scale societies rather than means-end rational. In short, within our modern skulls lies a brain designed for ancestral challenges.”

dollarbicep_525

“Our results demonstrate that physically weak males are more reluctant than physically strong males to assert their self-interest—just as if disputes over national policies were a matter of direct physical confrontation among small numbers of individuals, rather than abstract electoral dynamics among millions,” says Michael Bang Peterson of Aarhus University. (Credit: “man showing his bicep” via Shutterstock)

Interestingly, the researchers found no link between upper-body strength and redistribution opinions among women. “This is consistent with the male bias in the aggressive use of force among mammals,” Sznycer says.

“Compared to males, ancestral human females derived fewer benefits and incurred higher costs when bargaining using physical aggression. Women can certainly be competitive, but they use more indirect forms of aggression.”

Sznycer also notes that finding the same results in three countries suggests the effect is driven by standard features of the human mind in tandem with particular environmental variables—here strength and resources—rather than being an idiosyncratic cultural effect. “These three countries have quite different distributive policies, and yet the way strength modulates these political attitudes is the same everywhere,” he says.

Additional researchers from UCSB and Griffith University contributed to the study.

Source: UC Santa Barbara


“An anti-Page 3 campaign, SlutWalks and the relaunch of Spare Rib show that feminism is as vigorous – and necessary – as ever. Why did we ever doubt it?2

I’ve lost count of all the times I’ve been told that feminism is dead. I’ve even found myself described as a “post-feminist” writer, as if I were one of the survivors of a lost golden age. I’ve never taken it very seriously, because I know that writing off political movements is a mug’s game. But now feminism is back, and in such a big way that I can’t help wondering how all those doomsayers are feeling.

A lively internet campaign to get rid of Page 3 has collected more than 100,000 signatures and received the support of the Girl Guides. Another campaign, The Women’s Room, is encouraging women to add their names to a database of female experts to counter male bias in the media. And the pioneering feminist magazine Spare Rib is being relaunched in both paper and online editions.

I’m not in the least surprised. Feminism is one of the great human rights movements, and a raft of evidence shows that it is more necessary than ever. None of the big issues has gone away since I began writing Misogynies a quarter of a century ago; I seem to have been writing about equal pay throughout my career, and I’m still waiting for a government that will enforce the transparency we need to achieve it. Domestic violence accounts for one in seven recorded crimes of violence, while the exposure of “historic” rape cases on an industrial scale suggests that a culture of impunity existed for decades at such organisations as the BBC.

Two things combined to force feminism into the semi-underground it’s now emerging from so triumphantly. Like any transformative movement, feminism threatened the status quo, unsettling powerful men in business, politics and the media who saw their interests threatened. The movement was actually very diverse, encompassing radical feminists and women who worked in traditional political movements, but we were all caricatured. The slander worked, turning off younger women who didn’t want to be associated with the feminist label.

At the same time, feminist campaigns against the most egregious forms of sexism had begun to pay off, so younger women didn’t encounter them in the way my generation had. When I asked to study economics A level in the 1970s, I was told it wasn’t taught at my all-girls state school; when I started work on a local paper, the features editor assured me it wouldn’t be long before I could stop covering court cases and write about fashion. Thanks to the efforts of 70s and 80s feminists, some of that reflexive sexism has gone into decline, or at least become less visible. For many women in their 20s or early 30s, it’s only when discussions about pay, promotion and childcare kick in that they realise it’s still a man’s world in too many ways.

An anti-Page 3 protest.

Campaigners from Object and Turn Your Back On Page 3 protest outside the Sun’s offices. Photograph: Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images

Journalism looks like a model of equal opportunities but three-quarters of news reporters on national titles are men, and women account for only a third of journalists covering politics and business. Rebekah Brooks, who was the most powerful female newspaper executive in the country until just before her arrest in the phone-hacking scandal, modelled herself on her most ambitious male colleagues — and cultivated exclusively male mentors.

For anyone who believes gender equality is no longer an issue, the economic crisis is a wakeup call. Unemployment among women rose by almost 20% between 2009 and 2012, compared with 0.32% among men. Vital services for women, including shelters for victims of domestic violence and trafficking, were among the first to feel the Coalition government’s axe. I’m sure some of the feminist energy that is around at the moment has been generated by the urgent need to protect women’s interests. But it’s also a reaction to  the growth of a vast commercial  sex industry, which has flooded popular culture with crude sexual images of women.

The legal side of the industry is visible in billboards advertising pole dancing clubs, targeted at high-earners in the City. But there’s also a huge illegal trade in the transport of girls and women across continents to provide sexual “services” to men in developed countries. Such things were unheard of when I wrote Misogynies and while I was aware of the horrors of female genital mutilation, I didn’t know it was happening in the UK.

In the light of all this, it would be amazing if feminism wasn’t undergoing a revival. One change for the better is the existence of the internet, which means campaigns can quickly become international. The SlutWalks movement started in Canada and was imported into the UK, where it updated the old Take Back the Night protests. I love seeing women asserting the right to be sexual on their own terms in a culture that promotes extreme images of women, from the preposterous “glamour” model Katie Price to the curiously sexless Duchess of Cambridge.

Women’s rights are human rights. It’s one of my favourite slogans. Twenty-first-century feminism is about girls’ education, safe contraception and abortion, freedom from sexual and domestic violence, and the right to enjoy public space. It’s a vibrant and radical manifesto for a supposedly defunct movement.

Joan Smith at the Guradian UK – http://www.guardian.co.uk/profile/joansmith


When I go to speak to Charlotte Raven about her relaunch of feminist magazine Spare Rib – born 1972, died 1993 – I quickly realise she is talking about something much bigger. She is 43, and has been fulminating about feminism for a decade now, she says, a fact that shows in the fizz of her ideas, the way she jumps from one innovation or exhumation to another. There’s her plan to revive consciousness-raising groups, for instance, despite some of her activist friends dismissing them as “bourgeois navel-gazing”. She sees these gatherings – which burgeoned in the 70s as a place where women could discuss how specific feminist issues affected them – as a way of mending “that link between the personal and political that has just been completely broken”.

She wants to hold immersive events, with a political edge, which explains why numerous performance artists are involved in the Spare Rib project. And there will be activism, although she isn’t quite sure what the political demands will be. Raven and some friends were going to protest at the Epsom Derby next month, in memory of the militant suffragette Emily Wilding Davison, who, 100 years ago, stepped in front of the king’s horse, Anmer, and died of her injuries. “But we couldn’t think what we were going to be asking for. It was the same problem – how do you capture it in a sash? Actually, austerity is one of the really big things that we want to talk about. That’s unsexy, [but] actually, what is the damn point of having a vote if you can’t feed your bloody children?” She doesn’t care about issues such as the dearth of women on FTSE boards, she says: “I care about bloody women who are affected by the fucking benefit cuts, but I don’t really care about that other thing. I can’t pretend I do.” Her thoughts unspool wildly, entertainingly, through utopian feminism, radical feminism and collectivism. Raven clearly isn’t just looking to relaunch a magazine. She wants to start a movement.

Not that her burning ambition is immediately obvious. When I arrive at her big, beautiful house in north London at the agreed time she is initially surprised to see me, but hugs a greeting and shows me through to the garden while she rushes off to prepare for the photographer. This is an interesting moment for Raven, a dramatic turn in a dramatic life. She had a tumultuous 1990s, working as an editorial assistant to Toby Young at the Modern Review; when she started a relationship with the magazine’s co-founder, Julie Burchill, in a blaze of publicity, Young accused them of plotting to turn the publication into a “cross between the New Statesman and Spare Rib”. He therefore closed it without telling them. Raven went on to edit a short-lived relaunch, and became a columnist for this newspaper, while Burchill achieved maximum shock value, as ever, by marrying Raven’s brother Daniel. (The two women still see each other at family occasions, but I get the impression they’re not close. Raven says she’s sure “Julie will do the job of creating the unsisterly rants” when it comes to critiquing Spare Rib.) Back in the 90s, she says, she thought the party would just keep going.

Raven married the film-maker Tom Sheahan, and they have two children – a daughter, eight, and son, three. In 2006, after her father was diagnosed with the incurable neurodegenerative disorder Huntington’s disease – which causes involuntary, uncontrollable movements, along with severe cognitive problems – she tested positive for it too. Its symptoms typically appear in mid-life, her age now. She wrote movingly in 2010 about how she had considered suicide as a result, eventually deciding against it after visiting a community of HD sufferers in Venezuela. “The case for carrying on can’t be argued,” she concluded. “Suicide is rhetoric. Life is life.”

At the same time, she was wrestling with writing a confessional feminist memoir. She laboured over this for 10 years, the idea being that it would be a “consciousness-raising exercise,” she says, “in that you’d expose the truth of what it’s like from inside the prison of femininity. But the trouble is, trying to do that without making yourself just look like a cunt is actually almost impossible.” She rewrote it 20 different ways, she laughs – she says repeatedly that this was a difficult time, but hoots through the telling – “and then Caitlin Moran’s book [How To Be a Woman] came out, and I realised that was the end of the road … She got there first, and hers took six months to write, famously, and it has this great sort of jeu d’esprit, whereas mine was this intense combination of theory … and my continuing battle with my narcissism. Which Caitlin’s is about, probably as a subtext. She’s managing to conceal it with a load of good gags. And mine didn’t have enough good gags. So, over a period of time, my daughter had to tell me when we went to the [local] bookshop to put my blinkers on so I didn’t see the huge piles of How To Be a Woman.”

She had been fantasising about starting a feminist magazine anyway and, six months ago, she went to the Women’s Library and started looking through its collection. Raven has been politically engaged since childhood. While her father was making “a load of money” publishing magazines for the Duty Free industry, she and her “Marxist mother” were sitting at home, cursing him, she says. But back in the 80s and early 90s, Spare Rib never appealed to her. By this time, the magazine had been edited by a collective for years and, though it still ran groundbreaking material, – it covered issues the mainstream media wouldn’t have touched at the time – it also had a reputation for being dour. Once, early on, for instance, it ran a helpful editorial for confused readers headed: “Why is it such a depressing magazine?”

But looking at the very first issues, edited by co-founders Rosie Boycott and Marsha Rowe, Raven felt inspired. She loved the “wonderful, countercultural” tone, and determined to relaunch it. She began forming an editorial board, comprising “middle-aged punks”, a strongly feminist schoolgirl and Boycott herself, and started thinking how to fund it. Advertising was the obvious answer, but she felt this was inappropriate. The problem with mainstream feminist debate, she says, is the way it’s been commodified. She points to the furore around Pussy Riot, last year, in which the Russian anti-Putin protesters were seized on as the latest hip manifestation of feminism; soon after, their image was for sale on T-shirts under the “Free Pussy Riot” slogan. Raven believes feminism has become “a marketing device – it always was. Cosmo always used feminism to market itself. But now it feels like that’s universal. And so I think the only way of de-commodifying it is by not having bloody brands next door to it. You can’t write about feminism within that context.”

She decided to raise seed money by sending an email around to “a hundred rich friends, and get them to send it to all their rich friends”. That email was leaked last month, with journalists focusing on one of its more hair-raising assertions – that Rod Liddle and George Galloway would appear as “costumed penitents”, serving guests at a Spare Rib founders’ event. Raven says the tone of the email was actually just intended to “make Simon-bloody-Kelner [former editor of the Independent] laugh and part with a hundred quid,” and, on reflection, Liddle and Galloway would probably enjoy the experience a little too much, so that idea’s been scrapped.

The email, though, was a success. She has received nearly 1,000 responses, and the £20,000 fundraising target has been hit. The idea is to run the magazine, which will launch later this year, as a membership organisation – what Raven calls “a politicised version of crowd-funding” – where those who sign up will be consulted about content. It will also be available on newsstands, priced £3.50. Alongside this there will be a website, expected to go live at the end of July, where content will be free, and people will be able to upload their own writing for possible inclusion in the magazine.

She rushes off to find some of the emails she has been sent, and starts reading me one. “‘I want to tell you how immensely relieved and excited I am that you and others are relaunching Spare Rib. I am utterly desperate for an antidote to the suffocating proliferation of vacuous crud that spews from every vein of the media, and I know that many of my friends feel the same.’ That’s honestly absolutely representative of the people who have got in touch with us,” she says.

Charlotte Raven

Charlotte Raven: the magazine will launch later in the year, but she hopes to have its website up in July. Photograph: Martin Godwin for the Guardian

Raven wants to leave behind what she sees as a 1990s form of feminism, where “you could just be as superficial as you liked, and you could call yourself a feminist, and still be obsessed with shoes. I think you’ve got to just draw a line under that and say it’s better not to be obsessed with shoes, actually.” Does she think Spare Rib can get feminism back on course? “Yeah! Absolutely! Without a doubt,” she says. “It will take a while, but it feels like the right moment suddenly. I don’t know why. But it feels like there’s a wind behind us.”