Can Women Really 'Have It All'?

Image from the Atlantic
Sheryl Sandberg has been all over the news lately, as she promotes her Lean In project with guidelines about how women can make it to the top in the workplace.

Sandberg, the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook and a former VP at Goggle, has some really interesting points.  If you haven't seen her Ted talk, in which she discusses the way powerful women are viewed in society and having equal partners, you should.

But when you listen to Sandberg its hard not to think that somehow its been easier for her, given that she's a billionaire (ok, maybe just a multi-millionaire).  I think its unfair to criticize Sandberg for writing her new book from her position - the whole point is to say, 'this is how I got here and how you can too'  and her success is what gives her credibility. That said, it's important to acknowledge where she comes from.  Not all of us start off with two Harvard degrees.  Not all of us have or will have hired help to do the lion's share of child rearing.  For many of us, the instructions to be more ambitious and work harder are hard to swallow - and come across a little bit like blaming women for our lack of achievement without recognizing some of the struggles that we face.

Anne Marie Slaughter, former Dean of Princeton's Woodrow Wilson's School of Public and International Affairs and Director of Policy Planning for the US State Department, thinks otherwise: that having it all either requires you to be rich, or to make your own schedule.  For the people who are not wealthy and who's jobs do not allow them to make their own schedules, a lot will have to change before we can have it all.

Here is a quote from here Atlantic article entitled "Why Women Can't Have It All" - which you should definitely read.

These “mundane” issues—the need to travel constantly to succeed, the conflicts between school schedules and work schedules, the insistence that work be done in the office—cannot be solved by exhortations to close the ambition gap. I would hope to see commencement speeches that finger America’s social and business policies, rather than women’s level of ambition, in explaining the dearth of women at the top. But changing these policies requires much more than speeches. It means fighting the mundane battles—every day, every year—in individual workplaces, in legislatures, and in the media.

This is a really interesting subject for me, and I haven't formulated crystal clear opinions on it yet, but I really appreciate the discussion.  Both of these women make points that I agree with: sometimes women should be more agressive, particularly when it comes to negotiations and valuing their work, and employers should make accommodations that would benefit all of their staff (not just women) but also likely make it easier for employees with families (or any other non-work commitments) to adjust. And they both have points that I disagree with: I don't think that lack of ambition is the  reason there are fewer women at the top, and I dislike the continuous characterization of women being more responsible for child rearing as a result of biology rather than societal pressures. Neither women address the fact that merely having a child is different from being a good parent, or why women might feel that being a good parent demands more from them than it does from the father.

If you have the time, here are a few more reads on the subject.  The New Yorker did a great profile of Sheryl Sandberg, and Nick Kristoff has a short piece discussing the pros of Sheryl Sandberg's proposition, while adding what else can be done to help women succeed in the work place.


Deep Thoughts Thursday

2 million people have been displaced by conflict in Syria. Image from standnow.org.
Asides from the house, here is what I have been watching / thinking about this week:

The Kenyan elections that are coming up -  and one of the candidates has been accused of crimes against humanity following ~1200 deaths in protests during the last elections.  Read / view more about it at Irin, and the BBC.

More about Syria. I really just can't believe how much we hear about Syria and attacks on civilians in the news, yet how little is being done.  An interactive timeline of the politics of the conflict in Syria here, more about recent attacks here and here, and about the humanitarian situation here.

And lets not forget Mali here.

Workwise, I have been trying to draw lessons from how businesses have coped with Hurricane Sandy: how they dealt with the immediate crisis: how they care for their staff and how their staff cared for them in return, but also how they communicated with staff, how they continued to operate when their facilities were badly damaged and how they could afford to pay the bills while they were out of work.  I am particularly interested in how non-profits managed. The building that I used to work in - and that houses amazing organizations like the International Planned Parenthood Federation, the Guttmacher Institue, and the US Fund for UNICEF  the was shut down until January of this year. You can read about the building here.

On a more lifting note.  Watch Eddie the Otter play basketball to alleviate his arthritis.  Dave loves that when he misses he keeps trying. What do you love about this?


Recent purchases, rambling about the house

3 toilets
A bathtub
2 individual bathroom sinks, one for the powder room, one for the ¾ bath
A double vanity with two sinks for the main bathroom.
Faucets for each of the bathroom sinks
A shower base kit to put under the tiles in the ¾ bath
Two sets of shower heads / faucets
Tiles for everything
Door knobs
Kitchen cabinets
Cabinet hardware
Kitchen counter – island
A kitchen sink
Kitchen faucets
A kitchen counter – alcove
Lighting for everything
Hardwood flooring
Hot water tank

Not on this list but we bought it anyway: the awesome 'eat' sign from Olde Good things. Total impulse purchase but so worth it. Don't look too closely at the price. We bargained for it.

Figure out what to do about the facade.
Figure out what to do about the fence.
Check in on the renovation.
Take more pictures.
Get ready for out vacation next week!
Get the new hot water tank installed.
Remind electricians to put dimmers on the light switches.
Remind the contractor to do what I told him to do. Again.

We've had a pretty busy month - I must say there are way more details to think about that I had anticipated.  Also, some of my guesstimate budgets were way off - I had no idea what things like faucets, lighting and hardware cost -some of our faucets cost more than our sinks! And doorknobs! My parents were more serious about the doorknobs than they were about anything else in the house.  My mom was all "Oh honey, doorknobs are crazy. Their CRAZY." My dad told me, "You can't just get anything. There's NOTHING WORSE than entering a house with a flimsy doorknob. You have to go and try them all out before you chose." 

Who knew?

In the end we have decided to save on things like tiles, decor, and low traffic areas like the extra bathroom. For hardwood floors, despite our desire to get beautiful five inch planks, we are going with more classic, affordable 3 inch planks. We're splurging on appliances, faucets in high traffic areas like the kitchen and main bathroom.  As much as I would love crystal door knobs, I think we're going to have to settle for something more basic like oil rubbed bronze from a good quality name brand.

For lighting, Dave and I totally lucked out and found some great deals at the Design Within Reach outlet.  I was worried going there that the lights would be discounted from $3000 to $2800, as the sales on their website are really uninspiring. Instead, we got 5 lamps worth ~$2000 for $250! Sure they have some dings and scratches, but I am fairly certain that no one will ever notice them.  

We got 2 of these Titan 3 lights in black - originally $735 each for $75 each!! 3 of these FL/Y pendants in, originally $249 for $19!!! Finally, we got this barn light, originally $315 for $50! Pardon the exclamation points, but I am clearly pretty psyched.

More pictures will come soon, I promise. The truth is that they are just not that exciting. They are mainly of drywall old flooring, and the rooms are so dusty that they come out looking grainy.  But I am working on it.


Uncensored look at life at the new house

I've been asked to provide more pictures of the house. The thing is: they just don't do the place justice.  Here is what the new apartment looks like with my parents camping out in it. Apologies for the grainy iPhone pics. One major improvement that is particularly visible to me in these pictures is the white! Every picture that I took in this place before we painted came out looking yellow. What a difference paint makes.

Eating Pauline's meat balls! Amazing.
I know the sheet curtain looks kind of ghetto, but look at Lulu and the hardwood floors!

Syria and reading the news. Sometimes.

Image from the NY Times.
I have to say I have been a little obsessed with the renovation these days, and with planning the house.   So much so that when I wake up in the morning I have been reading decorating blogs instead of the news. Don't get me wrong: I love decorating and think it’s a healthy distraction from the more stressful things going on in my life, but I think it has slipped into the realm of avoidance these past few weeks. I have stopped reading the news because it’s so frustrating and my feeling of impotence can be so overwhelming.

I don’t want or need to be the one to change the world. I just want to take some comfort in knowing that I have done what I could to at least contribute to some positive change. I know this might sound like semantics, but really it’s not. All I want is to know that I am doing something helpful.  My problem is that I know no middle ground. I am not good at doing things halfway. I don’t know how to be helpful while keeping some balance in my life.

I am working on facing the things that I have been avoiding.  I started today by simply catching up on the news in Syria, without placing any expectations on myself beyond informing myself, and for today, sharing this information with you.

A really good source of information on world conflicts is the BBC Country Profiles. If there is ever a topic that you want to learn about, it’s a great place to start. This is where I start whenever I want to get up to date on recent events, whether it be in Congo, South Sudan, Somalia or Syria.  It’s an accessible, easy to read format that gives clear synopses of current events.  The facts sheet will give you an up to date bullet point summary, and the timeline explains just what happened and when.

The BBC also has a subject page on the conflict in Syria that explains the major issues that Syrians have faced including protests, bombardment, refugees and a discussion of the international reaction.


It's a Kitchen!

Dear Friends,

Join us in welcoming our new kitchen to the world!  It still needs some finishing touches (paint, shelves, a hood, etc.) so we will follow up with more pictures later, but couldn't wait to show you our new bundle of joy.


Cement tiles

So many rooms to tile! So many tiles to chose from.  I have been dreaming about cement tiles these days...

Perhaps these for the front hall?



Or these:

For the upstairs bathroom maybe something like this:


Or this:

Or these:




Feliz Cumpleaños Mi Amor

On this day 33 years ago, Pauline Pristin gave birth to my favorite human being on the whole planet earth: Dave.
How I bagged such a babe I do not know.
Look at that face!

Could he be any cuter?
I mean, really.


Montrealers aren't supposed to love anything Toronto, but...

Montreal vs. Toronto beef, be damned. I love this place.  The apartment is owned by Nikole Herriott, part owner of Herriot Grace, a Vancouver Island / Toronto based company that sells beautiful hand made wood objects, mainly spoons, rolling pins and cutting boards.  

Herriott Grace also made an adorable documentary that reminds me a bit of my dad (well not totally but I really love good father-daughter relationships). Here is the trailer:

The images above are from My Scandinavian Home.