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On women in the workplace

Came across this great quote today by Bill Gates*.

(As I didn’t personally hear it, I am assuming the quote and the circumstances were true, but even if they weren’t, the quote still rings true for me and is something I believe.)


Before the World Wars, women stayed at home, cooked, cleaned and didn’t have careers. It wasn’t until all the men went to war, that women had to step in, roll up their sleeves and work.

Some went back to what they were doing before, others decided they liked working and kept doing it, albeit in ‘safe’ jobs like being a secretary and fighting to be recognized as an equal in the workplace (as a young woman professional, I thank you!).

It made me wonder:  If there weren’t any World Wars, would women have been given the opportunity to crack that barrier? How long would it have taken? Maybe we would have been in the same position as in the countries we now think are ‘backwards’ and not as progressive.

Note: I absolutely acknowledge that tradition and religion plays a big part, so there’s no question that it’s not a matter of trying to preach, be bossy and educate the so-called uneducated to get them to change to what we think is the right way.

Those countries are full of extremely educated people who have a different mentality and outlook on the world.

It’s more that if the culture dictates certain rules and you want to stay in that culture with the rest of your family and friends, you have to follow those rules.

I understand that completely, having known many girls who have chosen that route, even if I would have never chosen that kind of life for myself.

Back to us in North America (and even parts of Europe).


There is still a lingering, prevailing attitude that women are not as good as men in positions that require technical knowledge/skill and power:

  • Any executive position
  • Professional chefs
  • Engineering
  • Technology
  • Mathematics
  • Medicine
  • Law

I am not saying that if you’re in Advertising or Human Resource management that you’re not useful or that you don’t have skills.

I am saying that as a society, we don’t seem to value those kinds of creative professions as highly as the ones that require technical know-how, and it shows in the salaries.

If as a society, we thought that young girls and women could be fantastic assets in those areas, why are women gravitating towards areas that don’t seem technically-inclined?

They’re being pushed towards those professions, unconsciously encouraged to take appropriate jobs and perhaps told from a young age that ‘girls are bad at math and science, so giggle a lot and ask for help from boys‘.

Check out this survey by PayscaleDo men really earn more than women:

Click on the image to enlarge

common-jobs-men-women-payscale-survey-may-2012 Notice something?

As a society, we believe that the money comes with the skill and difficulty of the job. I am not going to get into a discussion of whether or not school teachers or nurses don’t help society (I DO NOT BELIEVE THAT), but this is just an example of why women earn less.

We gravitate towards jobs that don’t pay as much.

We aren’t encouraged to think and stand up for ourselves.

We aren’t taught that there is no ‘girls or boys’ in terms of abilities, there are just people.

We are unconsciously putting women down all the time (even as fellow women!) because of jealousy, pettiness and whatever else comes with women hating other women.

We (sometimes) assume a man is better in a job than a woman (sad, but true).

These are all factors in women earning less in the workplace. The good news is that we’re improving, but it has to change with the way we treat and talk to young girls and women.

 What do you think?


  • Leigh

    I totally agree with that quote from Bill Gates. It’s also like having a start-up targeted primarily towards women that doesn’t have any C-level women!

    I wish more women went into software! It is such a great problem solving space. My group has a couple of interns this summer, one male and one female. The male one is overconfident and the female one is underconfident, sigh. Honestly, I think that women would negotiate more if they were more confident in their abilities. At least, feeling more confident has helped me significantly.
    I’m really bad at donating money and time, but the one thing that I do try to help with is STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) outreach projects for high school and middle school girls. I know I’m an anomaly that I have liked computers ever since I was a little kid and not every girl had that experience.

    • Mochi & Macarons

      I didn’t even know STEM existed!! Thank you.

      I think girls have to be told it isn’t uncool or geeky to be smart. It’s kinda hot 🙂

  • Aleksie

    There’s data that suggests women have to work much harder (publishing double or triple the research) compared to similarly qualified men and that people will overpass women for men. Someone did an experiment with orchestras and if the people selecting new members could see the auditioners, they mostly picked men. If they couldn’t see, they picked a balanced lot.

    • Mochi & Macarons


      Then I’d probably also point out that in that case there is a definite bias against women in addition to other factors.
      I do notice that women in my field do not seem to negotiate or push for what they’re worth. They always undermine and undersell themselves which is something that hurts our salaries too.

      • Mochi & Macarons

        I wasn’t hating on the guys 😉 when I say ‘society’ I meant both men and women!!
        If anything I think both sides are to blame and it is the collective responsibility to change that.

  • Kavita Arur

    I study astrophysics and only 30% of my year are girls. And our year has one of the highest ratios. So I know exactly what you mean!

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