Friday, 31 August 2012

The price my generation paid for being female in the workforce

My classroom ready to go.
I was punished by being brought in
from the portable one year.
Given a split-grade class after teaching gr. 6 for several years.
The price my generation paid for being female, and in the workforce, has been harsh.

  • There were those who were upset with mothers who worked. 
  • There were males threatened with women in the workplace. 
  • Bullying by female bosses who refused to learn to be leaders. 

They forgot the groundbreakers, the women who worked in WW I and II factories, who were sent back to the kitchen after a war ended.

Women, only a few years older than I, had to quit work upon having a baby. There was no maternity leave. We learned from this, for the most part. Although, in 1986 I had a principal refuse to put me on his Occasional Teacher list, as I had children and would have issues with child care.
Women, in non-traditional male jobs, experience harassement, sexual and otherwise. Systemic sexual harassment: retired RCMP officers report porn dropped on their desks, crude jokes, and the like, have begun to strike back.

Male and female bosses were threatened by age-peers who rising to positions of power. They jeopardized the workplace by threats, belligerence, and verbal and sexual abuse.
Overcoming the Problem of
Principal Mistreatment of teachers
Female bosses began to emulate the male style of leadership: being a boss, not a leader; asserting orders, rather than allowing the employees a part of the decision-making process, top-down policies, with no room for classroom decision-making.

New principals, anxious to make their mark, would disrupt a school and classrooms, by rearranging classroom assignments. If you were a difficult person, who questioned policies or were Shop Steward (who is supposed to ask questions on behalf of staff), were popped into a portable with a split-grade class.

The principals you liked to work for were collaborative, collegial people who understand their role as facilitator, rather than ruler, and listened to the opinions of all staff.

I have experienced workplace bullying. I was yelled at in hallways by another principal. This one denied me fair Federation representation at meetings, something to which I was entitled when disciplined for any reason. I was harassed and yelled at over the PA system (with students present), in the school office, in the photocopy room and staff room. She was unable to deal with disciplining me for perceived issues without yelling and being acerbic.

Famous Five statues on Parliament Hill
Another bully of a boss would denigrate my lesson plans, question my ability to teach since I wasn't doing it her way, while I was driving 100km after school every day to provide care for my late father, who was dying of a brain tumour.

The same can be said of mental health issues in the workplace. This bullying has an effect on one's health, and for bosses not to be aware of the repercussions of their actions results in increased costs to the health care system. It impacts fellow employees, possibly customers or clients and students, and the public that employees serve. It impacts the employees pension, income, and we know how older women living in poverty is a terrible issue.

Parliament Hill 1967
I hope we have learned from this. I reported my issues to the superintendent, who referred the problem to the Board Safety officer. It was resolved after 2 months off work, and many healthcare appointments.

I hope that the actions by some brave RCMP women with provide a beacon of hope for all of us. Kudos to them all.

The First Ladies of the RCMP | The Current with Anna Maria - CBC
30 Nov 2011 – The RCMP was one of the last major police forces in the world to admit women to its ranks in 1974. It took another 16 years for them to get the 

  1. Hundreds of women join RCMP harassment lawsuit - British - CBC
    30 Jul 2012 – Hundreds of current and former female Mounties have come forward from across Canada to join a class-action lawsuit alleging harassment ...


Anonymous said...

Jenny, in my naive opinion, being a boss is not just a way of earning greater amount of money but a real profession and many people - both women and men - don't accept the role. Moreover, people with different expectations and personalities cross their carriers and sometimes it's not easy to find common ground with those narrow-minded. I regret to hear about your bad experiences.

I followed both the links leading to the first RCMP female officers and the current lawsuit and found it very interesting. 1974 doesn't seem that long ago to find first women within that police force... If there have been hundreds of women alleging harassment within the RCMP, a serious problem must persist there and it's so sad that the police which are supposed to protect human rights shelter such awful behaviour. I admire the women who have been brave enough to speak out and fight for their rights.

Red said...

Yes women have paid a price and I believe we still have along way to go. I'm appalled by some of the same attitudes I see in younger males. Now I only had one female administrator and she was a dud. She only thought about power rather that support. I watched her ruin several new teachers.

Olga said...

I taught at a middle school that had turn over of the administration at least every other year. It was hard.

Linda said...

Very astute observations! One of the sad things that companies frequently do is promote someone who does a decent job in a worker position, to a position of leadership, assuming that means they can lead. Rarely does that happen...sad!

Jenn Jilks said...

You're right, Linda. When I worked summers for Canada Post, we said people were 'promoted to their level of incompetence!'