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From the Author...
Penelope's Odyssey

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Two years ago, my daughter and I began an odyssey of sorts. My quest on this journey was to find the future for my children. They were approaching those milestone decision points where they would choose their first career targets. The realization, that my own days of exploring the academic and corporate worlds had produced no viable life that I could wish for them, made the corporate games I was playing then come to an abrupt halt.

The ideas that I wanted to advocate for them, were recent additions to my repertoire. These concepts looked so appealing, so right, compared to the mainstream that it was easy to see why they were growing but hard to see where they would go. Could they withstand the assaults of the mainstream they threatened? Would they hold a viable route while these concepts struggled for assured status? Or would they vanish like the proverbial wormhole leading all on the path to oblivion?

While I was searching for a way to explore these routes myself, while I was still able, my own unfinished business in the world of women´s work provided the missing link and I began work on a book that was to be the opening gambit of my venture into publishing. The whole picture somehow involved several dimensions: women´s struggle with corporate inequity, corporate greed struggling with environmental, economic and social justice, a woman´s home that took care of her and her loved ones, and finding community with kindred souls.

We experimented by joining an intentional community in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia while I began writing and my daughter tried her wings in local theater. Our experience in ´unschooling´ and ´voluntary simplicity´ stood us in good stead as we explored the neo-hippie world of community, alternative agriculture, and artist colony camaraderie. Meanwhile, my contacts in the women´s movement began to confirm my suspicions that either fatigue or excessive, unsatisfied desires were allowing our ´leadership´ to flounder.

Women in academia were so eager to have young women to follow them that they had exaggerated the opportunities that young women could count on for future careers. The generational turnover of tenured staff in the 90´s was knowingly overstated and the obvious tactic of the universities to replace them with adjuncts was ignored. In my own field of math and science, there´s a continuing downward trend in career opportunities except in engineering, but young women are still being encouraged to prepare for traditional lab careers even though such economic vulnerability on top of their likely desire for motherhood will nearly guarantee their demise.

At the Department of Labor, the Women´s Bureau held a teleconference to tell women what they could expect for the foreseeable future. They predicted that women, as well as men, should expect to have to change employers eight or nine times in their careers because the corporate world was engaged in a battle for competitiveness and would be shedding employees whenever it was expedient. Women were supposed to repeatedly train for new jobs just to keep pace. The carrot to go with the stick was the purported growth expected in family-friendly initiatives. To anyone not asleep at the switch it would have been apparent that companies cutting corners on employees they expect to dump in a couple years have no incentive to invest in such initiatives. The reality of the government´s cynicism became apparent when our call to their on-screen number from which they supposedly took questions yielded only an answering machine. With an out-of-date message, at that.

Meanwhile, in the business world, the numbers showed that the last twenty years of our struggle for parity have produced only a dime´s improvement. Research presented at one of last spring´s Women´s Studies Presents sessions by sociologist Paula Dubeck showed that top management now was choosing their successors from among the men most like themselves in the corporation with the impunity of claims that their vital functions could not be handicapped by making them work with women more qualified. There will be no change in the glass ceiling for another twenty years. The parallels with trench warfare are unmistakable. To break out of this impasse will require the social and economic equivalent of guerrilla tactics.

A possible plan began to take shape in which women could turn the corporate juggernaut from the economic, social, and environmentally destructive paths they have taken. The route we would choose for ourselves would allow us to explore more viable lifestyles longterm in which women truly have a chance to ´have it all´ and at the same time deprive those destructive influences of our support for their blueprint. The beauty of the scheme is that we should see the impact in just a few years, maybe four or five, and that if the juggernaut persists in the face of futility til some of the repercussions of their destructive ventures come home to haunt our civilization on a grand scale, we will have built our own alternative economic and social networks to cushion ourselves and our children from the fate that usually befalls us whenever there´s chaos in society.

What I´m suggesting is a massive exodus of women, and men, from the ´job-route´ and their establishment in various forms of self-employment, the one area of our experience over the past twenty years in which women have been thriving. Demographics, the growing acceptance of home-based businesses, the existing networks of independent women, and students´ sentiments on campus, all predict success. The Women´s Strike for Peace bringing McCarthyites to their political knees was a perfect example of how an informal consensus among women can defeat institutionalized insanity in high places without funding, without sponsorship or approval of any kind. It can be done again.

Granted, my dissertation was mathematics but my corporate skills were in decision support and business strategy, and the opportunities for action, let alone the justification, are in front of us. We only need to devote our creativity to a more productive ´offensive´. My book, now titled Token Woman: The One That Got Away, supports this premise and is scheduled for release in the fall. My trial-runs continue this summer at NKU on mobilizing young people and have been very successful for the first phase and could be expanded widely. Another phase of the plan, to accelerate an existing trend, is coming along more or less on schedule. What I hope for today is to open a dialogue on what we can do. So much is doable.

On the ´web´, I´ve found others like ourselves discussing women´s direction. Futurists, professionals from GBN (Global Business Networks), have also concluded that the officially expected slow glide to equality is not going to take place. Their alternative scenarios (see their book The Future of Women: Scenarios for the 21st Century by Pamela McCorduck and Nancy Ramsey) give us some idea of what we could face if we don´t take the initiative. Let´s begin.

Others are accumulating lists of women-friendly employers and universities as well as lists of role models and contacts. An institute to focus our creative energies on our needs and desires, ways to target our impact without asking anyone to do anything beyond what fits with their circumstances, their benefit, but alerting them to possible hazards and establishing multiple links to ensure our communications abilities, mobilizing our political resources and our worst-case fallbacks. Let´s gather the women here to talk tactics.

© JHRaichyk
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J.H.Raichyk, Ph.D.
Dectiri Publishing
4263 Ferguson Dr Ste#2
Cincinnati, OH 45245
(Asst Prof, SUNY Brockport, 1970-72 Tutor, University of Toronto, Erindale College, 1972-75 Commercial Union Canada, 1975-82, Head of Operations Research, creating actuarial programs, decision support, expert systems and mathematical modeling, Federated Department Stores, 1983-95, Director of Research Services, Manager of Database Services, creating statistical analyses, computer simulations, database services, financial reporting; Founder of Dectiri Publishing, 1996-...)
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