I think you’re (repeatedly) (willfully) missing the point…

Well, it’s been another week, and so far, so ranty.

I read Lorna Campbell’s excellent blog post on sustaining an ethic of care in HE. In it she called out many of the existing inequities that have been exacerbated by COVID.

“Meanwhile the pandemic has only exacerbated the inequalities that already exist in the system. Journal submissions from women scholars have fallen off a cliff, fixed term teaching contracts have been terminated, disproportionately affecting women, BAME colleagues and early career academics, and women are still carrying the invisible emotional burden of a system and a society under profound stress.

We’ve all had to adapt to the new normal and to do what we can to get by. But my concern is that the new normal still isn’t normal, and perhaps more importantly, it’s also not sustainable.  This level of physical, mental and emotional labour can’t be sustained in the long term without it taking a considerable toll.”

This week I also had yet another email from a training company marketing programmes of development courses for women leaders in higher education (buy now! before prices rise!). I saw red, and shared my thoughts with some of the very excellent women leaders I work with at Athabasca University (which, btw is notable both for having majority women leadership in both senior academic and administrative roles, and one of the lowest gender pay gaps in Canadian academia).

“I’ve had the same info direct from [training company] and I’m going to share here that I am at a point in my career when I’m sick fed up of it being women who always go on the courses, when we know many of the issues that women in leadership roles face are systemic. Whilst I appreciate the importance of peer networks for supporting women who are facing challenges, why do we have to do all the work and all the extra training in order to navigate a system that is often stacked against us? Look at the list of courses they offer. They’re targeting women leaders with courses on [a course about championing minorities and women in the workplace]. Why is this uniquely our job as women leaders? Do they explicitly market this course to male leaders?

I am tired of the emotional labour that becomes implicitly part of the role of women leaders. It makes the job harder, bigger, and more exhausting which further perpetuates inequity rather than solves it.

I have previously asked [training company] whether they have any programmes or offerings for men in leadership roles on how to foster inclusive workplaces, or how to be a good ally. They said there has been interest in these sorts of offerings and so they might develop something in the future. Basically they kicked it into the long grass.

Anyway, it makes me cross, and it makes me more cross that companies like [training company] whilst seeming to offer supports, actually just perpetuate the status quo with this kind of thing.”

I was also reminded of the Zemos98 Pedagogy of Care document that Mia Zamora shared again recently in a Twitter group that’s kept me sane during these last few months.

“When we don’t acknowledge care practices as one of the main social capitals in our organisations, we are delegating it to women, who traditionally have carried this burden. This not only leads to inequality but also has a bad effect on any organisation’s sustainability. Social organisations that don’t talk about care (or just use it as makeup to obscure harmful power dynamics among members) run a constant risk of burnout for those in charge of it:they will participate less and in worse conditions,and eventually they will find other spaces where they feel more welcome. Addressing care in both a material and symbolic way means redistributing power, making your organisation more democratic and more sustainable for the years and struggles to come.”

…yet the hot-takes abound, and the screaming in my head is just getting louder.