Create Your Own Story

In the April 7th edition of TIME Magazine there was a commentary article entitled “Fast-Track Girls Finish Best” by Charlotte Alter. The article talks about two recent books Marry Smart by Susan Patton and Lean In For Graduates by Sheryl Sandberg and the advice they are both giving to young women today. Patton focuses on marriage/building a family while Sandberg zeros in on the career side of things. Although they both focus on different aspects of a young woman’s life, they are both saying the exact same thing: we don’t have any time to waste.

With all due respect, as a woman in my mid-twenties, I have to say I completely and wholeheartedly disagree.

Now, I haven’t read either of these books for myself and I also never plan to read either in the future. Here’s why.

Patton’s March Today Show interview sums up her book enough for me. Patton urges college women to primarily focus on finding a husband, further suggesting that young women should spend 75% of their time finding a spouse and 25% on professional development. She even suggests that if you need cosmetic surgery to do so before college, in order to make yourself more “socially successful” at finding a spouse. Patton has our biological ticking the moment we turn eighteen. She actually really seems to believe that we have absolutely no time to waste if marriage and children are part of our life plan, “Work will wait. Your fertility won’t.” I guess I missed the memo that said parents spend thousands and thousands of dollars to send their daughters to college for them to find a spouse and get knocked up. After all, that’s the only thing all women want anyways. Right?

Sandberg takes on the other extreme, that your career should be your prime focus. Sandberg, as the chief operating officer of Facebook, is a hugely successful woman in which many young women look up to. She has certainly climbed her way to the top in the corporate world and she deserves every bit of that success and admiration. The TIME article points out that in the introduction to Sandberg’s book she writes, “There’s no question that the world moves faster today… This means that grabbing opportunities is more important than ever.” Meaning, we need to take every opportunity we can to further our career as soon as we can. Alter describes Sandberg’s viewpoint perfectly, “The idea is to get good enough, fast enough, that your career becomes childproof.” Makes sense because all women are solely career hungry. Right?

Here’s where I have a problem with what both these women are saying. It’s not the advice itself that ticks me off (alright, maybe a little). It’s the fact that these women are sitting there telling other women where their priorities should be. Maybe I’m completely crazy, but what if we all just worried about creating our own story? I don’t see men writing countless books and articles for other men about how to live their life. It seems like most men sort of just figure their life out on their own. Why can’t we do that too? How about if women just started supporting other women’s decisions despite if we agree with them or not? How about if we all just decided which life path to take on our own based on what is personally important to us, what goals we have for ourselves, and our interests? Would the world fall apart? No degree, no life experience, no personal background qualifies one person to give another person advice about what their priorities should be. Part of life’s journey is figuring out those priorities for ourselves. The mystery of not knowing what the next step will be is half the fun. The priorities we choose create our own unique life. A life completely different from the woman sitting right next to you, living across the street from you, or living across the country.

Before my husband and I got married, we were dating for almost eight years. I was a sophomore in high school when we met and started dating. He has been a huge part of every aspect of my life since then: proms, graduations, birthdays, vacations, sporting events, successes, and failures. I chose to stay in a relationship with him because it just felt right to me, because I couldn’t imagine my life without him in it. While my friends were thinking about which boy they wanted to hook up with next I never once questioned my decision to have a serious boyfriend through most of my high school career and all throughout college. Although, he has always been and will always be one of my top priorities here’s the shocker- he wasn’t my only priority. My school work, where I wanted to go to college, and my career were all important to me too. I wanted to get good grades, go to my dream college, and have a successful career all with him right by my side. I never felt like I needed to pick one or the other. I created my own life story to fit all my own priorities. Yes, I got married less then two years out of college. But, I married my best friend, one of my biggest supporters, the person who always pushed me to be the best I could be. I also filled my time with priceless work experience, internships, and classes that would help me fulfill my other priorities. About two months out of college I was offered a job in my dream profession. Not because I was lucky, but because I worked for it. I sculpted my life to incorporate both of my priorities into it. I took part in internships, classes, and hobbies that showed I was serious about my career too. I had more than one dream, more than one priority and I created a life that would fit them both in it together. This is my story and let me be the first to tell you, it’s probably not yours too.

My decision to get married in my early twenties was one of the best I ever made, but I wouldn’t suggest or discourage another young woman from doing the same thing. I would rather ask, “Do you truly believe this is the best thing for you personally?” I couldn’t be happier to have started my dream job right out of college, but I wouldn’t suggest or discourage this either. I would rather ask, “Are you sure there’s nothing else you’d rather do?” I decided not to continue my education right after college, but I wouldn’t suggest or discourage this decision either. I would rather ask, “Do you feel completely prepared to reach your goals with the resources you currently have?” I decided that I was happy in the state I was living in, in the area I called home, so I decided to stay. I never studied abroad nor did I feel the need to travel immensely after college. I wouldn’t suggest or discourage another young woman from making that same decision. I would rather ask, “Do you feel completely fulfilled or do you feel like you are constantly chasing after something new?”

Unfortunately, my life decisions, what I have chosen for my priorities, won’t help you find yours. Patton’s and Sandberg’s won’t help you either. Follow your heart and trust your instincts. If you aren’t ready to settle down- don’t. If you aren’t ready to enter into the workplace- don’t. If you want to focus on getting married and having kids- do it. If you want to work solely on building your career- do it. If you want to make both work- trust me you can do that too. Making a quick decision is easy to regret, but no one ever regretted taking the time to truly figure out what they wanted. Despite what Patton and Sandberg suggest, you my fellow ladies have all the time in the world because as soon as you figure out your own priorities you won’t need anymore time.

From woman to woman, my advice to you is simply no advice at all.

What I Take For Granted

Coming from a middle class family living in a suburban town in a developed country, there are probably a lot of things I take for granted. Many of which I probably don’t even realize. I never had to worry about food, clothing, or transportation, and most importantly I have never felt unsafe because of my gender, race, or values in the town in which I grew up or in the towns that surrounded me. But the one thing I certainly know I have taken for granted is my education.

By now, it’s no secret that about three weeks ago over 200 Nigerian schoolgirls were kidnapped from the Chibok Government Girls Secondary School by an Islamist group called Boko Haram, simply just for going to school. The group is now selling these girls into slavery or as “wives.” Boko Haram actually means “Western education is sinful.” These girls did absolutely nothing wrong on April 14th, the day their school was attacked and they were taken as hostages and transported to a remote forest outside of Cameroon. They were simply just trying to get an education- they weren’t asking for a miracle, they weren’t expecting the impossible. They just wanted to learn, which is apparently a “sinful” concept to some.

Living in the United States, schooling for me was always a given. You have preschool, kindergarten, elementary school, middle school, and then high school. Our public schooling system makes education accessible to everyone despite gender, race, or religion. In the public school system in which I attended, college was also pretty much a given. I never felt like continuing my education onto college was an option, rather more like a requirement. I know very few people who didn’t continue onto college after high school, whether it was part-time, full-time, one town over, or across the country. There are very few times that I think twice about my college degree. Don’t get me wrong, I know that I am very fortunate to have had the college experience, to have a Bachelor’s Degree to my name. Looking back, I feel overcome with joy and happiness. I made some awesome friends, attended many thrilling classes  (some not so thrilling), and created many life lasting memories. But at the same time that lack of personal acknowledgement, that sense of feeling like college was a requirement rather than a privilege, makes me sad and a little less incompetent.

Incompetent? A little strange, yes. But how could I not feel that way? There are so many young girls and women out there who are constantly restricted. Restricted on what they can wear, who they can marry, what job they can hold if any, or what they can believe in. And here I am, a 20-something year old woman in my career of choice, married to the man I chose, with a college degree, and a house of my own. What do I really know about life? About struggling? About challenges? About being told I can’t do something? About being restricted? Let me answer that for you- absolutely nothing. And despite all my years of schooling, I couldn’t even begin to pretend I understand.

So, I won’t pretend. I absolutely cannot wrap my “educated” brain around what is happening in Nigeria right now. I especially could not begin to fathom the lack of importance some people put on an education. Ojonwa Miachi, an education activist in Nigeria, recalls remarks she remembers hearing from some of her extended family members, “We don’t need to spend much on their education, they’re just going to go off and get married.” Of course, having an education is not a prerequisite for marriage but what does that have to do with anything? An education is a priceless commodity. Wait, education? A commodity? Unfortunately, that’s exactly what it has become. Education is not a given, it’s not a requirement, nor should it be privilege. Education is not accessible to everyone, but it very damn well should be.

An education is not about how much Shakespeare you have read, how much calculus you understand, or if you can recall the dates of World War I. It’s about the ability to think. The ability to formulate your own opinion. It’s about the ability to acknowledge that everyone doesn’t have the same opinion  as you do. That many times, there is more than one right answer to every problem. It’s about knowing that everyone’s life should be equally valued, regardless of gender, race, religion, or morals. Most importantly, it’s about having the chance to become your own person. To shape your future into the life you want. If you end up being a housewife- great. If you end up being a doctor- great. But that ability to think, to comprehend, to formulate is priceless. It’s a skill that every single one of us should possess. Therefore, each and every one of us should have an education. Each and every one of us needs an education.

I may not be able to completely understand what is happening in Nigeria. And I certainly do not agree with it. But what I do know is this: violation of human and women rights is a very real thing. We may want to shut our eyes and turn our heads because yes, it’s horrific. But that doesn’t change a thing. It’s still there. It’s still happening. No matter how perfect your own life is, no matter how easy you have it, no matter how few obstacles your life entails- oppression is still there. To not acknowledge it is ignorance. To not talk about it is ignorance. To not accept it’s existence is ignorance. But to not educate yourself and your loved ones- your friends,family, neighbors, and even complete strangers- is the worse ignorance of all. I can promise you this, our darkest days will arrive the second we stop learning.

We are all entitled to an education based on the simple fact that we are all human. As Miachi said herself, “We can’t keep quiet or sit back or think, ‘You could lose your life.’ Because we want to ensure the rights of human beings and women and girls are not violated.” To me, that’s a truly educated woman.

So, please bring back our girls and let’s all get educated.

Book Review: Home by Toni Morrison

I shouldn’t be surprised that my heart skipped a few beats when I discovered Toni Morrison’s newest novel (alright, I’m a little late to the game but now is better than never- right?). Feeling a little nostalgic about my college years and missing its security, beauty, and friends- Toni Morrison was exactly what I was missing. I have become somewhat of an African-American lit junkie, if you will. During my freshman year I took an Introduction to Literature class where the professor focused mostly on apartheid literature and this completely sparked my interest. I went on to take a Richard Wright class in which we read many books by Wright, Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, and James Baldwin among many others. Venturing further into this literary circle I took an African American Literature course my senior year where we read Ralph Ellison, Anne Petry, more Wright, and more Morrison. I had become completely immersed and I loved every second of it. Hence, my excitement for HOME by Toni Morrison.

Morrison definitely does not disappoint with her latest novel (does she ever?). HOME is about a young Veteran, named Frank Money, who just returned from the Korean War. Frank had a far from easy life. His family was very poor, lived in a depressing town in which Frank described as, “the worst place in the world, worse than any battlefield.” All his parents ever did was work for practically nothing, leaving him and his sister to fend for themselves, mostly always starving. Both parents died at a very young age, making Frank feel more alone and more without a real home. The book opens with Frank in the hospital when he receives a letter that his sister, Cee, is in trouble and if he doesn’t come now she will most likely die. Cee had always been dependent on Frank, she never had anyone else she could turn to. He needed her, so he was going to be there. The book tracks Frank’s journey to find his sister, the revelations he makes along the way and just as important, the revelations that Cee makes herself without her brother there to hold her hand.

What I love most about Morrison is that she puts so much meaning into her books with so few words. I could type on and on for days and I still wouldn’t be able to say half of what Morrison could in a couple hundred pages, let alone so gracefully and resonating. I could sit here all night and list off meaning after meaning of each character, object, and place in this book. But, for everyone’s sake (including my own) I won’t. My first reaction is to talk about the character of Frank Money and his journey to find his manhood, purpose, sense of self, and “home”. After all, I did write many of my college papers on manhood- its challenges, meaning, and the struggles that many African American male characters seem to face on their journey to becoming a “man” and feeling worth something. But thats not what sticks out to me with this book. Instead, I am fascinated by the character of Cee.

Cee’s experience working for the doctor is horrible, gruesome, and definitely beyond anything I could ever imagine. But, in a sense- it set her free. Being young, black, and a woman were all disadvantages Cee had to learn to deal with her entire life. These characteristics made her feel insecure, worthless, and incompetent. Cee felt like she was only there to serve others because that’s all she ever knew. Miss Ethel, Cee’s nurse after the horrific events at the doctor’s, opened Cee’s eyes up to a whole other world. A world where she was her own person. A world in which she decided her own fate and what she did or didn’t do. She doesn’t need to listen to what anyone else tells her- she has her own brain with her own thoughts, dreams, and desires.

The turning point of Cee’s journey is when Miss Ethel tells her, “You young and a woman, and there’s serious limitation in both, but you a person too. Don’t let Lenore or some trifling boyfriend and certainly no evil doctor decide who you are. That’s slavery. Somewhere inside you is that free person I’m talking about. Locate her and let her do some good in the world.” These few sentences really jumped out at me, left me staring at the page for a few moments longer than the rest. Although Cee wasn’t physically a slave to anyone, she certainly was mentally. She let other people decide her worth, her destiny, her life. In this moment, Cee decided she was worth something, “I ain’t going nowhere, Miss Ethel. This is where I belong.” Cee doesn’t want to die, especially from the doings of an evil, heartless man. She wants to stay here on Earth with her people, friends, family and fight. She wants to put her own mark on the world as Cee, not as another helpless patient who succumbed to the dominant forces around her.

If you couldn’t tell already, I would definitely recommend this book to anyone. I warn you, don’t expect a happy story with pretty butterflies and flowers. But what you will get is hope, empowerment, and a sense of pride. Nothing can hold me back after reading this book. I feel like I can accomplish anything right now because I’m my own person. I have my own hopes and aspirations and I am the only person who can control them.

Whew- I feel like I am sitting back in one of my college classrooms and I couldn’t thank Morrison, my readers, or this blog enough for that.

Book Review: How To Disappear Completly by Kelsey Osgood

Last night I finished reading an anorexia memoir titled How To Disappear Completely by Kelsey Osgood. Although I wouldn’t classify this book as one of the best books I ever read, I really did appreciate the subject matter. If you are looking for a really entertaining read with spotless writing then this probably isn’t the book for you. But, it definitely provides a lot of food for thought.

Before reading this memoir, I had read other anorexia/addiction memoirs. The stories are brutal and heartbreaking. The things they put their bodies through, the extent they go to to lie, to hide things, to become sicker is unbelievable. But usually in the end they persevere. They overcome their downfall and get on a road back to health. For me, these memoirs were never more than stories. If anything they made me want to eat more, be happier, and just love who I am. I couldn’t imagine going through what they put themselves through. For me, these stories were deterrents. It never occurred to me to look at the other side of the story. To think about the readers who aren’t as happy with who they are, who are struggling to stand out or fit in, to feel loved, or admired. Osgood makes a very good point- these very memoirs are enabling these readers to be anorexic, to get the attention they are striving for, to accomplish something that is worth noting.

I’m still not sure if I completely agree with what Osgood is saying but I do agree she has something there. She refrains from giving any specific details about her own disease, claiming that from experience this only encourages bad habits and behaviors. If she reveals her lowest weight, that gives another person something to strive to be. If she discloses the amount of food she used to consume, that only gives someone a plan. Osgood claims she became a “good anorexic” by studying other people’s memoirs, case studies, magazine articles, documentaries, and television shows. As a young girl she graved attention she didn’t think she was getting, she wanted to accomplish something people would talk about, she wanted to be known for something, to succeed in something. She wanted to be “perfect” and loved. With all this information readily available at her fingertips- in the libraries, the bookstores, on the internet, or on television, Osgood felt like becoming thin would help her reach those goals and desires. She was going to get thin the easiest way she knew how, the way she had seen many other girls get thin. And boy, was she going to get really thin- she would show them. She found a new purpose, a new goal, a new way to feel better about herself and she had a lot of helping in doing so.

If you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Our society values being thin, pretty, and popular. We thrive to be successful, to accomplish something with our lives. We are bombarded with examples of “perfect” people and to reach their image seems nearly impossible. We can’t imagine a healthy way to look like that model in a bikini ad because we aren’t given the tools. Their aren’t many diet and exercise ads that say, “I ate this, this, and this today and I am still thin. I am still healthy.” But, there are many ads out there for unhealthy diets, their are many resources out there (chat rooms, internet forums, etc.) in which people encourage each other to get thin, to be the thinnest, and do it in the worse possible way. To be the worst is to be better, it’s means you are the “best.” I’m not saying that there aren’t any people, companies, or diet plans out there promoting the right things. But I do think they are harder to come by and aren’t as easily accessible. It’s easier to find stories about people who have suffered. It seems easier to starve yourself than to educate yourself on healthy eating and exercise.

This book made me stop and think- how about if we lived in a world where we didn’t talk about things like this? If no one ever shared their stories of eating disorders, drug addiction, or alcohol abuse. If no one ever revealed their greatest weight loss tip or the easiest/quickest way to get high. If we didn’t know the truth of people’s struggles, if we weren’t given that information to ease our own problems- would these diseases still exist? Would they be as prevalent? It’s a weird thought but something worth thinking about whether you agree or not. I personally think they would still exist. I don’t think these diseases or substance abuse would just magically disappear. And I certainly wouldn’t want to cut off an open dialogue about people seeking help and treatment. But I can’t help but think that maybe a little more privacy wouldn’t hurt.

After reading this book, I don’t know if I see the point in writing about your darkest, gruesomest days anymore. Publishing or filming the details of your life for the rest of the world’s entertainment. Why do we have the right to pry into your personal life? That’s your story, your personal intimacies, and no one should feel the need to publicize that information or even read it. I do believe that writing and coming to terms with where you have been, what you have done, and what you see your future to be are all huge parts of therapy and recovery but this can all be done, and should be done, privately. Your support should come from your family, friends, and loved ones. Not from people who don’t know you, who may encourage you to back track at any moment. In this age of social media frenzy, we all need to appreciate our privacy just a little bit more.

I always enjoy a book that forces me to think in a different way, to open my mind to new alternatives and ways of thinking. I like hearing different takes on the same subject, hearing all different sides before forming my own opinion. I will often stumble upon something I have never thought of before. How To Completely Disappear goes beyond anorexia. It brings to light a subject that everyone can relate to. It encourages you re-think what your version of “perfect” is, to re-evaluate what makes you happy, and to value your own personal life more. I think we can all learn something, whether we agree with Osgood or not, from this book. We should all stop to think about what we want to share before we share it- the effect it will have on yourself, on your loved ones, and those you don’t even know. Next time you go to write a status, post a picture, create a tweet, or even write a blog post just stop to think for a moment before hitting ‘enter.’ And maybe even put that smartphone down for a day. It won’t hurt, I promise. Censorship is a practice we should all partake in a little bit more.

When does being “comfortable” go too far?

Lately there has been a lot of attention in the media about college-aged women and their sex lives. If you are a normal person you probably already said, “Wait- stop right there. Why should we care?” And you are exactly right, why should we care? Unfortunately, there are many reasons why we should care that go way beyond your personal morals about sex. Barnard College, a prestigious women’s college in New York, is one reason we should care. When students arrived back to campus this Fall they were greeted with a new guest policy that they were never warned about. The new guest policy states that no student is allowed to host an overnight guest “no more than three consecutive nights and no more than six nights total in any 30-day period.” Their guests actually have to sign in (and sign out) with security guards located in each dorm- another reason we should care. The college claims that this new guest policy came about from other students being uncomfortable with their roommates guests- one more reason we should care.

I see so many problems with this that I don’t even know where to begin- it’s actually kind of infuriating. Being a recent graduate of a women’s college this strikes a very personal cord with me. Let’s take it piece by piece. First, the wording and implications of the new guest policy really irks me. Why do they care how many TOTAL nights a student has a guest a month? Six nights doesn’t even cover all the weekends in a month. It seems to me that they are insinuating that when a student has an overnight guest they have sex and they are trying to control that personal choice. I just don’t see any other reason for it. If it was solely for the roommate’s sake they would have stopped at the “three consecutive nights” rule. Yes, even that part seems a little unfair but at least I understand it. It’s uncomfortable to have someone you barely know staying in your room and they certainly shouldn’t over stay their welcome so that part is totally fair. In life you have to give and take a little. But there is absolutely no reason any college or university should be concerned with how many times a student chooses to have an overnight guest. Another reason I feel this new rule is mostly about sex is that it pertains to all students, even those students living in singles. These students are not bothering anyone when they have a guest so why should they be restricted? Why should it matter? I realize that it’s hard to have a rule that only pertains to certain students but that’s one of the many perks of single living or of being an upper classmen. If the roommate issue was the only reason behind the new policy there are many other ways Barnard could have went about it.

Next, I do understand that many colleges have guests policies but how much they are actually enforced is a different issue. I do believe in some sort of guest policy because it’s necessary for the safety of the students but once again, Barnard has gone too far. The fact that these students have to sign in and out their guests with a guard stationed at their dorm is beyond me. It’s like your literally displaying your personal life to the public. I completely understand why students would feel like their guard is constantly judging their personal decisions, even if the guard could actually care less and is just doing his or her job. Every time you bring the same or different person back you are wondering what they are thinking. It’s uncomfortable and a private decision that shouldn’t be logged on a piece of paper. Not to mention that this is occurring in a place that celebrates all the freedoms women have gained and all the successes we have made. But how can you stand for that when your actions say the exact opposite?

Lastly, and the the biggest problem I have with this whole thing, is that this is resulting from the roommate’s “uncomfortableness.” Are you kidding me? How old are we again? Do we know how to use our voices? Apparently not. If these students can’t function in a safe, sheltered, single sex environment there is no way they are making it in the real world. What ever happened to working through your own problems instead of running to administration or a higher power? It’s an essential life skill that these women seem to be lacking. If you don’t speak up your roommate is going to assume you don’t have a problem with her guests so she is going to keep doing it. If these “uncomfortable” roommates could nicely express their concerns I bet 98% of these students would take those concerns into account and be more considerate about their guests next time. There are always going to be the few who don’t care about anyone else or their feelings but that’s what your residential/student advisers are for, not the administration. If three intelligent and grown women can’t work through their problems and differences I really do feel hopeless for the future. Once you bring your problems to a higher power you are then making someone else feel uncomfortable and are invading their privacy and two wrongs never make a right.

This controversial debate couldn’t of come at a better time for my blog, right when I’m talking about being in “uncomfortable” places. So naturally I feel inclined to throw out a few tips about how to talk to your roommate (or anyone for that matter) about something they are doing that is making you uncomfortable:

*Talk to your roommate in private. Not when your or his/her friends are in the room or when you are in a public place. Also, make sure it’s a good time for them to have a serious talk. If they are going through something super stressful they aren’t going to be as understanding as they normally would be.

*Be specific. Don’t just say, “I don’t like when you have guests overnight.” Tell him/her why. Is there something that they do that annoys you? Does it prohibit you from doing what you have to do? If you don’t give them something to work with they aren’t going to be able to fix it.

*Once you voice your concerns, you need to listen to theirs as well. What’s important to you may not be important to them and you aren’t going to be able to change that. You are going to have to find some even ground that you can BOTH live with.

*Whatever you do, don’t be judgmental. Don’t tell them that what they are doing is “wrong.” Make it clear that this is your personal preference, not a matter of right or wrong.

*If you need to, make a list of each of your needs and expectations then compare and contrast. Find a solution that meets all these needs.

*If all else fails, get a trained student involved. Talking to someone else who recently probably went through the same thing you are could be really helpful for the both of you.

*And sometimes you just have to suck it up. That’s what adulthood is all about, welcome to the real world.

College is an essential time for students to grow on their own, think for themselves, make their own mistakes, and learn from them. In four very short years you are supposed to become an adult, a full functioning adult. It’s scary and not easy. But guess what? You have to do it. Rules like these do not exist in the real world but problems like these certainly do. If you can’t learn how to handle them in a safe environment I’m not sure you ever will.

Here are a couple interesting articles about the this new guest policy from The Daily Beast and The Nation.

Can Money Buy Happiness?

A few weeks ago I wrote about my generation of women’s sense of self-worth and “can-do” attitude but it also bought to light the reality that, even today, there is still a wage discrepancy between women and men. This morning I came across an interesting article on NPR by Lisa Chow entitled “Why Women (Like Me) Choose Lower-Paying Jobs.” This article gave me a whole different insight into the very same problem and resonated a lot with my own life. During her recent interview with an economist who studies how people’s choice of college major effects their income he revealed that, “women often make decisions that lead them to earn less than they otherwise might.” It is no secret that there are some majors/areas of study that just won’t produce the same income levels as other majors might. Most people going into these majors know this, but they chose to do it anyway. The article also had some helpful graphs with it, showing the percentage of degree holders in certain areas of study that are women. Some of the “least lucrative” major areas are Early Childhood Education in which 97% are women, Communication Disorders Sciences that tallied at 94%, Social Work which contains 88% women, and Human Services/Community Org which came in at 81%. The “most lucrative” majors shouldn’t come as a surprise- Pharmacy Sciences/Administration won with the most women degree holders at 52%, Mathematics/Computer Science came in second at 33%, Chemical Engineering was next at 28%, and Metallurgical Engineering (huh?) contains 17%. In last place, Naval Architecture/Marine Engineering degree holders are only 3% female.

The economist from Georgetown University also pointed out that women’s choice of major isn’t the only problem, the jobs they chose once they graduate is another major factor in their income. He gives the example that most women who major in Math end up in professions such as teaching. Lisa, the author of this article, admits that she is one of these women. She majored in Applied Math, got her MBA, and is now a reporter for NPR. Awesome, right? But can she be making a lot more money? Certainly. As much $3-4 MILLION more! Lisa also tells the story of Rhea, a college career counselor. Rhea holds a degree in accounting and started her career in the corporate sector. Her boss offered her the opportunity to become a director but she turned it down. She was 5 months pregnant and there were more important things going on in her life at that moment. Eventually, she left the business world and ended up in the career path she is today.

This definitely raised a lot  of questions in my mind. What’s more important- money or happiness? Family or work? Of course, the answer is different for everyone. You may be a woman who loves engineering and who may or may not want children, so a job in your chosen field will give you both money and happiness. But, that isn’t me. I went to a top-ranked women’s liberal art college, I could have easily chosen a science major or a pre-med program. My school is known for their awesome science department- it’s prestige and intensity. Instead, I chose to double major in English and History. Why you may ask? The one science class I took in college (Astronomy) I absolutely dreaded. Every few minutes I found myself glancing at the clock and every time Wednesday night rolled around (lab day) I let out a long sigh. I couldn’t imagine spending any more time in a science/math related class than I had to in order to graduate. I wasn’t intellectually stimulated and I just wasn’t happy. To me, happiness is the most important thing in life. You only have one life to live- so why not be happy? Reading makes me happy. Learning about new literary geniuses and exploring new genres intrigues me. American history calls out to me and begs for me to learn more about it. This is where I am happy and this is where I feel most like myself.

What’s the income pay-off for my four years of a priceless education? Not very much (at least not yet). But, everyday I go to work happy. I enjoy what I do, I have a source of income, and I am constantly learning new things and growing in ways I didn’t even know I needed. My chosen career path is somewhat flexible and family-friendly. I have so many options to chose from when I decide to have kids including staying home, or even possibly working from home. I’m not sure that this is even what I want, I’m not sure what I want yet but I’m glad to know that flexibility is there. My happiness and my future family is what is important to me and that’s why I am where I am today. Yes, women in higher-paying fields have families too but those subject areas don’t make me happy. Yes, women who work a lot with very little flexibility have great families too, but that’s not what I want. I’m doing what’s right for me and I shouldn’t worry about being another statistic. I am a more confident woman because of the choices I made. I am more confident in my skill set required for my job and my ability to make an impact in my field. I feel like I belong here and the number on my pay check can’t tell me differently (…but maybe my bills can).

I’m not trying to say that gender wage inequality within job fields themselves doesn’t exist or isn’t important. What I am suggesting is that you should determine what you want from your life, what interests you, what makes you happy before you point any fingers at anyone else. Despite all the challenges that still face women- I am happy where I am and let me tell you, it feels really good.

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#GenYproblems

Searching for some inspiration right before the weekend, I came across some great articles about my generation of women. It completely validated why I write this blog and put me in a really good mood (well, mostly). So naturally- I had to write about it.

It’s no secret that women haven’t always had the equalities, sense of worth, or opportunities we have now. Some women never dreamed of holding a man’s job because it just wasn’t possible. Being twenty-three years old and coming from an all-women’s college I rarely ever think about this. I have never said I couldn’t do something, didn’t deserve something, or wasn’t capable of doing something because of my gender. I always assumed and hoped that other women (of all ages) felt the same way. In reality, it’s really only my generation that has this mindset and as happy as that makes me it also makes me kind of sad at the same time.

In a recent study by FleishmanHillard, Heart Magazines, and Ipsos MediaCT they found that Gen Y women (born between the early 1980’s and  early 2000’s) see themselves as equal to their male counterparts/co-workers in the work place. The best part? This isn’t just in the United States. Women all over the world are perceiving themselves this way. The study was conducted with 1,000 women and 500 men in the U.S. along with 3,000 women from UK, France, Germany, and China. When participants were asked if they would describe themselves as smart, 70% of women said they would while only 54% of the men from Gen Y said yes. We certainly need to take a moment and celebrate how far we have come. The values and mind-set in which Gen Y women have been raised are clearly working. Growing up, we were never denied anything. We were always told we can be whatever we want to be. I honestly don’t think I ever heard the words, “No, you can’t do that. You’re a woman,” growing up or even today. This proves that women were never less capable than men. We have just been forced to believe we were. It was engrained into our brains to the point where we actually just started to believe it. Men had their role, women had their role and that was the end of it. If you were a women you took care of the house, raised the children, and maybe picked up a secretary, nursing, or teaching job. It was normal, natural- nothing wrong with it. Now, young women are going way beyond any such standard. And the fact that they actually feel and truly believe they can do so and deserve it at the same time is the best part. What’s the difference between Gen Y women, Gen X women, and baby-boomer women? Absolutely nothing. Except what we were taught.

Yes, this is all good news but we aren’t completely done here. These same women also admitted that there are still wage inequalities. More then 80% of the women involved in this study said that men are still paid more, often for the same exact job. The women did attribute part of this to the fact that men are better at negotiating and asking for salary increases but in my opinion- we shouldn’t have to. Why is there this inequality in the first place? Why does having female anatomy parts automatically make you less qualified, leading to a smaller salary? Because we won’t fight? Because we are too passive? I don’t totally buy it. Every person doing the same job should be paid the same salary. End of story. Yes, I understand there are different education levels, people have been in positions and with companies for different amounts of the time but the base salary should all be the same. We shouldn’t have to beg or ask for equal treatment. If we are qualified enough to be hired, we should be qualified enough to get a fair salary.

Another disturbing result in this survey was that 50% of the women that participated said that men resent the advances that women have made in the recent years. We may see ourselves as equal- but do men? In my experiences I have certainly thought so. I guess I am extremely lucky, I have never been made to feel inferior by a man because of my gender. But, if 50% of these women have had this experience then I can’t deny it- it’s still very much a real thing. The women that came before us had to deal with the same prejudices. This is nothing new and unfortunately I don’t think it’s going to go away anytime soon if this many women are still struggling with this discrimination.

This brings me to the question- what has really changed? There is one thing that is different this time around. Our attitudes. Women are no longer accepting this mindset. My generation is breaking down this barrier by believing in themselves. We now know we are worthy and know we can do anything we set our minds too. We can do anything anyone else can do and we won’t except “no” as an answer. But, this is only the first step. Should we consider the fact that women are finally thinking of themselves as equal to or dominant to men a success? Yes, I think so- but how far is that going to get us? The world needs to see women in the same light as we see ourselves before anything can really change. Pay inequality or resentment because of your accomplishments is not conducive to reaching true gender equality. There needs to be a huge social/cultural change before we can see true equality, especially in the work place where males and females work closely together, competing for the same jobs. We believe in ourselves- now can the rest of the world?

It makes me extremely happy to be part of Gen Y and know that my other fellow female peers feel the same way I do. We are so close- we need to keep empowering each other, supporting each other, and reaching out to those who need a little more help to get to where we are. I am proud of where we are today and I can’t wait too see where we go in the next 20, 50, 70 years.

That’s my weekend wisdom for you- enjoy! My intellectual side needs a nap, or perhaps a glass of wine…