Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Women and Work (Week 2)

1) Women in positions of power - female network news anchors.

In recent years, it has become widely recognised that increasing numbers of women are reaching positions of power in the workplace. The proverbial glass ceiling is, admittedly, still impenetrable for many, but a noticeable number of the "top jobs" are now held by women. One very recent and "visual" example is that which concerns the three main television networks in America (NBC, ABC and CBS) and the presenters of their respective primetime, weekday evening news bulletins.

Until late 2006, all three of the weekday national news bulletins were anchored by men, and had been throughout their history. When Dan Rather stood down from the CBS Evening News in 2005 after 24 years, and after Bob Schieffer's brief tenure, Katie Couric was chosen to take over. For the first time in its 58-year history, the broadcast had been anchored solely by a women.

Seemingly following a trend, when the lead anchor position became available on a rival network news broadcast - ABC World News - three years later, the chair was filled with another woman - Diane Sawyer. From May 2006, veteran journalist Charles Gibson had taken the helm, and when he left the programme in December 2009, Sawyer was offered the job. It is now only NBC's Nightly News which is presented by a man - Brian Williams.

In the media and broadcasting, it is widely accepted that America looks more fondly on women, especially more mature women, that we do in the United Kingdom. Many older female journalists and presenters have had long, continuing spots in primetime American television - journalist and presenter Barbara Walters, Oprah Winfrey and WNBC New York's lead anchorwoman Sue Simmons. By having such widely recognised women in public-accessible roles such as these, it hints at a turnaround in the mentality that only men can reach the top. Coupled with the proven statistics concerning male/female education success and the economic downturn hitting male workers the hardest, we could be seeing an increasing level of women reaching the top in less "blue collar" job types.

N.B. it is still worth noting that the media could be seen as its own worst enemy however. Taking the first image into account and there does still seem to be a tendency to pit women of power against each other, labelling them as 'divas' and doing the idea of "sisterhood" no favours.

2) Women in the 1980s - Career and Family: Can they have it all?

This is the image of the front cover of the U.S edition of TIME magazine published on 12 October 1987. The cover story can be found at http://www.time.com/time/printout/0,8816,965711,00.html

When reading the cover story it seems clear that the research done by Shere Hite ('the doyenne of sex polls') highlights a growing division between the genders. 'Shere Hite (born November 2, 1942) is an American-born German sex educator and feminist' (courtesy of her bibliographic entry on Wikipedia.) The research done concerning the differences between the genders encompasses a wide array of issues and factors. Hite focuses her attention on the male influence when answering the question 'Are Women Fed Up?' as shown by the statistics included.

When specifically looking at the relationship between women and work, this quote from the author Joyce Maynard in response to the research should be highlighted: '"This nation is filled with burned-out women" (because) "they are trying to pull off something that can't be pulled off" (and) "have been told they can have -- even ought to have -- husband, children and career, all perfectly managed."' Maynard is insistent that this is a lie.

With the many issues surrounding '(F)eminism' in mind, we can see the very evident concept that after decades of maintaining a household, living off of a man (willingly or unwillingly) and staying home to look after the children, women were finally seeing that they could attempt to "have it all."Even as far back as 1987, however, it is clear that certain commentators already thought that this was a myth, and at the very least, not as easy as the "ideal."

Coming when this article did (at the beginning of the end of the 1980s) when a new wave of feminism and feminist ideas and ideals were first mooted, the argument could be made that for some, the battle reminiscent of the 1960s and '70s, had indeed been won. Seemingly women had been told that they could have it all and do anything that they wanted.

Linked to this idea of "having it all" and the new wave of feminism is the evidence quoted in the article by 'New Woman' magazine in 1986 where '41% of unattached women surveyed said they are not looking for a relationship or are undecided' which hints at the idea of making it on your own, and actively not depending on anybody.

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