Long term unemployment and older women: a theory

A recent article in the New York Times reported that women over 50 have found it nearly impossible to re-enter the job market, even as the economy recovers from the Great Recession.  Theories abound – older women lack a rich pool of professional contacts to network; their job skills are rusty; they need flexible work schedules; they may not be able to relocate. But perhaps the real reason can be found in the picture that accompanied the Time’s article…

This is Chettie McAfee, 58. She lives in Seattle and was laid off from a job that she had 30 years. I do not know Ms. McAfee, but she looks like majestic – a force to be reckoned with. This is not the look of someone who suffers fools gladly. By hiring her – or someone like her – there is the very really risk that, some meeting, when a half baked proposal is made and everyone starts to run with it, she will speak up. She will want to understand the context. She’ll want to talk about long term consequences. She may do this in the nicest possible way. She may offer up alternatives and workarounds. She might, in the end, play along. But what she will not do, what she can not do, is play the part of the ingenue, and jump enthusiastically on a bandwagon just because everyone else is. In theory, this may be exactly what you want your employees to do, but isn’t it is just so much easier to hire younger people, people you can train?

The problem with hiring older women is that it’s like hiring your mom. Moms knows all about “multitasking in a fast paced, dynamic workplace.” Moms are self-starters, team players and individual contributors.  Moms know how wonderful, and foolish people can be. Moms know how to nurture. And Moms know how to get things done. But, it takes real courage to have your mom around.

A study published in the Harvard Business Review examined leadership effectiveness of men and women at all organizational levels across 16 core competencies. The authors of the study found that “at all levels, women are rated higher in fully 12 of the 16 competencies that go into outstanding leadership.” They recommended  “As leaders in organizations look hard to find the talent they need to achieve exceptional results, they ought to be aware that many women have impressive leadership skills…[that] are strongly correlated to organizational success factors such as retaining talent, customer satisfaction, employee engagement and profitability.”  In today’s economic climate, they concluded,  business leaders “would do well to avoid becoming complacent.” In other words, hire your mom.

On the Death of Fred Phelps

May he come to know the peace that passes all understanding. 

Mass GOP Tack to the Right Hurts Us All

With its overwhelming  approval of a red meat values plank in the party’s  platform last night, the Massachusetts Republican State Committee moved us closer to one party rule here in the Bay State.  Our civil life requires robust, honest and thoughtful discourse.  Having two legitimate political parties allows us to have a conversation across ideologies.  Without that tension, it becomes  harder for thoughtful Democrats to test our assumptions.  Instead of dialog, this platform leads us deeper into the echo chamber.


A Guy Walks into a Bar…

Let’s say that the bill passed by the Arizona legislature that allows businesses to refuse serve based on the owner’s religious is signed into law; how, exactly would it work?  A guy walks onto a bar – is he gay? straight? somewhere in between? Two women sit down in a coffee shop – are they lovers? friends? Who decides?  What if they’re wrong?

Blank Page Blues

Foundering in the empty white. The life altering choice of pens. Looking for a plot line to plumb. A character waits. Does the hero find a parking place, or does he have to circle the block, while the heroine leaves the coffee shop, and thus missing her and his fate entirely?

Words That Don’t Belong in the Same Sentence….

Body count, elementary school.

Much Madness

This morning I drove a friend to her doctor’s appointment at McLean Hospital, the nation’s first and finest mental hospital.  Robert Lowell spent time here.  So did Sexton and Plath, Ray Charles and James Taylor.  Some of the original buildings –  big red brick Victorian heaps, still stand.  With landscaping by Olmstead, madness seems elegant and refined. Once home, I looked up the poem by Dickinson –

Much Madness is divinest Sense –
To a discerning Eye –
Much Sense – the starkest Madness –
– Tis the Majority
In this, as all, prevail –
Assent – and you are sane –
Demur – you’re straightaway dangerous –
And handled with a Chain


Wild Kingdom Moments

Just before Thanksgiving, I nearly ran over a flock of wild turkeys in Belmont, a suburb just west of Boston.  I joked to my passenger that if I hadn’t already bought our turkey I would haven’t have stopped the car.

This afternoon I came home to a young Cooper’s hawk in the backyard with a fresh kill. The hawk and I watched each other.  Then he flew off with his prey, low just clearing the neighbor’s stockade fence.


Kids vs. Dogs

Parked in a driveway not far from the elementary school that my kids attend is a car with this bumper sticker.  While the folks who drive it  seem nice enough (he’s a Korean vet; I run into her occasionally at the grocery store; the son works at a nearby university.) the sentiment behind the bumper sticker nags at me.  It’s not that dogs aren’t great (friendly, loyal, fun-loving, social), and there are times when the company of a dog may be preferable to the company of people, and sure, I get the riff on all those “My child is an honor student at …” bumper stickers.  But still, comparing kids and dogs and having the dogs come out ahead? What’s wrong with this picture?

While dogs have many sterling qualities, who is more likely to discover the next wonder drug, a dog or someone who was once a kid? If you’re 50 or younger, the physician who attends you in your final days may have just started kindergarten.  The guy who manages your pension fund through your golden years could be one of those tweenies who hang out the the corner store. The driver who gets you to and from the senior center may not have been born yet.  Who offers more hope for the future? Your dog, or my honor student?

Ski Bums Never Die

Once you turn 80, lift tickets at Loon Mountain are $5…a good reason to just say NO to the rocking chair!

Kim Kircher

I recently watched this video, inspired all over again by these Canadian ski bums. Produced by Salomon Freeski TV last year, this video recaptures the love of the sport of skiing. These guys don’t allow grumpiness. And when they get to ski fresh lines all day long, I can see why. Oh, and I want to be Mary Woodward when I grow up.

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