Archive for July, 2009
As President Barack Obama and Congress wrestle with the difficult details of health care reform, various politicians and pundits warn that no legislation will pass unless voters first can understand “What’s In It for Me?” The “me,” of course, is the majority of Americans who already have some form of insurance and are generally satisfied with their care. It is not the 47 million uninsured, who evidently do not have enough electoral clout to matter. But I wonder–are we Americans really so cold-hearted that self-interest is all that matters when it comes to national policy?
As parents, most of us teach our children from their earliest years about empathy, about considering the feelings and needs of others. We urge them to donate at church, volunteer in the community, raise money for their school, join sports team where the whole is more important than the individual. Once they become voters, are they supposed to forget all that?
As Washington Post colmunist Ezra Klein asks, What Happened To The Moral Case For Health Care? The same could be asked about the moral case for climate change regulation, immigration reform, tax policy, education financing and any number of other public issues.
I’d like to believe the talking heads on TV, the pollsters and the politicians, are underestimating the American spirit. After all, the moral case certainly carries weight in every other nation; Why not here? At the moment I’m reading The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper and Fairer Health Care, by T.R. Reid, an excellent book that I will soon review for BusinessWeek. Reid, a former Washington Post reporter, investigates health care systems around the world in an effort to understand why other nations have better medical outcomes for half the cost of the U.S. All the advanced countries he visits have universal health care in some form or another–that is, every resident is guaranteed access to affordable, high quality medical treatment. The one exception, of course, is the U.S.
One common denominator he found in all the countries he visited is that there is a sense of shared responsibility. Here’s a French professor on the subject:
“The solidarity principle,” explains Professor Rodwin, “requires mutual aid and cooperation among the sick and the well, the inactive and the active, the poor and the wealthy, and insists on financing health insurance on the basis of ability to pay, not actuarial risk.”
Or listen to Reid’s conclusions about Taiwan and Switzerland, two countries that only in the last 20 years instituted universal health care (proving that systems can change even in the me-decades of the late 20th century):
Both countries decided that society has an ethical obligation — as a matter of justice, of fairness, of solidarity — to assure everybody has access to medical care when it’s needed. The advocates of reform in both countries clarified and emphasized that moral issue much more than the nuts and bolts of the proposed reform plans. As a result, the national debate was waged around ideals like “equal treatment for everybody,” “we’re all in this together,” and “fundamental rights” rather than on the commercial implications for the health care industry.
For a window into the American approach, Reid includes a case study of Nikki White, a U.S. taxpayer who was diagnosed with lupus shortly after she graduated from college. Though a serious chronic disorder of the immune system, lupus can be managed with drugs, but they are costly. But once she was diagnosed she lost the health insurance she had gotten through her new job, and Nikki wasn’t poor enough to qualify for Medicaid. She could not afford all the drugs, tests and doctor appointments she needed and as a result suffered a seizure due to kidney failure. The emergency room had to treat her under federal law, and over the next 10 weeks she underwent 25 operations in an attempt to undo the damage of delayed medical care. It was too late, and she died in 2006 at age 32. “Nikki didn’t die from lupus,” her doctor told Reid. “Nikki died from complications of the failing American health care system.”
A French primary care doctor said of her country’s health care system, “Everybody must have equal right to the best medical treatment we can provide…Surely that is the basic rule of health care in every country.” Surely, but why not here?
Harold Pollack, a University of Chicago professor, wonders if the debate should be reframed, in The New Republic blog The Treatment:
In conceding ground to a dry policy discourse that downplays the moral urgency of collective obligation, we unilaterally surrender some of the best moral and political arguments for health reform. It’s a genuine dilemma. We must legislate in the society we actually have, not in the society as we wish it to be. So we present a rather cold-hearted calculus to sell humane policies. This isn’t a stupid calculation, but I’m starting to think it is the wrong approach.
What do you think? Do we really only care about what’s in it for me? Do the lessons we teach our children somehow disappear as we grow up?
And if not, how do we chnage the debate to one of shared responsibility?
My daughter has swine flu. That we can deal with. But keeping a 16-year-old isolated for seven days and making sure the rest of our family doesn’t get it? Now that’s a challenge. Amid new reports that swine flu could eventually affect 40% of Americans if vaccine campaigns and efforts to slow it fail, families like mine are finding out firsthand what it takes to slow the spread of the highly contagious H1N1 virus. Armed with facemasks, wipes, latex gloves, and prophylactic doses of Tamiflu –even living apart until my daughter recovers—the four of us are holding our breaths that we’ll be contagion-free in time for a big family wedding in a week. With swine flu, it seems, that’s no sure bet.
Like scores of summer programs across the country this year, my daughter’s three-week summer session on Duke University’s East Campus took the extra precaution of closing early because of an outbreak of the virus. When I got the call to come get her (I was visiting my parents’ retirement community, where my frail dad is in skilled care), she was fine, just sad to be saying goodbye to new friends, a stimulating class, and campus rituals she’d been anticipating. Scrambling to make arrangements for my 11-year-old (and with my husband back in New Jersey working), I made the 4-hour drive to Durham the next day. Midway through the trip she called—she was achy, should she go to the office, where they would quarantine her? Yes, get checked out, I told her. She called back in tears. “My temperature is 99.3.”
By the time I arrived an hour later, my daughter’s temperature had climbed a degree. When she stepped out of the quarantine room, her skin clearly clammy, her eyes sad above her facemask, I stopped, at a loss. Do I hug her and hold her close, like I always do when she needs comforting, or do I keep my distance and protect myself, the only caregiver for both my kids on this trip? Hours later, I still regretted not rushing up to hug her. I kept my distance—though not for long. Wearing a mask offered by the office, I finally held her. As we made our way to the van, she skirted the clumps of students hugging goodbye, saying her farewells through the mask.
Hundreds of miles from our pediatrician, and fearing the risks to my elderly parents, I arranged an appointment for her at Duke’s student health center. An hour later, we walked out with the verdict that she had “all the classic signs of swine flu,” a prescription for Tamiflu, a promise of test results, and orders to keep her in isolation for seven days, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. In close quarters in the minivan on the way back, she went through a box of tissues while I ran through all the possible permutations of isolation. Throwing caution to the wind, I suppose, I drove without the facemask—how could we sing the lyrics of Hair together through the masks? But she was too sick to sing, and preferred softer music. And I forgot about the mask.
Trying to minimize the chance that anyone else will get sick, we’ve decided not to return home right away (a 12-hour road trip can’t be good for recovery, much less for reducing exposure to the virus; do you expose travelers at a rest stop to a masked kid with swine flu? In fact, the CDC recommends patients avoid travel.). We’re fortunate: We have our own quarantine house, the original homestead on my brother’s Blue Ridge acreage where we stay when we visit. My brother has offered to keep my son at his house while we remain isolated. We disinfect door handles, phones, and other surfaces; I wear a mask when I briefly see my brother or his wife, and am taking Tamiflu. As long as I don’t develop symptoms, it should be fine for me to be with the rest of my family, but we remain afraid I could transmit the virus to others. With frail, elderly parents, we feel we can’t be too cautious, so for now I’m remaining isolated with my daughter. But are we going too far? As a mother, should I be caring solely for the sick child while letting other family members care for the healthy one?
The highly contagious nature of the H1N1 virus makes it a challenge our family has never faced. Already I’ve violated one of the CDC’s recommendations for caretakers: “Avoid close contact (less than about 6 feet away) with the sick person as much as possible.” Maybe I should have worn that mask in the minivan after all—though time will soon tell. Readers, any suggestions?
It’s unofficially eldercare week here at Working Parents. This guest post is written by Julie Davis, the managing editor at Parentgiving.com, a web resource for boomers and their aging parents.
They sat you down for the talk when you were a kid. Now it’s time to return the favor.
Unfortunately, many of us would rather talk about sex with mom and dad than the topic of this conversation: their plans for managing the last act of their lives—where they hope to live, who will care for them if they can’t take care of their daily needs, how they will pay for assisted living if they are unable to stay in their home.
These are not easy questions to ask. The more independent-minded your parents, the less comfortable they might feel sharing this information with you. And your interest may be misinterpreted as butting in, especially if you show up with all the answers.
You may not even be ready for the talk yourself. Some of us still think of our parents as there to take care of us in a crisis and haven’t yet wrapped our minds around to the possibility of our having to care for them. I certainly haven’t. When, in the course of three months, I had to have emergency surgery, replace our home’s water well pump, learned our dog had to have a tumor removed along with the toe it was growing on and had our daughter come back from college for a summer internship only to find out she had to have all four wisdom teeth out immediately, I cried uncle (except it sounded more like “Daddy”).
Another reason this conversation is hard to have is because it forces everyone involved to acknowledge that there are end-of-life issues to address, the possibility of a disabling illness and the certainty of death. As much as we wish it for ourselves and for our parents, we won’t all be blessed with a long healthy life during which we stay relatively functional until the day when we peacefully pass away in our sleep, right next to the envelope with all the necessary documents our heirs will need to settle our estate which, in this perfect scenario, won’t have been decimated by home health care bills or years at a nursing home.
Compounding the awkwardness, the best time to sit down and learn about your parents’ wishes and the provisions they might have made is when it feels the most inopportune: when everything is fine, when you think, “Knock on wood, they’re doing great—I’m not going to jinx it.” The worst time is when the inevitable crisis happens and you are the proverbial deer in the headlights. A crisis comes in many shapes and sizes, from an Alzheimer’s diagnosis to the call from a hospital admitting manager telling you your parent is in intensive care following a stroke, a fall, a heart attack.
Parentgiving.com was started because the founders had crises with parents and had to make snap decisions. They couldn’t easily find all the resources they needed in that instant. And when you’re operating in panic mode you don’t have the luxury of being sure you evaluated all the options and made all the best decisions.
Are your parents old enough for the talk? The short answer is, if you’re old enough to be reading this, they’re old enough for this kind of conversation. And there are compelling reasons to talk about future issues now. The sooner a plan is in place, the more time there is to figure out the costs and how to fund it. The reality is most people have no idea just how expensive living longer is.
This entry was written by Gloria G. Barsamian (pictured below), author of a new book; Sustenance and Hope for Caregivers of Elderly Parents; The Bread of Angels (Praeger Press)
The world’s baby boomers will triple by the year 2050. Many boomers are finding caretaking a challenging and sometimes bewildering experience.
All of us will eventually be caretaking or care receiving as the longevity revolution continues into the 21st century. Increasing longevity raises the prospect that two generations within a single family may need caregiving, placing increasing and potentially impossible burdens on those who may find themselves caring for both parents and grandparents. As more and more of us find ourselves in the role of caregiver or care receiver, we need to take a fresh look at the challenges inherent in such relationships, but we also need a new vision of caregiving: one that emphasizes the potential rewards, emotional and spiritual, that can accompany this most demanding of life’s challenges.
Millions of Americans will end up in a caregiving or care-receiving situation eventually. Apprehension is understandable. How will we balance our own families, careers, and retirement dreams with the demands of caregiving? How will it interrupt our lives or defer our dreams? How will the emotional toll affect our families and ourselves? Will we have the emotional strength to provide care if a parent is debilitated for a long time?
These are some of the natural questions that almost all of us ask ourselves. Typically, however, families do not address these complex issues until the crisis is upon them. It’s crucial that families, if at all possible, begin the caregiving discussion well before a parent becomes ill.
The typical caregiving situation is an adult child caring for an elderly parent, yet there are many permutations. For example, a parent might find him- or herself caring for both an adult child and that adult child’s family; a spouse can be caring for his or her mate; or a grandchild may be caring for a grandparent. Regardless of the exact caregiving situation, this kind of early discussion can be very helpful.
Many families find opening the conversation about caregiving requires a shift from long-established family dynamics that have prevented the family members from relating to each other. But once the conversation is in the open, the relationship between family members can be enriched and deepened. For caregivers and receivers, once new dynamics are established, the process becomes something to no longer fear. If a discussion starts early enough with the purpose of creating reciprocal advantages for both generations, caregiving can become a long-awaited and well-prepared source of renewal and meaning for both the caregiver and the care-receiver.
Barsamian spent twenty-eight years as the first medical social worker at the Lahey Clinic in Massachusetts. She organized and implemented the first department of social work at the hospital and became known to families under stress as the person of whom to turn. She conducted individual and family therapy with patients. No amount of research, however, prepared her for the task of care giving until her own parents and husband became ill.
This item was written by Will Andrews, managing editor of BusinessWeek’s Investing channel.
I guess you’ve heard by now about McGraw-Hill Companies’ decision to “explore its strategic options” for BusinessWeek, which is a corporate way of saying that our future is up for grabs. Inevitably, some of the news stories in the days that followed referred to the publication’s age – 80 years old – and the circumstances of its birth, namely that it was launched right around the start of the Great Depression.
That part of the story struck a chord in me. For just as the folks at BW are wondering about the future of our long-lived enterprise, my family is preparing to celebrate the 80th birthday of another Depression baby: My mother.
Like BW, my mom has seen her share of triumphs and setbacks through the years. (Thankfully, she never wrote a Death of Equities story.) She was the first member of her family to attend college, graduating with a degree in physics in 1951. She immediately went to work for Brookhaven National Laboratory as the Atomic Age was in full bloom (when I tell people that my mother was a rocket scientist, I’m not joking).
She later married my father and left the lab to become a homemaker, conducting an even greater experiment: the care, feeding, and education of seven children on a teacher’s salary. My mom had the knack of somehow “making each feel like an only child,” as one sibling put it.
With the last of the children off to school, my mother re-entered the workforce for her third career, as an educator. (I remember her sometimes coming home with white chalk on the back of her blue jacket, a dusty badge of honor for drilling proofs and formulae into countless young minds.) Though we were devastated by the death of my father at age 52, my mom soldiered on with the pluck, resourcefulness, and religious faith that have been her hallmark throughout her life.
She pulled off one more nifty trick in the years that followed: retiring at age 55. Since then, my Mom has been a great many things: World traveler, math tutor, tireless volunteer, choir member, social director for church groups, and anything else you may need if you’re ever in a jam.
For the purposes of this blog, I salute my mother as a working parent, and an exemplary one at that. But I’ll sneak in another tribute: Along with my dad, she helped spark the curiosity and love of learning that helped make me what I am today.
So happy birthday, Mom. I’m looking forward to a big, lively celebration this weekend. And perhaps my mother, well known for dispensing largely sagacious advice to her children, will have a few useful insights for the other 80-year old -– and the people who give it life – as they ponder their future.
When I first learned earlier this week that McGraw-Hill was “exploring strategic options” for BusinessWeek, I felt fear. Then I thought: “What will I tell my daughter?” And the fear turned to panic. After all, the news meant that the job of the parent she lives with could very well be in jeopardy.
But somehow, that question morphed into “What can I teach my child?” And the panic subsided somewhat. Once again, as has often happened during tough times, remembering my other job—that of a parent who sets examples (a recent Working Parent blog touched on this)—steadied me. If we are to go through this upheaval, how do we make use of it?
So in the last three days, as the news sank in, I’ve come up with some potential lessons for my 15-year-old, which will help in the talk I will have with her when she comes back from camp three weeks from now.
How to go outside your comfort zone: I haven’t had to look for a job in a while. And getting my current one was an easy step from being a reporter with The Wall Street Journal. I barely missed a beat making the transition to a job that allowed me to stay in the thick of journalism and at a place where quality journalism was valued yet be able to give my kid a home with the structure of a regular schedule. But should I have to look for a job now, my search could very well go beyond journalism. How I manage that change would provide my daughter with a template of how she could reinvent herself, as would probably be required of her many times in the course of her work life.
How to prioritize: We already closely watch what we spend, forgoing many luxuries. Now we might have to choose among what we’ve taken for granted as being part of our lives, if not necessities: Cable? Cleaning lady? Summer camp? How I tackle those choices could teach my kid much about not avoiding hard decisions.
How to keep growing: Not that I haven’t kept growing as my job morphed, expanding from print media to digital, encompassing copyediting and blogging. I’ve also changed personally—being a parent keeps you growing as the object of your attention changes and throws up trickier challenges—and I’ve used those interpersonal skills honed in the domestic front to be a better professional (Not an unusual occurrence, as this book and this book can attest). Now I could be getting new skills—or sharpening old ones—by being in a fresh arena.
As you could tell, this is a pep talk to myself as well as an itemization of lessons for my daughter. For parents who’ve feared for your jobs or undergone the crisis of losing them, how have you turned the experience into one that your kid could use?
Does work-life balance exist?
By now, you’ve probably gleaned that former General Electric (GE) chairman Jack Welch doesn’t think so. On June 28, during a speech at the Society for Human Resource Management’s annual conference, Welch said, “There’s no such thing as work-life balance,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “There are work-life choices, and you make them, and they have consequences.” Welch also said those women who take time off for family could be passed over for promotions if “you’re not there in the clutch.”
The work-life debate has raged for decades, but Welch’s comments are making people focus on the ongoing discussion now because he is a corporate celebrity as well as a respected management guru. (Welch, who is currently in the hospital for a spinal infection, is also a BusinessWeek contributor.)
I also think the work-life topic is under intense scrutiny right now because of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor’s workaholic ways.
I actually agree with Welch that we need to stop talking about balance and shift the conversation to another framework. So do many of the experts I know in this field. For example, Work+Life Fit’s Cali-Williams Yost says: “The quicker we stop thinking there is a right answer or “balance”, the quicker we will begin to see that every one of us has a different work+life fit at different times in our lives.”
As I’ve said before, work-life balance needs to be redefined. Unfortunately, it’s hard to change the conversation. The working public still prefers to describe the way they mesh out-of-office life with their jobs as “work-life balance.” Some 46% of respondents said they like the term “work-life balance” best in a 2008 poll conducted by the Sloan Work and Family Research Network, a research center for work and family issues at Boston College. The runner up? “Work-life integration” with 25% of the vote. (“Work-life juggle” came in third, with 8% of the vote.)
Enough about semantics.
What’s more important here is that Welch also raises the notion that women cannot get ahead unless they make sacrifices. Indeed, we know from research that the Motherhood Penalty exists. As the MamaBee notes, mothers earn 27% less than their equally qualified male counterparts. “While there are women who leave the workforce, that doesn’t explain why only 2.4% of Fortune 1000 companies have female CEOs; for the most part women in the running for those jobs are not taking significant time off,” she says.
Even so, Ann Carlsen, founder and CEO of Carlsen Resources, wrote on the Wall Street Journal’s Juggle blog that people who have espoused work-life balance, not to mention the rights of women in the workplace, should feel thankful for Jack Welch’s comments.
Welch and his peers are a fundamental reason why this country finds itself so in need of such balance. Old-school, war-is-hell corporate types like Welch often seem to long for the days in the American workplace so lovingly portrayed in “Mad Men;” when men were men, women were accessories, and work and play operated under the same basic principle: if it doesn’t hurt, you’re not doing it right. And now, with the recession challenging so many of our current, more enlightened beliefs, while at the same time threatening many of the advances we’ve made in the American workplace, I can’t help feel that Welch took the occasion to speak with impunity, and by doing so, exposed for us the dinosaur he is. It feels a little like Toto pulling back the curtain on the Wizard.
What do you think of Welch’s comments? Are you thankful that he is raising these issues now? Has it made an impact on the work-life balance debate?
UPDATE: After I posted this, a colleague pointed out that Jack’s wife Suzy said (via Twitter): Jack “certainly would NEVER say all/none. It’s a pity WSJ insisted on running story w/o Jack comment and over my objections.”
This item was written by Savita Iyer-Ahrestani. She is a freelance financial journalist now living in The Netherlands who guest blogs for Working Parents.
The greatest thrill about going back to school has always been stocking up on new school supplies. Even before school breaks for the summer, the stores fill up with colorful folders and notebooks, cool backpacks, funky new pens. There are clothes that have to be bought, shoes that have to be had.
This year, is no exception. The stores are still laying it all out but the difference is that fewer people are buying.
According to a new survey just released by the National Retail Federation (NRF), in conjunction with consumer habits research firm Big Research, spending on school supplies is set to fall this year. The average family with students in grades K-12, the survey states, is expected to spend $548.72 on school merchandise — a decline of 7.7% from 2008.
“The rules of back-to-school shopping have officially changed: buy only what you need, check for coupons and sales before hitting the stores, and, if you can find the perfect computer at the right price, grab it!,” the NRF states in its press release.
According to the NRF, four out of five Americans (85%) have made some changes to back-to-school plans this year as a result of the downturn. “Some of those changes impact spending, with 56.2% of back-to-school shoppers hunting for sales more often and 49.6% planning to spend less overall,” the organization says. Also, 41% percent of people will be looking for more store brand/generic products and 40% are planning to increase their use of coupons.
Going further, some folks are saying that the economy has impacted their lifestyle decisions: In NRF’s survey, 11.4% of respondents say they will cut back on extracurricular activities or sports and 5.7% say that the state of the economy is impacting whether their children will attend a private or public school.
As I prepare to move across the ocean back to the U.S., I have cleared a lot of stuff out of my apartment, giving much away to charity. Once again, I am amazed at all that I have managed to amass in two years, but in this move – my fourth one in four years, as readers of my previous columns will know – I have also found that my friends have asked me for more stuff than they probably would have in the past. Lights, for instance, and kitchenware. A standing fan. An inflatable bed. A blender.
I, too, have decided to keep more stuff than I would probably have in the past. The backpack my son has used for two years, for example, should do just fine for next year as well after a wash. In my last move, I might have thrown it away. Ditto for the lunchboxes my kids have been using. We have tons of color pencils and markers and I have, in the past, just chucked. But this time, I have actually gone through and taken out the ones that worked. Sharpened the pencils and put them neatly into Ziploc bags to bring with me.
Not knowing what my work situation, and hence my economic situation will be when I get back to the U.S., I am sure I will also be restrictive in the number of extra-curriculars my children do. There’s no debating that they’re going to public school, of course.
What are you cutting back on this year? Will you be getting your children to reuse some of their stuff from last year? How easy or difficult is it to resist the lure of the back-to-school department in your local stores?
We’ve all been there. You’re in a public place and you notice a parent loudly berating or even worse, hitting, a young child. The parent’s behavior seems over-the-top, but what should you do? Most of us shift are feet uncomfortably and move on. Perhaps we try to shame the parent with a harsh glance, typically unnoticed or ignored.
New York Times City Room blogger Spence Helperin faced just this situation on the subway recently, and wrote about it in Complaint Box/Defending A Child. He was watching a young mother slap her toddler over and over, and her friend joined in when the child started crying. After eight slaps, he interfered.
“Stop hitting that child!”
Who said that? Stepping toward her, I took a dive off a sky-high cliff — and there was no way back.
“Who are you to tell me not to hit my kid? She’s my kid!”
“Don’t hit that child again or I will call the police!”
“I will hit my child if I want. I know how to hit my child. Go ahead and call the police!”
She stopped hitting the child because she was now directing her anger at me. The girl stopped crying. She watched and listened. I moved back to my side of the subway car.
A woman sitting nearest to the young mother started a quieter conversation with her. I could not hear the entire thing, but it was clear that this woman, in her 50s, was counseling her on how to handle an unruly child without hitting.
“You don’t know me,” the younger woman said to the older one. “You don’t know my child.”
The car doors opened at the next stop. The entire car seemed to be watching the young mother, the older woman and me. Two young guys patted me on the back as they exited and said, “Good work, man.”
I exited the car. The mother maintained eye contact with me as the doors closed — with fury and threat in her gaze.
He had publicly shamed her, but acknowledged that he didn’t know if that would make the mother think twice before hitting again, or take her now even greater anger out on the child behind closed doors. He also noted that he was one of only two people out of about 30 on that subway car that tried to intervene. And he wondered if race played a part–he is white, as were the men who patted him on the back. The mother, and the older woman who tried to counsel her, were African American.
I don’t know the answer here. Many commenters to the City Room blog suggested calling the police, while others noted that once the police are involved the child’s life could become even worse if she ends up in foster care (though as someone with a foster sister I resent the implication that all foster homes are a nightmare). I once called the police when I saw a child locked in a car and screaming hysterically. I waited a good 20 minutes and no one came, and I needed to get to an appointment. Should I have waited longer? I’ve often wondered.
Readers, what do you think is best? Have you ever interfered and have your actions turn out for the better for the child? Or the worse?
For more reactions, Jezebel also wrote about Halperin’s blog entry in When Do You Stop One Abuse, and Can You Stop An Abuser? Some good comments there.
This entry is written by BusinessWeek contributing editor Mark Hyman who is the author of Until It Hurts (Beacon), a book about impact of parents, coaches and other adults on youth sports.
Difficult to argue with the transformational power of Title IX on girls’ participation in organized sports. As noted in Until It Hurts (page 45, if you’re reading along): “The year Title IX took effect, 1972, boys playing high school sports outnumbered girls by twelve to one. Twenty years later, the edge had shrunk to fewer than three boys for every girl. The latest statistics from the National Federal of State High School Associations show girls comprising about 40 per cent of high school athletes.”
All the more puzzling then that female coaches have achieved such modest gains and, in some cases, actually lost ground. Nicole LaVoi, associate director of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls and Women in Sports, has been tracking this stat. So have other sport researchers including pioneers in the field, Vivian Acosta and Linda Carpenter. Last month, I visted Nicole at the Tucker Center’s home base, the University of Minnesota, to hear more.
Before we go trumpeting across-the-board equality for women in organized sports, consider this:
At the college level, just 21 per cent of all men’s and women’s teams are coached by females. Less than half of WOMEN’S teams – 41 per cent – are coached by females. Prior to the enactment of Title IX in 1972, more than 90 per cent of head coaches in women’s sports were females, according to data from Acosta and Carpenter.
LaVoi and Mike Messner, the noted kids sports researcher and professor of gender studies at the University of Southern California, each has extended the coaching analysis to rec sports. They’ve found women under represented there too.
LaVoi’s survey of the Minnesota Youth Soccer Association showed 15 per cent of head coaches were women – 24 per cent for girls teams, five per cent for boys. Messner studied a Southern California youth sports community, reporting that just 13 per cent of head coaches in the American Youth Soccer organization there were women. I highly recommend Mike’s recent book on these issues: It’s All for the Kids: Gender, Families and Youth Sports.
What this means for girls’/women’s participation overall in youth sports is unknown but not too difficult to surmise. Seems to me the situation is self-perpetuating. Fewer female role models on the sidelines means fewer girls aspiring to one day become coaches.