I wanted to share and discuss a few articles on the topics of women and the dynamic of sorting through education, career, and family goals. These articles/posts address these topics with a focus on gender issues. I've been involved in the topic of women and education and women in business for years, and so these articles are of interest to me.

First is this article by Casey Hurley: What If “Plan A” Doesn’t Work? Helping Female Students Navigate an Uncertain Life Course. I think she has done an excellent job of addressing the tension that exists for LDS women when considering the prophetic counsel on motherhood as well as the counsel on education, and the teachings in the Proclamation to the World on the Family.

I enjoyed this article on Empowering LDS Women. I think the concept of personal revelation being essential to these issues is, well, essential.

That article points to a Square Two article by Kaylie Clark: Giving Women a Voice Without Sacrificing Faith or Family: The Changes Needed to Create an Egalitarian Society". Let  me start by saying that I really like the idea of brainstorming different policy ideas to have more a more family-oriented culture in government and business. As was mentioned in both of these last two articles, Elder Cook recently talked about this idea in General Conference. We were invited to “be at the forefront in creating an environment in the workplace that is more receptive and accommodating to both women and men in their responsibilities as parents."

And yet, there are elements of Clark's article that don't quite sit with me. I don't pretend to have it all figured out (and I invite respectful dialogue here), because I think part of what Elder Cook's counsel invites us to do is to counsel with others to sort through how best to encourage and create family-friendly policies and business practices.

OK, so I like that she is thinking about some possible ways to do this. That is good. Thumb up there. 

At this point, here are some of my thoughts, however, that keep me from giving her article a double-thumbs up.

First of all, I don't agree with a pure egalitarian model as she seems to. I know that is going to be misunderstood as saying that I don't believe in women being equal to men, or in the blessing of equal opportunity. I do. (Yes, I still have posts to post on my thoughts on equality in Mormon vernacular.)

Here's a preview: To me, equality should not be confused with parity. I think she is not acknowledging the fact that the Proclamation still delineates primary roles based on gender. As such, I feel like her ideas are a bit forced on the "This is spiritually valid" side of things.

I think if we are going to brainstorm, we have to keep those gender roles on the table, and dance in the tension a bit more. To me, it's not as simple as just creating an "egalitarian society" -- that feels too structured and too dismissive of potential gender differences (and/or at least the primary gender roles that we have in our LDS teachings).

This is why I like Casey Hurley's article. She doesn't shy away from the tension but rather engages it. I think it's in such tension that personal revelation becomes all the more valuable and necessary.

So, to me, there is a complexity here that a purely egalitarian model, with its associated numbers-based measures, could very likely gloss over. My concern is that equal opportunity efforts often end up toward a mandated equality that could put both individuals/families and private/public organizations into a hard spot.

For example, I am not convinced this kind of policy (as explained in Clark's article) is a good solution:

After seeing the strong economic benefits of including women several European nations have already passed legislation requiring a specific level of women’s participation in the highest management levels of businesses, (Buzek 2011).
I have always had concerns that prescribed employment/selection rules based on gender (or race) can have a serious downside, including organizations feeling coerced to hire for a profiled characteristic rather than honest-to-goodness skill, need, and 'this-makes-sense'-ness. I also worry about the impact this could have on our culture at large.

This article, The End of Men, explores some trends that concern me that seem to be a result of the push for "equality." The fact that many governments have caught on that women are capable and that their involvement has economic value has led to the fact that there are "political quotas in about 100 countries, essentially forcing women into power in an effort to improve those countries’ fortunes" (emphasis mine).

The author of The Atlantic article, Hanna Rosin, poses this question:
[W]hat if equality isn’t the end point? What if modern, postindustrial society is simply better suited to women? A report on the unprecedented role reversal now under way— and its vast cultural consequences
Clark insists that "psychological studies testing the assumption that women are better nurturers yields ambiguous findings due to cultural influences, so the argument that women are naturally better equipped for the work in the home is weak with little scientific backing."

The scientific backing may be lacking, but there are still trends and issues (and, for Latter-day Saints, our LDS teachings) that I think deserve more attention as the dialogue about gender issues and work/family policy continues.

There are questions that remain. Is it just "natural" ability or drive that should determine the balance of who stays home and who brings home the bacon for how much of the time? (For example, I've seen too many examples of women who don't feel like 'natural' mothers who feel inspired to stay home. I'm one of them.) Does the idea of "equal partners" mean "equal roles" or "equal parsing of tasks"? (I don't think it does.) Can or should "equality" be mandated by governments in ways that could force families to choose something that isn't right for them?

Perhaps I could best sum up many of my questions by echoing the question posed by Hanna Rosin:

"What if equality isn't the end point?"

I know I don't have all the answers, but I think this is a valid question.

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