Saturday, July 25, 2015

Elite Young Women Now Plan For Career Interruptions. So the New York Times Tells Us.

This NYT story about young women planning more career pauses than their mothers has a couple of weird bits, starting with the headline.  That's because the evidence quoted in the piece is predominantly about very highly educated men and women in elite colleges, and I'd be willing to bet  that few of the mothers of those people went to Harvard Business School,say.

But I get the point, of course, and that is to compare generations of women.  One study Claire Cain Miller, the author of the article, cites is about Harvard MBAs from various generations, both men and women.  Miller writes:

A survey of Harvard Business School alumni, released as part of the school’s new gender initiative, found that 37 percent of millennial women and 42 percent of those already married planned to interrupt their career for family. That compared with 28 percent of Generation X women and 17 percent of baby boomers.

As an aside, I couldn't quite figure out what "interrupt" means from the survey report itself (which doesn't include the questions asked). Does it mean only time taken off from the labor market?  Or does it also include choosing to work part-time or picking a more flexible (but probably less remunerative) job?

Similar numbers for men in those cohorts were 13% for millennial men, and miniscule percentages for Generation X men (4%) and baby boomers (3%).

But what's more important than the comparison between the expectations of,  say, women of the boomer generation and millennial women is to ask whether those expectations materialized.  

The data for the millennials is somewhat meaningless for that, given their young average age.  But note that while only 17% of baby boomer women expected to interrupt their careers for family reasons, 56% actually experienced them.  Likewise, 28% of Generation X expected such interruptions but 43% experienced them.

Thus, unless millennial women and men are much better planners than the men and women of earlier generations, those expectations might not predict very much, in any particular direction*.  It's also worth pointing out that female Harvard MBAs  in the baby boomer and older generations  were often path-breakers who had higher career expectations than the women following their footsteps, and this makes straightforward comparisons between the generations trickier.

Still,  the difference in the percentages of millennial women and men who expect to interrupt their careers for family reasons does not bode well for increasing women in various decision-making rules in business (though the much-increased percentage of millennial men over earlier generations expecting career interruptions may presage future changes in the allocation of childcare duties).  That's because the labor markets currently punish those who interrupt their careers and make future promotions much less likely.

The final weird point is perhaps how those above percentages are used.  For instance, the majority of the millennial women interviewed in that study, 63%, are not expecting to interrupt their careers for family reasons.  But that's not news.

The same study could have been used to analyze many other aspects of gender differences in the experiences of Harvard MBAs, too.  Women are doing quite well in some aspects (many more women are now in line management (70% of those interviewed) rather than in staff positions), not so well in other aspects (women are less satisfied with their careers, on average, than men, and some of that appears directly to reflect those thorny decisions about whose career should come first and who should be responsible for childcare and household chores).

But certain topics are prioritized for wider dissemination.  I can't help feeling that they are those topics which tell us that mothers can safely be left responsible for all child-care and all the opportunity costs that entails while the rest of the society can concentrate on other things.  I also very much doubt that we will see a reversal of this article any time soon.  Yet the data exists, including in the Harvard MBA study I quote here.

So are these young elite women** more realistic about their futures than previous generations of women?  Before trying to answer that question it's good to remind ourselves of the lack of true parental leaves in this country, of the basic hostility of the labor market towards any worker who doesn't seem to put the job first and of the very slow change in traditional gender roles at home.

The lack of flexibility and/or its high costs to the workers ultimately hurts both male and female workers on all income levels, especially on the lowest income levels.  I'm not sure that the best response to that is to tell us how a few elite women have figured how to cope with the facts on their own, unless we also have a more widespread campaign to change the underlying obstacles I've described.

*It could be, of course, that expecting such interruptions makes some women choose so-called mommy track jobs.  That, in itself, could become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
**The study covers racial and ethnic differences, but by its very nature its focus is on a very privileged group of men and women.

An Autopsy of A Mass Murderer

The coverage of mass murderers, after the massacres they inflict on us, reminds me of a very flawed and partial autopsy*, carried out by the media and also by various experts.

It's as if we open the stomach, check out the liver, the heart and lungs, remove the pancreas and the spleen, all the time looking, looking for why this particular person (well, this particular man) hated humankind or some of its subgroups (people of other races, of other religions, people who are female), why this particular person needed to imitate a deranged and vengeful god, why, why and why.

Is that a spot of racism on the lungs I see? Or a heart full of misogyny (see how dark the clotted blood is)?  And that spleen, see  how mottled it is with extremist thoughts, the objectification and nullification of the humanity of others?  We open the skull and eagerly peer in.  How did this particular murderer  become what he was?  Did he have a violent history?  Did he abuse his wife?  Did he write diatribes on extremist web sites against blacks or against Jews or Muslims against women or the government (as an embodiment of everybody?)?  Did his writings adulate ISIS?  And can you, too, smell the mental illness all over the corpse, notice the metastasized cancer of end-time thoughts, the joy of destruction, the way violence as a way of life is tattooed on that dead skin?

We do all this by interviewing the family and neighbors of the killer, by finding out how he spent his time on the Internet, by combing through his criminal records, his past work history, and then we try to nail our diagnosis to his own words.

In doing that we try to differentiate between mental illness, between extremist political and religious ideas, between those who look to us like terrorists and those who look to us as something else.  Was the murderer's intention to frighten others, were his real victims not those he killed (because they were only tools) but those who watched these autopsies afterwards?  Or did he ultimately not care about his victims, not seeing them as anything but the best place to light up his fireworks or as the proper sacrifices for the vengeful war god to perform?

Friday, July 24, 2015

Mostly Good News Friday

Not everything in the world is gloom and doom, and I need to be reminded of that.  Perhaps you, too?   Here are a few good news from the past week:

First, a ruling from the US Appeals Court:

The state of Washington can require a pharmacy to deliver medicine even if the pharmacy’s owner has a religious objection, a federal appeals court ruled on Thursday, the latest in a series of judgments on whether religious believers can opt out of providing services.
The ruling, from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, came in a case filed by pharmacists who objected to delivering emergency contraceptives. The 9th Circuit overturned a lower court that had said the rules were unconstitutional.
The U.S. Supreme Court last year allowed closely held corporations to seek exemptions from the Obamacare health law’s contraception requirement.

Ze Bolds are mine.

Note the reference to the Hobby Lobby case in the last paragraph.

Second, this article reminds us that unplanned pregnancies among teenagers are down, that contraceptive use is not down, and that:

The study found that teens who waited until they were in their late teens (18 and 19) before having sex were more likely to use contraception the first time they had sex, possibly because they were more educated about sex and pregnancy, said Martinez, the study author. And female teens who did not use contraception the first time they had sex were two to five times more likely to have a baby during their teen years.

As an aside, the article has a somewhat misleading title:

Teen sex rate lowest since the 1980s, contraceptive use remains high.
A better interpretation can be found in the body of the article:

Even though the current CDC study reported a 25-year low for teen sexual activity, the time between 1988 and 1995 is really what is responsible for this decline, when there was increased education about sex in response to the HIV epidemic, and the rate of sexual activity has not changed much since then, Lindberg said.  

Ze Bolds, they are mine, again.  

Now remember that before you learn how Russ Limbaugh interpreted this study.  I presume you need a laugh today, right?

Third, this is certainly not good news, but it reminds us that all those who advocate voluntary compliance to safety and health rules in the food marketplace and all those politicians who have served to cut back on health inspections and the enforcement of health rules probably have some ethical responsibility for crimes of this type:

Federal court officers are recommending what attorneys are calling an "unprecedented" sentence of life in prison for a peanut executive convicted in a salmonella-poisoning case.
Former Peanut Corporation of American owner Stewart Parnell was convicted last fall of selling truckloads of peanut butter from his southwest Georgia plant to food processors even after they tested positive for salmonella.
Food containing the tainted peanuts was blamed for killing nine people and sickened more than 700.
I wish the knowledge of the importance of health inspections wasn't something that so easily slips down the memory hole while the taxes necessary to pay for them always look like a thing to cut.

Fourth, I love this loonie piece about the horrible Europeans, all so feminized and effete (that means men, women only matter as producers of children)  that they will never face up to the Russian Bear.  Neither can they squeeze out more than the very rare single child per family, and they spend all their money on food, drink and clothes while living in shoe boxes.

Imagine writing that on the basis of what sounds like a tourist trip to some place like Italy!   I mean, tourist places are full of tourists, on vacations.  They eat and drink a lot and sit about and neither march around with a machine gun nor train in private militias, right?   —  I could do something similar about Murka if I didn't care about insulting actual people.

As an aside, the birth rate among white Americans is about the same as the average European birth rate, just to give you the first step on the road to dissolving the evidence the author quotes.  But it's more fun just to read the piece.

Fifth, this piece tells us about who might be latching onto the teats of the government welfare sow.  It's a salutary reminder of the fact that some piglets doing that are pretty rich.

Sixth, a very happy and free cow who lives in a shelter for farm animals.





Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Posts I Did Not Write

Poor little things.  They never saw the light of day.

I have a few hundred in the draft files on Blogger, and several more died a sudden death like this:  I spot an interesting tweet or article, it rings my writing bell, and I follow the references to the original source, which turns out to be a lot of noise about nothing.  Or a giant exaggeration.  Or a misreading of data.  Then no post.

But is omitting those posts really the best strategy?  Or could it be a bit like the file drawer problem in research?  I'm writing a silly blog, not doing research, which makes the comparison somewhat arrogant.  Still, perhaps I should spend more time explaining why I don't write about certain hot issues of the day, other than the obvious reasons of not going past my competence or of others covering the issues much better.

One story which still bothers me is about Twitter.  I had just been working on a post about rape and I saw a reference to some of the data I had used in a much re-tweeted tweet.  The reference misinterpreted one aspect of the data completely (like taking the gift wrap for the present inside), gave wrong numbers, came to the wrong conclusion, but was still widely disseminated.  And all this took place on my side of the political camp.

What should I have done about that?  I tried to find the source of the tweet, found it, but found no way to comment there and no way to contact the author.  The alternative, of trying to explain the issues in tweets, left me with cold sweat all over my scales, because Twitter is the last place in the world where you want to start explaining statistical tables, especially in the context I describe here.

If you undertake that work you will most likely be viewed as coming from the enemy camp.  The number of characters allowed in each tweet, with no continuity of the explanation also exposes you to many more opportunities of being misunderstood than of being understood.

So I'm a cowardly goddess.  That's not a bad thing to be, because bravery is rather meaningless unless it comes from a coward.  Right?

This post is really about silence.  When should we be silent?  About what?   


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

On the Sandra Bland Arrest Video

(note:  The video below has been removed from YouTube, presumably by the officials who put it up in the first place.  There's a new video where the continuity problems have been fixed (we are told), but I'm not sure if my time information still applies.

Thanks to Monkeyfister for another link to the initial video, here)

It's this one:

I watched it last night from the beginning to end.  The important first time is at about 1:50 when Sandra Bland commits a minor traffic infraction by not indicating a lane change.  The altercation begins at about 8:34.

The officer, Texas State Trooper Brian T. Encinia,  asks Bland to put out her cigarette.  She answers by saying that she is in her own car.  Next, the officer asks her to step out of the car.  He gets more adamant in his request as she questions his right to make her do that.  He then reaches in and appears to start pulling her out of the car.

That is the start of everything, and my opinion is that it was the officer who began the escalation by reacting to Bland's refusal to put her cigarette out the way he did.  Does he really have a legal right to make her step out of her car for the answer she gave?  Is one not allowed to refuse any request an officer makes in Texas?

Watch the rest of the altercation yourself, remembering that later in the video (at about 23:30) Encinia explains to someone else (while his voice can be heard by us) how he tried to defuse what was taking place, how he tried to calm her down.  Note that he tells her to move to the side where the video fails to record anything visual.  Only the voices are audible until we no longer hear Bland at all but only various police officers' voices.

I couldn't understand everything Bland said while she was upset, but as LA Times wrote that last, night:

Throughout, Bland is questioning why she is being arrested and often shouts expletives. Encinia responds in angry tones that she should obey his orders.

What the LA Times failed to record was that when Bland told Encinia that she had epilepsy he responded (at about 14:00) "Good."  In general, that particular newspaper report sounded somewhat biased to me, so I decided to write this post without seeing any other reports (so now you know).

The rest of the long tape, after officer Encinia's interpretations of what happened,  has a lot of nothing happening.  But a tow-truck comes for Bland's car and its driver appears to miraculously emerge from the truck more than once even though he didn't go back before the other appearances.  So something is wrong with the video at least at that point.

So what do I make of what I saw?  As I wrote earlier, officer Encinia started it.  Did he have a right to demand that Bland get out of her car for refusing to put her cigarette out?  If that's the case, can one ever refuse anything an officer asks one to do?  What if it's to stand on one leg and imitate a cuckoo bird sound?

Bland talked back, and she got angrier and angrier, too.  But so did Encinia.  It was his voice which was more filled with rage in the video.  The video doesn't show Bland allegedly kicking Encinia, and neither does it show how he handled her physically (though the video shows that her hands were cuffed behind the back before any possible kicking might have happened)*.   I also thought that Bland sounded quite rational in her statements.  She was angry, sure, but she was asking what the grounds for her arrest were.  She also threatened Encinia with a court case for a false arrest.

*There's a video taken by a bystander of Bland on the ground.  You can hear Encinia telling the person who took it that he or she must leave in the official video above.

Added later:  For those readers who are not following the events, the frame for understanding this post is this earlier post.

Added even later:  I should note that I wrote this whole post from the stance of trying to be extremely neutral, so I'm not saying that the video might have been edited.  Perhaps there are other reasons for all the odd stuff?  But if so, I want to hear what those reasons are. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Why Women "Prefer" Less Or Should Accept Less

That title reflects my understanding of these two recent New Republic articles by Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig.  In the first one she argues that mothers prefer part-time work over full-time work and that perhaps we should not push more women into full-time work ("we" being the ubiquitous feminist powers), but should make it easier for women to work part-time.

The second one argues that what Pope Francis has achieved for women should be lauded by those same feminists, even if it sorta falls short on most actual measures.

So I want to spend a bit more time on each of these articles, to tell why my reaction is the title of this post.

The "Liberate Women From Full-Time Work" article states that most mothers (with children under eighteen) "prefer" part-time work and that the US should make it easier for that to be an option.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Where I comment on stuff: Misogynistic Trolls as Losers, Which Words We Avoid in Newspapers And Who Gets The Money in Wisconsin

1.  The Washington Post has published a summary of the "why some men bully women in computer games.  It's important that you also read my post on that study.  It's more nuanced as they say.

2.  If you have followed the conspiracy theories about the Jade Helm military operation you have probably had fun.  Here's an interview with one of the men who keeps his eagle eye on the government plans to put all of us into concentration camps.  The whole story is fun to read, but this sentence is worth thinking about:

The leader of a volunteer group formed as a “watchdog” over Jade Helm 15 military exercises dismissed 90 percent of Americans as useless and said “he can’t wait to kill thousands of these f*cks.”
Notice the placement of the asterisk.  It's not in the word "kill."

That's meant to start you thinking why we don't regard m*rdering, k*lling and tort*ring people as worthy of a few asterisks.  Nothing about the story itself, and of course I know that "f*ck" lacks the "u" because of journalistic rules.

3.  A wonderful Wisconsin story (remember the Ringwraith governor Scott Walker):

The Wisconsin Senate voted 21-10 to approve $250 million in public financing for a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks. The bill will now be sent to the state Assembly for approval. Though the Assembly is likely to pass it, there is still some backroom negotiating and deals to be completed beforehand. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel has exhaustive detail on the compromises struck to pass the Senate version of the bill.
Just a few days ago, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed a state budget that includes cuts of $250 million to the University of Wisconsin system, among other cuts to public education funding. Marc Lasry, a Bucks co-owner, is estimated by Forbes to be worth $1.87 billion, while co-owner Wesley Edens was worth $2.5 billion in 2007 before suffering a downturn (though not so big of one to prevent him from owning an NBA team) in the Great Recession. Together, they will pay just $150 million towards the arena.
 As an aside, Walker just signed into law the banning of abortion after twenty weeks of pregnancy.