I Am an Aid Worker. And a Woman. Help!

This is a post I wrote three years ago. It seems the subject is still ever so close to the hearts of many, so I brought it onto the foreground again.
There are several excellent insights people posted in the comments. I'm interested to hear your point of view.

In the previous post, Shylock explored, in a ironical, cynical, self-criticizing way, what personal future we, aid workers have. We wonder the earth, gradually getting used to travel all the time, often in harsh places, and very often in search of a thrill. Gradually we get addicted to it all.
But is there life after this.. after this life of a gypsy? Do we become gypsy disasters after years of behaving like a disaster gypsy, roaming from one emergency to the next?

No matter how much we chuckle reading the previous post, in the end, it is not funny. Far from it. Many humanitarian workers have a problem to find 'a life after this'.. But it is even more sad to realize how few actually "have a life even now"... Even now, many forget, or at least compromise, their personal life because of their addiction. The addiction to the horizon, to the adrenaline.

And now I want to you stop for a moment, no matter what you are doing. What I am going to tell you, is very close to my heart...

No matter how you twist and turn it. The professional world is still a man's world. This world in general is still a man's world. It has been for hundreds of centuries. From the time men dragged women into their cages by their hair, we have come a long way, but we are not there yet. "There" being "offering equal chances, and equal opportunities to women".

Here is how I see it. (and don't forget I am a man, and no matter how hard I try, I will always be a man, even if I try to look at things from a woman's perspective):

I look around me, and see people -men and women- alike, with loads of personal challenges through the work they do... But then I look again, and see that in most management functions in this business - the humanitarian world -, men hold the key functions (and most of them come from the first world, but let's leave that aside for a moment). I look once more, and see most administrative support positions are filled by women. Many women in this business are strong, well educated, hard working people. Many of them are young, full of energy, inspiration and aspirations. The new generation of women have been encouraged (and enabled) by their parents to get a good education. They are ambitious to develop themselves personally and professionally. Many of these young women whizz through their twenties like a breeze, and some climb up (if all goes well), the professional ladder.
All of a sudden they find themselves in their mid thirties, somewhere in the professional chain and ask "hey where is my personal life gone to?". And that is where the challenges start.

If all goes well, they find a partner. If all goes well. As we - men - are not always too happy to live with a partner who has a demanding career. Even fewer like it when that career takes 'our woman' away on duty travel. Heaven forbids that 'her career' would even have her live far away from us, in some dark and remote humanitarian crisis area.

"If all goes well" they find a partner, as too often at their mid thirties, what men are "available" on the "partner market"? Those coming out of their first long relationship, and not looking for something long term. The 'celibataires eternelles' or 'commito-fobes'. Those who have not made up their mind what the hell they want. The 'players'. And those already in a relationship. Or those who have failed in relationships so far.. (and all of that is a whole different discussion which I would love to have over a glass of Prosecco).

So "if all goes well", a partner is found. And then? "A career" you say? In this world where, no matter what, a woman is still supposed to not only bare the children, but also spend most of her time raising them? Where a woman is still supposed to do most of the household stuff? [if you are a man, think about it... If you don't agree with me, think again... Who spends most of the time with the kids, working for/in the house? You or your partner?].

So, what then? Most women are the ones making the compromise then.. Either give up their career, or work part time, etc...
If they don't, the juggle of kids, house, husband and career becomes a full time challenge.

The other evening, I went with E. over all the women we knew. And we tried to flag those we thought had found a good balance between kids, house, husband and career. And are successful in all. We found one. One woman out of the dozens of women we know, we found one.

That is a sad observation. And even more sad, when we realized that lady does not work in the humanitarian "business".

So, all you ladies out there. And specifically those of you in the humanitarian world! In my "The Dudettes" short story I tried (in my cynical and ironical way) pay a tribute to you all. But come and have your say too. Am I seeing things in a too dark, negative way? Am I seeing things too much from a "male" perspective? You tell me.


Anonymous,  25 September, 2007 10:26  

Bless you once more sweet, sweet Peter for attempting to capture what many wouldn't have even felt was worthy of a mention. Bless you for trying to capture what the women in this industry are attempting to achieve - a balance for a line of work that they intrinsically feel connected to. And yet, the view of the professional woman (even in this type of humane context) remains rigid and cold. The balance between being taken seriously and not to be viewed as 'emotional' in any shape, way or form - remains an issue. Hence, there are many of the female pioneers within this industry that have felt it necessary to act as 'men.' Tough and rugged, potentially. Whereas this new generation is unwilling to compromise on their feminity in the process of professional growth. I believe I mentioned that to you during our conversation how I find it all the more enriching to provide a female perspective within this line of work and I am positive that I'm not the only one. These are humanitarian efforts and we, as women, could more easily and quietly tap into the deep reserve of spirituality, calm, persistence, resilience and creativity that it definitely calls for.

Bless you once more for attempting to reach out to these women that struggle without much 'direction' provided since not many senior managers feel up to the task of mentoring the young professional women. It may be the 'uncompromising' social settings and it just may not have crossed many's minds. Hence, the additional challenge of self-guidance in the professional sphere is one I find admirable in us. Whereby, most lessons learnt are self taught, which is truly impressive. Young, dynamic and highly intelligent women that additionally tap into their consciousness to attempt to guide themselves and grow through the maze of professional life.

And truly bless you for highlighting the personal sacrifices that we 'face' in this context; whereby many men could claim that it's only natural that they pursue what they love in their professional careers, yet the women would be perceived as disconnected if they want to pursue their chosen professional path. From my perspective, I have finally found that this is my true calling and am not only hesitent but absolutely fearful of never meeting a true man; that is a man that could appreciate my 'dilemna' and support me in finding a way through the issues through heartfelt compromises and a bundle of love. You, Peter, are one of very few men with this type of openness in spirit.

Anyways, what I hope for - and this may be wishful thinking - is that the next set of professional women will indeed have 'us' as their mentors and will at least not have to struggle so much for something this basic. A true equilibirity at the workplace.

I am extremely proud to find even the few 'older' women that have successfully 'reached' this balance - it does give me a glimmer of hope.


Marie France Bourgeois 05 October, 2007 01:01  

Dear Peter,

You just hit the spot my old friend!!!

Having retired yesterday officially from a UN-Humanitarian organisation which could not offer me and my new adoptive daughter a post in a country better than Phase III (for the ones who don`t know about the jargon, this means a "non family duty station"), I am now in this new clan; early retirement from an aid worker.

I am a woman who has dedicated 17 years of her life, with the greatest joy, to the humanitarian world and went out of it as I could not juggle my new daughter and this adrenaline filled-life.

Am I sad? Yes, of course, now the good jobs were coming, the higher levels, the respect etc. But, it was time to make a break. This is not to say I will not go back one day, in a different capacity.

Frankly, after years in god forsaken countries (I did love it to be frank), its nice to be quiet at home and just live a "normal life"... See my daughter learn life and enjoy being alive. I highly recommend it!!! For the ones who may need a little break.

One of your dudettes from the start, in Ngaga...

amazedlife 15 January, 2008 09:01  

I somehow missed this post when it first came out... oh. I was in Sudan (typical, huh?). Right. Anyway, I agree that the aidworker thing is harder for women than for men - somehow it is more acceptable even for married men to go off for months at a time, leaving behind their families, when it would not be appropriate for a woman. That is, if the woman even managed to get married, given the women in humanitarian work tend (generalization) to be single and the men married. Many men seem not to undertake such work until they are more established (or have an easier time finding women who will put up with it than women do finding men who will).

I faced all of these thoughts while I was in Sudan, and ended up pulling out of the running for a truly prime UN job for which I was in the final cut - because I wanted more stability and more possibility of having a family. I'll be back in Africa, but I think it will have to be back in the development world, where I started, rather than the humanitarian world I fell into. "Unaccompanied duty station" is not a phrase I want to hear again any time soon.

Have been enjoying your blog for quite a while, by the way!

Anonymous,  21 August, 2010 10:11  

I made a comment on the other post (how to be an aidworker) about being a woman (and in my case, mother) in this field. I recently read of Alice Walpol, British HM consul-general in Basra, who previously spent many years with the foreign office and UN. She has 6 (!) kids (I have 4 and thought that was a lot!) - and says in her own words, "in 2002 I was working at the British Mission to the UN in New York and the only mother among at least 40 women". She also says she got divorced that year - and one can only assume the demands of her job plus kids (some of whom board at school) contributed to that. I thought her case was particularly telling as by 2002 there were still hardly any women as mother's in the UN - in 2002!?....and the UN, unlike many smaller NGO's has very good pay/benefits as well as specific 'family stations'.

It is a shame the post by Peter is not more contributed to as there is such an interesting dialouge to be had - the issue of women in developent/aid - the issue of finding a partner - and equally as important, but less talked about, the right for women in aid/development (as well as in academia!) to pursue motherhood. Often I find the young 20 something women entering development/aid are not aware of the problems they will face or think they will somehow be able to overcome them when most other women have not. I wish it were so, but nothing dramatic has seemed to change in my eyes - if anything I knew more people with kids and living as families in far-flung destinations for aid organisation in the 70s - 80s (my parent's friends). As development/aid has and is becoming more professionalised it is becoming less flexible, regarding families etc, and more competitive overall. In such a climate men are generally the winners.

The women I know in both dev academia and overseas aid work now (incl development work) are often bereft and in a panic if they are, let's say, "encouraged" to behave like a man (E's post above is very spot on) - all the while giving up their equal right to find a partner (man usually, somehow, find a way around this). And then - as you rightly point out Peter - if they even find a partner in their mid-thirties face the very real issue of not being as fertile, with regards to having children. For men, and this includes the many male friends I have who also work in this field, it doesn't tend to be such a problem - they generally can marry or have babies with someone much younger.

Academia has grappled with this problem a bit (see "Mama, PhD" etc) but women in the development/aid world seem to be getting the short end of the stick. As said in previous post I've worked in development for about 10+ years: aid work, development adacemia, field research etc - but now, regardless of my passion and experience, have had to, essentially, step back, in my case due to having kids. But I'm only in my late 30s...an age when all my male colleagues are moving on leaps and bounds. Initially, I took the view of Marie France, in post above - but, in fact, I have found that, of course, working in a different capacity in this field is still bound by many of the same limitations faced by all women in the professional work force.

Hope this post is not too long - it would be so interesting if more woman contributed to this discussion!

Peter 21 August, 2010 11:57  


Even though this is a post i wrote 3 years ago, I think it is good to send a reminder on this issue, which has no timeline. Nothing much has changed on the challenges since 2007, 2002 or maybe the 90'ies and further back.

I retweeted this post, and hope more female aidworkers will comment....


Anonymous,  21 August, 2010 13:08  

Hi, this is E! ;-).. This subject is something that continues to build momentum. And to me, that serves as a sign. Of what, you ask? Of a real shift taking place.. The professionalism of aid work issue and ensuing competitiveness: I’m still unsure whether this is truly why men continue to ‘win.’ I wonder if it is a competition at all…

In my view, there are two things.. I think that in terms of awareness and open-mindedness, I sense that we women are more forward thinking in this regard.. Hence, a little ‘ahead of the game’ and with this, we have an ingrained maturity professionally.. Whether that’s even recognized or not is another matter.. The other thing is how creative, imaginative, inventive an organization SHOULD get to give women TRUE opportunities for professional growth.. As we stand, the organizations are not even in this frame of mind..

Where do we go from here? I still believe that we as individuals will make a difference – a little drop in the ocean, perhaps, but at least I sense I’m raising my voice and reflecting myself truthfully… I won’t back down on what I think needs to happen – I won’t be made to feel that my choices for a balanced existence are an impossibility.. Strength, persistence and a whole lot of love will push through..

I hope this makes some sense… E

KP,  21 August, 2010 16:33  

Most of my thoughts have been mentioned above. However, I will say the irony pains me: so many aid programs strive to empower women in local communities, and fail to support women managing said projects.

Anonymous,  21 August, 2010 21:16  

Re comment by E above: "I still believe that we as individuals will make a difference – a little drop in the ocean, perhaps, but at least I sense I’m raising my voice and reflecting myself truthfully… I won’t back down on what I think needs to happen – I won’t be made to feel that my choices for a balanced existence are an impossibility.. Strength, persistence and a whole lot of love will push through..

I hope this makes some sense… E"

Yes, it makes sense to me. And the more women who talk about it the better! Here's hoping change, of some sort, is afoot....

Anonymous,  22 August, 2010 21:28  

I still have to see a working environment that is easy for women. And not only in our line of work, international organizations that demand a lot of your time and your energies, your commitment…. Let’s spare a few moments for the women who do tough jobs because they have no choice, let’s face it, we do not walk for miles to collect fresh water for our families, we do not have to dig the ground to find roots to boil to feed our children, we do not have to work in factories where we are underpaid and overworked …. So… let’s start with the good news. We do the job we do because we had a choice and we chose this job! It is more than a job, in many cases it is a passion.

I found countries more adaptive to family needs than others, some employers more enlightened who strongly believe in the power of diversity on the workforce and provide an environment that welcome a woman whose biological clock starts clicking when the magic 30 hits, who carries a baby and delivers it, who is at least in the first years of life the primary carer for the child… but I have also witnessed cases of discriminations, where one would not be hired because a woman in the “fertility” stage…. (that happened to me! And I swore to myself as a manager now NEVER to do!)

But let me tell you a story.. I have a friend, a woman, who has a family, children, and a job who usually men have. A job where she refuses to act as a man to build credibility but who works harder than men to earn the credibility. It is not given to her, she earned it.

She has had such a job for over 15 years. Breaking the glass ceiling has not been easy, but somehow she managed… let’s see how… she is passionate about what she does (you cannot be successful at things you are not passionate about…that applies for males or females!), she has found a supportive partner, one who has accepted standing by a woman who makes more money he does, who travels more, whose job is more visible … , she has made sacrifices (she knew they were temporary) to put her fast track career in the backburner for a while when her children were very young, to resume it when they became more independent… so before you say… sounds easy… she was lucky.. ask her..”did you have to make compromises?” she will reply with a smile… “ain’t easy!” … and still smiling she will tell you it is a compromise a man possibly would not have to do, but hey… she tells me she is very glad to be a woman. She dared to ask for ‘special permissions’ to push the boundaries of what the organizations she worked for had not done before… at times she faced a closed door…others she opened a door that stayed opened for others who followed…She worked hard for what she has, for what she is, for what she does and she just hopes that a story like hers could inspire others… never to give up, never to just feel sorry for yourself because it is a tough world out there…. “ain’t easy”… but if someone can succeed that is a woman, a confident, passionate woman who will keep on walking head up high, proud of what she is, proud of who she is, proud of what she can contribute to the world, near and far…. A woman with confidence inspires confidence, a woman with a smile, inspires a smile, a woman proud to be a woman inspires other women…. Keep with your head high…. Believe in what you do, believe in yourself…. And the world will believe in you….

And as a grand finale for my friend… at a point in her life when she thought she was happy enough.. she found love… with the capital L… but that’s a special case, not many have that… even I still wonder…

Anonymous,  23 August, 2010 09:21  

This is all true - re holding head high, and most definitely with regard to the fact that anyone working in this field (or any others) in the West will not be contemplating even a tenth of the hardship women (and men - and children) face in many parts of the developing world. I think of this daily. I work (in a pt basis at the moment) with issues of child labour and, of course, as a mother having experienced pregnancies and childbirth - maternal mortality is never far from my mind. Further, most people work in this field Because they care so deeply about those that are less fortunate. But, I also think this needs to be put to one side with regard to the issue in question here (women working in the field of development and aid).

Moreover, I think in order to move forward it's important to not over sentimentalize the one or two women who have made it (indeed, as most studies bear out now - luck is an essential ingredient of success, no matter how doggedly one perseveres). I think to make the issue too emotional (as it seems to be a bit in the above post) does not serve women, as much as the person writing it.

The reality for women in the workforce is only going to get better with actual recognition of the problems and change: better childcare options, perhaps creches where possible, reconition of needed flexibility, equal pay, workshares etc. Some might feel that such options lessen the ability for the organisations (working both within developing countries, as well as head offices and research think-tanks in developed areas) to function. But, as I think every post on this and any other aid site regarding 'how to get into development/aid' has made abundantly clear - most people with a background in this field (in this case, the women we are talking about) are more than qualified. Making more positions flexible, shouldn't I think, lessen the effectivness of the work being carried out. The problem is not there not being enough qualified people but the amount of people vying for the positions available (indeed, in over 10+ years I have never known anyone, except one guy who worked in logistsics for an aid outfit I used to work with - that didn't have at Least 1 masters. Most people I have known have had a Masters plus a PhD, or a Masters plus a JD or even, commonly, 2 Masters).

In any case, I think focusing on the exception is not going to further the rights of women in this field (who will have extremely diverse backgrounds. And one cannot assume all will have supportive partners etc., as the case above). One could look at Nancy Pelosi or Clinton in the US and think "well, clearly there is no work to be done with women's equality in politics", or the myriad of other 'exceptions' in developing countries (many whom have risen to positions of power due to their father's or husband's previous position - such as the late Benazir Bhutto or Indira Ghandi). But the key for greater equality for all women working in aid/development (let alone every other career) is recognition of the very real limitiations and obstacles that need to be taken into consideration and Properly looked at.

To focus on the exception, in effect, makes the rest of the women, the majority, who have not been able to be as successful invisible - and indeed, are therefore not going to have the same platform for discussion from the outset. Why one women in 10 has made it (re having partner, kids, good position if they have worked hard for it etc.) is interesting, but ultimately not as important as why the other 9 - who have also worked hard, and might also want kids, partners etc - have not.

Peter 23 August, 2010 10:10  

I do think though, it is important to look at and learn from some of the examples of women who managed to be successful in the aidworld, while being a wife and a good mum.

What made that possible? Not sheer luck... Not sheer commitment... What were the factors that made it possible?

Another thought that came up reading the comments, is the realization that indeed few outfits are, apart from "equal opportunity slogans", not come up with practical arrangements to make it easier for women to work in the aid world.
Just a creche for instance. Or practical arrangements for kids while one is on mission (can kids travel along?).
Part-time work, telework, random LWOP periods,.. might exist on paper, but how far are they really implemented....

Anonymous,  23 August, 2010 10:54  

re: "I do think though, it is important to look at and learn from some of the examples of women who managed to be successful in the aidworld, while being a wife and a good mum." Yes, I agree - of course this is important.

Also, I agree that so few actual practical options are put in place. There seems to be an awful lot of 'The right things being said' (this holds true for a lot of development-aid issues actually...although that's a whole different discussion! ;) without even very small changes actually taking place. I sometimes think that just the idea of change taking place or the idea that 'women's equality is important to us' is enough for most businesses - and the aid-development world is, unfortunately, no different!

Peter 23 August, 2010 10:59  

As you know the "make believe" in the aidworld is something very close to my heart... Maybe I could write a new post about the "make believe in equal opportunities" in the aid world...

I was thinking: if we were to make a master list of all things that would make it easier for a woman to work/perform/excel in the aidwork, what would we put in that list?

Anonymous,  23 August, 2010 19:54  

E again! It really has turned into one of the most interesting discussion threads.. I’m actually reeling from the responsiveness and in a good way.. I did have some reactions to the various messages.. One that truly struck is a statement on the sentimentality and emotional reactions – I’m pretty positive that the views being shared were intended as inspiration and indicators of passion.. Who they serve as such… Mmmm, they serve the writer AND women – of that much I’m sure. Why we would want to set aside the caring part within us all when we refer to professional development I’m not sure I fully understand. The balancing act of ensuring that this passion remains productive is something I can agree with, but removing it from the discussion. Why would that need to take place? I find that some of the problems for women stem from the traditional measures of success and the expectations that come along with that. Still quite vague huh…

Well, concrete practical solutions – yes, better childcare options.. And yes, more flexibility… Yes, equal pay.. And so on.. Beyond though.. The fact that I may have an instinctive understanding and emotional ability to connect as a manager and part of a team within an organization is something that should be promoted.. I do not intend to dilute that.. I do not want to become a robot.. And I think that some of that does begin to address root causes of what is happening with the other 9 out of 10 women that are not ‘successful’ or just may find themselves seeking out completion (having a partner and children, if this is what they seek)..It is fear that breeds insecurities (and no, I’m not just ranting and raving at the moment).. Insecurities can do different things – make us think that as some men think passionate discussions are no-no since they cannot see it through that particular lens…

I see more and more clearly that the greater challenge for me – as a woman - in what concerns the balancing act also lies with others acceptance of my being different.. A partner with that strength – I haven’t run into one for me yet.. And whether it is too personal or not, I will still say what I sense.. As soon as there is a sense of THAT level of womanhood, there is a clear instinct to run from something that different.. As for the professional, that also applies.. Well, I stand corrected – very few managers and colleagues can fully accept and promote this difference at that professional level… Suffice it to say that it does take extremely brave souls to accept that…

Anonymous,  23 August, 2010 20:25  

Thanks Peter for working on outlining an issue important to a lot of us, men and women both. I find it interesting that your call out on this is to women only. We are in this amazing boat together to work together and for each other in every kind of circumstance; I think we need to (and you have started to) examine perspectives on both sides. It would actually be interesting to hear from the man to whom the woman above refers--her friend's husband--as having managed to, I hope, be happy with a situation where his wife earns more, travels, is dedicated to her work etc. or from men, like you, who are married and work in similar environments as the women who have responded so saliently above. What do you guys think about your own lives ad work and your relationships and working with women, how have you managed the adjustment, what do you think would make it easier for women, how can we work on that together? I think part of the problem, and you are started to address it, is that this conversation is seen as a women's issue, not a human one (a la humanitarian :) Thanks for raising it. (Another one of your E's).

Anonymous,  24 August, 2010 08:28  

Yes, I agree that: "this conversation is seen as a women's issue, not a human one", when it needs to be seen as one that affects everyone. I think aid workers that run blogs like yourself Peter are, and can be, very important to the whole dialouge - it's getting it off the ground and more visible that's needed.

It's almost comical that women are so often given the short-end of the stick, as these same men that might be consciously or unconsciously holding women back (re not wanting them to work out of the home, earn more, or even the issue of older men having somewhat dated views of a woman's capabilities - which I have found happens a lot) are likely going to be - as you point out in your article, the same ones that, as parents, encourage their daughters to achieve and excel.

And, of course it's not just men (!) I have met many women in positions of status in both academia and development/aid that are as bad, if not worse, with regard to encouraging other women, especially younger women to succeed. Indeed, in academia it's almost a given that one doesn't have kids (or at least make it visible in any way) if one is female, and in my department - every single acaademic over 45 was childless (and often not married). It was noticeable in both converstation and subtle comments that they felt that as They had to give up these rights to succeed in academia, it was not fair that younger women could come and have "it all". Equally of all the positions of status I have come across in the UN (P4 and above) have been by childless, and often single, women over 45.

Also, I was the person who made the comment re the "the sentimentality and emotional reactions" of which E commented on above. But it seems it has been misunderstood. I am a woman, am biologically more likely to be emotional than most men (I assume!) - and think this is a good thing. I never said it wasn't. As female, my view of the world, I have found - especially with regard to development, is often more nuanced (sesitive? emotional?) with regard to how people (that I work with and for) might experience a situation and ways to improve that than the men I have worked with. Men and women bring different - but EQUALLY - important skills to the table (much like parenting!) and to undermine either lessens us all. However, I was making a point with regard to
what I thought was a bit "After School Special" and, as a woman, slightly patronising tone of the post about the posters friend. As a woman, I, myself, found it less inspirationational than a tad self-serving - that has nothing to do with "want(ing) to set aside the caring part within us all when we refer to professional development". One has nothing to do with the other. I was simply expressing my view as to how I felt about that particular post. But to undermine my view as un-humane (which is implied) again steers the converstion away from best possible outcomes to subjective personality judgements.

(..some thoughts re Peter's post on ideas in next post!)

Anonymous,  24 August, 2010 08:33  

(cont from above - last one!)

Re: Peter "I was thinking: if we were to make a master list of all things that would make it
easier for a woman to work/perform/excel in the aidwork, what would we put in that list?" - well, I would say childcare options(!), less affirmative action bias (encouraging women for roles) and more actual practicalities in place to ensure the women who Do come forward can actually take the position. Mentors, equal pay, included childcare options, on-site creches/childcare to allow mothers to be close to their child. I think on-site creches are one of the most important first steps - this would reduce anxiety for both mother and child or even father and child, reduce time away from office, & would reduce even things like transport costs needed when one drives to different areas for work and nurseries/schools, and would encourage a more family environment.

If a creche was supplied at subsidised or minimal cost - it would also mean a mother with younger children could work if they so desired. The reality is that the costs of childcare (where I live in Europe anyway) are the same if not more than a reasonable wage. Moreover, especially in such a competitive field as dev/aid (and academia) one needs, realistically to be involved. Taking a 'break' for a few years will take you out of the running - it won't realistically lead back to greater or even good different opportunities. The reality is what limits women's involvement at a certain point usually continues to do so - and once children are older that also means one is older, the skills not as up-to-date, the contacts/networks out of date, and often the confidence knocked. To stop this, when one Wants to continue - then opportunities (such as on-site creches etc. or more pay to pay
for childcare) should be made available.

Re: more pay for people with children - many people without kids will balk at this, but the
reality is that most people will go on to have kids, and many women who don't - do so less
from choice than from lack of options. One might not have kids "rigt now" and will say why should a parent get more money, but as a parent, that money will be going on necessities anyway.

In any case, some women (with kids) will not want to work, some will want to work part-time, some will want to continue to work because they either love their job, need the money or both. Options need to exist for all these choices - as every woman, as individuals, will have different ideas to what constitutes a 'balanced' and 'happy, fulfilling' life.

A few thoughts and, again, hope this post is not too long.

Anonymous,  24 August, 2010 09:11  

Last, Last post from me (for a while anyway! ;)

Also, more flexible work environments. For example, to be able to work from home (ft or pt) - wired/connected to the office via conference calls, skype etc. I can't see why this would be too detrimental for work based in the West - e.g. for work undertaken at a head office, in research think-tanks etc. A person who is capable with good input and ideas is going to be just as capable working from, say, home (with visits to the office to maintain personal contact) as another, perhaps, less qualified person working In an office.

For overseas aid work it's more complex (obviously)..... Every time I think of something I can see why it's success might be limited. As, obviously, the country in question, the specific work being carried out (conflict/repatriation, medical, logistics, gemomatics, engineering, project managing) and for what reason (short-term or long-term, poverty issues vs conflict/diaster response) are all going to have an impact with regard to who can go, how quickly and the resources (food/shelter etc) in place once they get there etc.


Anonymous,  24 August, 2010 15:42  

Hi, had I truly wanted to say inhumane - I would not have implied.. Simply said it..

What I said was:
I’m pretty positive that the views being shared were intended as inspiration and indicators of passion..

That includes ALL posts and THAT is what I promote. That is at the heart of the message - the ability to find inspiration in all of them.

This should definitely contribute to the best possible outcome.. And hey, even a sprinkle of subjectivity.. I never claimed to be perfection personified :-)..

Much love, E

Anonymous,  25 August, 2010 17:16  

Re: comment by E "Hi, had I truly wanted to say inhumane - I would not have implied.. Simply said it..What I said was:
I’m pretty positive that the views being shared were intended as inspiration and indicators of passion.."

Fair enough. But you Didn't say Just that, you said after that, (quote) "Who they serve as such… Mmmm, they serve the writer AND women – of that much I’m sure. Why we would want to set aside the caring part within us all when we refer to professional development I’m not sure I fully understand. The balancing act of ensuring that this passion remains productive is something I can agree with, but removing it from the discussion."

I made a point in reference to the specific comemnts I've re-posted above. I agree that it is important to find the positives in things, however it's also important for All posters (as you say above) to be able to voice their opinions. For any real dialouge to come about then posters have to also be able to comment when they feel something is not positive, or as I did, slightly overly sentimental and therefore not that useful to the matter at hand. Without it being taken to mean that I am (quote) "set(ting) aside the caring part within us all when we refer to professional development I’m not sure I fully understand". If you had said you disagree with me, then fair enough - but your comment above was much more loaded than that. I objected to the fact that my thinking something was overly sentimental - was taken to mean I was "setting aside" a role in development (or any career) for caring or emotion.

In any case, as women looking to have a constructive dialouge going over & over this is pointless.

I that vein I agree that I too never claimed to be perfection personified (or even slightly close to it! :) In fact with toddlers racing around all the time I'm just happy to be able to have a clear thought now and again - and a tiny bit of free space on my desk when I'm working (any area surrounding my laptop is usually cluttered with all manner of objects/toys/"treasures" they have found etc..!)


This is an interesting discussion anyway, all imput it good input I think. By the way, have you ever heard of Mama, PhD?


or their blog: http://www.mamaphd.com/blog/

It's interesting, and although it is written for/about female academics and the discussion/obstacles they face working in a, let's face it, man's world (!) - the limitiations talked about are the same for most women in many careers.

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