The XX Factor: How Working Women are Creating a New Society

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9781846684036: The XX Factor: How Working Women are Creating a New Society

For most of history, being female defined the limits of a woman’s achievements. But now women can be successful careerists equal to men. In Norway, women legally must constitute a third of all boards; in the U.S.A., women have gone from being 3 percent of practising lawyers in 1970 to 40 percent today. Currently, more than seventy million educated women work alongside men.

Yet the “sisterhood” of working women is deeply divided. Young, educated, full-time professional women, who have put children on hold, are making enormous strides in the workplace. But for a second group of women, this is unattainable; instead, they work part-time, earn less, are concentrated in heavily feminized occupations such as cleaning, and gain income and self-worth from having children at a young age.

The new female elite, the top 10 percent, lead lives completely different from all previous women in history. Their working lives increasingly resemble those of the successful men they work with. A groundbreaking look at modern women, The XX Factor lifts the curtain on the social, cultural, and economic schisms behind the phenomenal rise of women in the workplace.

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Review:

Q&A with Alison Wolf

Q: What was the most surprising thing you found while researching The XX Factor?

A: The importance of pizza! The arrival of home deliveries transformed women's lives, and pizza came first. It was ready-cooked food that cut the time women spent on housework-washers, dryers and dishwashers had, amazingly, almost no effect at all on women's time. Less housework plus easy-to-buy hot food at the end of a working day, transformed women's ability to take demanding paid jobs. A lot of other things surprised me as well. For example, which women get married and when, the extraordinary number of female Chinese billionaires, and the fact that we are wrong about the common belief that women work more than men. But if I have to pick one, it has to be the pizza!

Q: You mention in The XX Factor that while the gender gap is narrowing among a select group of highly educated women, the gulf is widening among women themselves. What, if anything, can be done to help bridge the gap between these XX women and the rest of the "sisterhood?"

A: If we had domestic robots, the intelligent, flexible science fiction sort, then life would be very different. But we don't. Children have to be looked after, the old and the sick need care and nursing, and it is all seriously labor-intensive. The meals we eat out and order in don't cook or serve themselves either. Women and men who are making successful professional careers can only put in the hours and enjoy the lives they do because they can afford to offload a lot onto other people who are paid much less. I personally find it hard to imagine a world in which all the nurseries and kindergartens are staffed by men, the care assistants and housekeepers are men, and women have taken over trucking. So I think the majority of women will indeed continue to do traditional female tasks, which often pay much less, while the educated top fifth lead very different lives. At least until we get the robots.

Q: There have been many books published recently about women in the workplace, including Sheryl Sandberg's book Lean In. How does The XX Factor differ from those books?

A: First, I think I have lots of new things to say! But also, many books, including, of course, Lean In, are about how to beat the odds. They want to tell readers how it can be done. I think there are a lot of truly inspiring women in The XX Factor; but I've set out to describe and explain their success, not give direct advice. That said, if you understand our world better, you'll be better suited to deal with it. There is also a lot written about the glass ceiling, the Mommy track, and books about what is wrong and how to fix it. My book is very different from those, too. It is not about specific workplace problems facing women, but takes a really broad sweep: Where are we going? Are women's lives moving in the same direction everywhere, or is the U.S. following a different path? Why are things changing so much faster in the developing world than they did in the U.S. or in Europe? And The XX Factor also looks at women as a whole, not just at professionals. I don't think you can understand the lives of today's educated professional women without also understanding just how different they are from the majority of contemporary women. And how much they are like educated men.

Q: What's the single-most important take away that you'd like for readers to have after finishing your book?

A: I'd like them to look at the world a bit differently, and notice things they didn't before. I hope that reading The XX Factor will refocus everyday life, so it's clear how many surprising effects female employment has had, and keeps on having. For example, successful female bankers and lawyers wear expensive shoes with impractical very high heels. Elite campuses have a hook-up culture. When you have men and women of roughly the same intelligence going to school together, The Girl Scouts and other volunteer organizations are finding it hard to recruit leaders with less women available for volunteer activities. On almost all our streets and shopping centers, there has been a steady increase in the number of cheap-but-slightly-different restaurants cropping up. These are all things we have probably vaguely noticed. However, they not only make perfect sense but also fit together- or should once you've read the book! And I'm sure there is a lot more that I have missed and which XX Factor readers will spot.

Q: Based on your findings, what advice would you give young women who are looking to get into the workforce? What about women who are already embedded in the workforce?

A: Get a good education, from a school with a high reputation, is the conventional advice. It's conventional, and it's also right. But I'd also caution against too much of a good thing. One of the clouds on the horizon, for women, is the ever-lengthening period that people spend in formal education. Fine if we were immortal, but our biological clocks are ticking remorselessly. Second, if you have children, don't drop out of the workforce completely if you can help it, but don't panic if you do for a bit. There really is life after 40 or indeed 50, and increasingly so. Finally, in our brand new working world, families still make a huge difference-it's not families or success, in fact quite the reverse. In a tough world, families help define and support you and provide the real safety nets, just as they always have done. And of course, that's about giving as well as taking.

About the Author:

ALISON WOLF   is a British economist. She is currently  the Sir Roy Griffiths professor of public sector management  and has been a specialist adviser to the House of Commons  select committee on education and skills. In March 2011,  she completed the Wolf Review of Vocational Education for  the secretary of state for education. She writes widely for the  British press and is a presenter for analysis on BBC Radio 4.

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Wolf, Alison:
Verlag: Profile Books Ltd, 25.04.2013. (2013)
ISBN 10: 184668403X ISBN 13: 9781846684036
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Buchbeschreibung Profile Books Ltd, 25.04.2013., 2013. Buchzustand: Akzeptabel. 464 Seiten !! Cover geknickt!! Sofortversand! Gutes Exemplar, geringe Gebrauchsspuren, Cover/SU berieben/bestoßen, Schnitt/Papier nachgedunkelt, innen alles in Ordnung; good – edges/text pages yellowed/darkened Immediate delivery in bubble wrap envelope! Good copy, light signs of previous use, cover/dust jacket has some rubbing/wear (along the edges), edges/text pages show yellowing/darkening, interior in good condition 170920hh60 ISBN: 9781846684036 Alle Preise inkl. MwST Sprache: Englisch Gewicht in Gramm: 594 23,2 x 15,2 x 3,6 cm, Softcover Hardcover. Artikel-Nr. 436423

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