Tag Archives: Girl Power

A Woman’s Place

Late last night, I flipped the final virtual pages of Sinclair Lewis’ The Job: An American Novel (free for Kindle!).

I love books that fit the genre: set in the early 20th century, starring young women who find strength in fending for themselves and making it in the big, bad city. (See also: Theodore Dreiser.)

The Job spanned a decade starting in 1905, when Una Golden and her mother moved to New York City from a small Pennsylvania town. Una’s father had just passed away, and after the dust settled, the mother and daughter decided that a big city like New York held more opportunity for a young woman to earn a living (and support her mother).

Such “opportunities” were vastly different than what women expect today. After a quick stint at secretarial school, Una started her career by taking dictation, eventually running small offices. Throughout, her fellow secretaries and stenographers married and left their jobs. The message – and reality – were clear: women had to choose between work or family. Women tended to work only when they had to support themselves in the absence of a father or husband. Una struggled to reconcile her desire for a family with her career aspirations.

As I read, many of the office dynamics were familiar, with hierarchies and break time confidences. But I marveled at just how far we’ve come in a century.

My own company, IBM, recently named a new CEO. As of January 1, Ginni Rometty was named President and CEO – IBM’s ninth CEO in a century.

Ginni Rometty is IBM's new CEO and president

When the news was announced in October, the gender-focused headlines bothered me. Why should it matter that she’s a woman? That our best and brightest, someone who worked her way up through IBM’s ranks since 1981, happens to be a woman? We should applaud the best person getting the job, regardless of gender.

But I know that it is a big deal. As long as Fortune and Forbes keep putting out lists of “Most Influential Women” and we have stand-alone “Women in Technology” receptions at conferences, the divide will persist. (Can you imagine if they had a “Men in Technology” night at a software conference?)

I grew up truly believing I could be anything I wanted to be. It never occurred to me that being a girl limited my career choices. I could be a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher, or even an astronaut, as long as I worked hard. (Funny, “social media strategist” never popped to mind as a career option back in the 80s or 90s.)

But not terribly long ago, that wasn’t really the case. When my mom applied for teaching jobs in the 1970s, she had to include a headshot and answer questions about her marital status and whether she intended to have children.

It’s certainly changed in the century since Una Golden arrived in New York. Even so, I look forward to the day when gender isn’t highlighted as something novel during such announcements.

We’re getting there. Our outgoing CEO, Sam Palmisano, reiterated the point: “Ginni got it because she deserved it. It’s got zero to do with progressive social policies.”

Congratulations, Ginni, and thanks for helping perpetuate the reality that a woman’s place can be in the board room.

The New York Times has an interesting look at women in technology, and specifically, women in IBM. 


Botany & Lumber-Jilling

For a yard with no trees, we sure do have a lot of leaves. Every year, the city starts their leaf pickup in early October, when everything is still lush and green and firmly attached. By the third week of October, though, it’s actually raining leaves. I worked at home one brisk day a couple weeks ago and actually got up to look outside at a couple points to see if it had started raining. It sure sounded like rain, but in reality, it was just the sound of thousands of leaves falling – in unison – to the ground.

Our neighbors behind us have the annoying mulberry tree that will drop all its leaves in one fell swoop in the next couple weeks. The neighbors next door have two giant, ancient oaks that drop bushels of big, broad, crunchy leaves, and plenty of acorns Our yard is torn up from the increased squirrel activity, as they frantically try to bury as many acorns before the ground freezes. One brilliant squirrel even buried an acorn in my tomato planter. I’ll bet he goes hungry this winter. Apparently a previous owner paid neighborhood children a quarter per bucket they filled with acorns, then stored the nuts in the garage and parceled them out to the varmints all winter. I’m dealing with generations that may remember that elderly woman – and expect the entitlement to continue. Liberals.

Despite having no trees, we do have one overgrown bush – maybe it’s a mini tree?- that blocks the main living room window. It scrapes up against the house, making pinging noises against the aluminum. A couple times each year, I go out and trim it way back, stopping the scraping and allowing a bit more light through the narrow window. When I first moved in, I thought it may be a lilac, as there were a couple small blooms that have never since reappeared. The leaves on this tree are small and annoying, as the rake doesn’t really pick them up. As long as they don’t get wet, they tend to just blow away and disperse.

I did my fall trimming a couple weeks ago, first taking off everything I could with mere hedge trimmers. Then, for the taller branches, I had to jump up, pull them down and hold in place while cutting. Some of the skinny ones – the newer growth – were easy to snap off, while others required the saw. It was great fun and satisfying to pull down branches bigger than me.

That entire bush/tree will likely come down early next spring, to be replaced with something smaller that doesn’t block the window. I think it’s too late in the season now for a new plant to take root and survive the winter. Of course, I said the same thing at this time last year. Inertia’s a bitch to overcome, no?

Cinderella has a Roommate

I have a confession to make. Despite all my crowing about making it as a single girl homeowner (choose the appropriate hyphenation), I’m not so single anymore.

For the last 15+ months, I’ve been dating the wonderful Don (“The Don,” as friends call him), and two weeks ago, he moved in. It’s been fantastic sharing my home – our home – with such a caring, loving guy who constantly challenges me to be a better version of myself and do more. In fact, the Cinderella concept stems in part from him. One night several months ago, I was talking about all the things I’ve learned as a novice homeowner and the advice I give to friends. He encouraged me to keep at it, write it down and do something with the concept. That idea, coupled with Colete Dowling’s Cinderella Complex, gave rise to this blog and numerous other scattered writings.

The truth is, it’s great having a roommate who not only helps with the mortgage (thus freeing up funds to do more projects and – gasp – go back to school) but also serves as a sanity check on some of my more harebrained ideas. Climbing up on the roof alone? No way, not with Don around. He acknowledges that I certainly can do many things alone, he’s there, ready to help out while also injecting some reason and rationality into the process.

Heck, last fall he climbed the roof to help me clean gutters, despite his fear of heights! If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.

Though he hates – HATES – my rotary lawnmower, so that job happily remains mine.

Overall, I’m so lucky to have found such a great guy to share my life and home with. I just hope he realizes what he’s in for on the DIY front!

Is cleaning women’s work?

No matter the size of my home, I’ve always been the cleaner. Living alone, if I don’t do it, it doesn’t get done. I try to keep things pretty tidy and straighten up periodically, trying to actually clean weekly. I’ve found with the bigger house, though, comes a lot more cleaning! Back in my apartment days, 10 minutes on a Saturday morning was enough to clean the bathroom, and another 10 allowed for a quick Swiffering of the entire apartment. But now, I have to choose – upstairs bathroom or downstairs? Do I really need to do both every weekend? And vacuuming – really, how often do I have to do it? Can I forgo pulling out the couch? After all, I’ll just have to start over again in a week or two, anyway.

As a result, I’ve fallen into laziness. No bones about it, there’s been some sheer, unadulterated sloth lately. Part of it is the futility of winter. I can’t remember the last time I mopped the tile in the back hallway, since the nearly-constant snow, slush and muck have kept it nice and filthy, with gray splotches and splatters galore. Since the windows have been closed since early October, there have been no cleansing breezes to dislodge the ceiling cobwebs, and the air in general is stale with a hint of Febreeze.

But really, whose problem is it? Growing up, my mom spent much of her free time cleaning the house, delegating some of the chores to my sister and me. When company was coming, though, Dad would take the reins and do a good chunk of the vacuuming and dusting.

I wonder, if I were to live with a guy who was willing to clean, would I let him? How committed am I to my role as cleaner? And is it because I’m a girl or because I’m the de facto housekeeper?

Saving Prince Charming?

Friday night, my Bunco group met. Yes, yes, very suburban yuppie of me. It’s an interesting group of women from the neighborhood. We meet monthly and spend the evening playing the game while gossiping and eating and drinking. All but one are homeowners, and all but one (a different one) are married with children. Naturally, the other single girl and I gravitate towards each other.

She’s older than me – 32 – with about four years of homeownership under her belt. She’s been with her guy for nearly twelve years and thinks she may be nearing an ultimatum. We started talking about our reasons for buying alone and discovered we shared the same philosophy. When she bought, she had been with her boyfriend for seven or eight years and thought it was silly to keep renting when she could be building equity. She also wanted to prove to herself that she could do it without needing help from anyone else – my sentiments and motivations exactly. She didn’t need to wait for her Prince Charming to rescue her and carry her off to adulthood and a mortgage. If her relationship works out and they do get married, she already has a leg up and has built some equity, regardless of where they end up living. If they break up – well, she’d still have her home and everything that’s gone into it. As she said, he hasn’t shown any impetus to make a permanent commitment to her and to their relationship, so she has to take care of herself, first and foremost.

Which brought us to Juno. My Bunco buddy said her boyfriend is like the Mark character – a man who doesn’t really want to grow up. Sure, he’s older than her with a teenage son from a previous marriage – but he doesn’t see a push to marry. I hadn’t yet seen the movie but keep hearing and reading about it. After our conversation, I went out to the movies last night. Among the crowd were several other women on their own, plus a couple couples snickering in the back rows. (It was strange to hear the grownups laughing at such bawdy, witty lines – until I realized that I’m one of the grownups now. Sheesh.)

But my friend is right, as is Kathryn Jean Lopez. In National Review, Lopez relates Juno to Leonard Sax’s book, Boys Adrift: The Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men. Lopez notes:

Mark Loring reminds me of a letter in Sax’s book from a woman named Sarah. She says her husband is stuck on Xbox, and while she loves him and so will tolerate a certain amount of his lack of motivation to grow up, she is “constantly haunted” by something he said: “He said that I might need to lower my expectations in life because he didn’t know whether he could provide them for me. What I find funny now is that I’m the real provider. I don’t feel like I’m part of a team. It’s wearing on me.”

I hear the same thing from many, many, many women my age. Why should men grow up when no one really expects them to?

Which begs the question, Are we waiting for Prince Charming to save us? Or do we need to save Prince Charming?

A Girly License to Kill?

Sure, we’ve got the aforementioned pink tools, but at some point, suburban homeowners must consider something that’s illegal in the city. That’s right, I’m talking pink firearms.

I’ve been relatively lucky when it comes to pests. (Insert knock on wood.) Other than a couple cockroaches – oh, and the bat – my cat has happily tended to my pest control needs. She’s particularly fond of ladybugs.

But plenty of suburbanites face far greater problems. Growing up, our cedar-sided house was attacked by woodpeckers. Squirrels built a nest in the attic above my parents’ room. Chipmunks ran amok, digging hole after hole after hole in the yard. My boss spent last summer chasing rabbits away from his plants.

Eventually, many suburban homeowners stop playing nice and pull out the big guns. More precisely, they rely on air rifles, bb guns and related light firearms to rid themselves of the suburban menace.

Which brings me back to the pink rifle available through Pyramid Air.

Who is the target market? Target shooting girls? Homeowner girls? The description exudes energy and pep:

Think pink! Pink guns are the hottest trend. They’re the surest way to get girls interested in the shooting sports. Get one for the girl in your family, and you’ll be surprised how much she loves shooting! If you’re a gun collector, you need to get this one! It’s sure to become a collectible!

But would the pink air rifle take out a squirrel if need be?

Ms. Fix-It? Why not?

Is it really so hard to comprehend women who can do their own repairs? I can wield a caulk gun like one of the boys with no real trouble, and so can many of my female friends. Most of them are very involved in the care of their homes, beyond the traditional kitchen and cleaning roles. Among my friends, at least, this still holds true even when they’re married or otherwise paired off: women can fix things and do many of the repairs themselves.

The Wall Street Journal’s Kay Hymowitz noticed this trend in the guise of new products touting themselves as more female-friendly, from pink tool belts to pink hack-saws. As she explains:

It’s not hard to see what’s driving the fad: Women are increasingly home alone and emboldened. Perhaps the largest group eager to seize the pink hammer is single young women. Many of today’s young women are marrying well into their 20s; an increasing number are waiting until their 30s. But they often aren’t waiting for that gold band before they commit to a house or condo. The National Association of Realtors reports that in 2006 single women made up 22% of the U.S. real-estate market; the median age for first-time single female buyers was 32. It helps that having grown up with computers, cellphones and iPods, this you-go-girl! generation doesn’t look at small machinery the way Barbie looked at math. These women are not only gung-ho about buying a home on their own dime; they’re ready to lay the tile and patch the drywall too.

Well, yes, that’s true. But we don’t need special pink tools to do it. When I moved into my first apartment, my mom gave me a small toolbox filled with the basics – a couple screwdrivers, a hammer to hang pictures, basic pliers. Around each one, she had tied a pink ribbon, and the bottom of my little red toolbox was lined in pink satin. It was very cute.

Since then, most of those original tools have been replaced by sturdier versions to meet their big-girl roles. The ribbons fell off pretty quickly, and the little red box has been replaced by Big Red as new needs have merited things I would have never thought of back in that dark little studio, like an outlet tester.

But I must say, I do still use that little hammer, since its lighter weight is easier to heft, especially when up on a ladder. So perhaps there’s a market for these girly tools after all.