Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Pay Inequity?? In 2014??


If it wasn’t for the thin, high definition TV, I’d be convinced I traveled back in time. News stories about fair pay for women?? Women claiming that pay inequity is good for all women because it’s easier to catch a man if you make less? What is going on here? And why are there politicians coming out with these opinions in 2014? Do the Republicans think that a return to the mythical 50’s is the right direction for this country?

For the sake of full disclosure, I will admit that my opinions have changed over the years. I tell myself that this is mostly due to wisdom, but the reality is that I’ve changed. Some of the change has been for the better and some for the worse, but I’ve changed. My opinion on this topic hasn’t changed. In the 70’s and 80’s in northern Minnesota (that was still socially trapped in the 50’s and 60’s but without the whole free love thing), pay inequality was not a big issue because women weren’t allowed to have the same jobs as men. Let that sink in. 

I knew my mom was having a rough time getting work, but when I worked with her in the same resort, she made more than me. Of course I was a fifteen-year-old bus boy, but my point is that this issue never came up in conversation or through my observation.

My next real job experience was the Army. I was stationed here and there for training and did some Temporary Duty (TDY) in a few other places, but spent most of my time on the East coast. I heard about the issue for the first time out there, where the 80’s were actually the 80’s. It made no sense to me. In the Army, a private got a private’s pay. Gender played no role. We didn’t have a lot of women in uniform, maybe twenty five percent, but I saw female officers and senior NCO’s and they all got paid the exact same as their male counterparts. I was aware that there was a glass ceiling issue for female officers in the General ranks, but that seemed so far away from my reality that I had a hard time caring. Few of anyone except West Point ring knockers made General. Most hit the ceiling at Major or Lieutenant Colonel, regardless of gender. But I digress. My point is that there may have been a lot of inequality or lack of promotion in the Army, but I didn’t see it and my simplistic view was that all E-5 Sergeants with 4 years of service made the exact same thing.

The equality in pay was a cause for my frustration on more than one occasion. As a private in training, I had occasional opportunities to interact with my female equivalents. During this fraternization, I was constantly expected to buy the ladies drinks. The first couple of times, I did so without thought, but then it occurred to me that they were all making exactly the same amount of money I was. I thought about protesting. Simply refusing to be taken advantage of in such an obvious and unfair way. I really did. The problem is that I was under 22 and my primary brain did not get the final vote.

I remember the issue heating up for awhile, and then it seemed to disappear from news coverage. I moved from the Army to hourly jobs while going to college and again, I saw men and women making the exact same hourly rate. After graduating from college, I switched from an hourly job to my first salaried career in the female dominated Long Term Care industry. I was the lowest paid Director on staff by a serious margin. The Administrator was a woman. She was wicked smart, strong and a highly effective leader and made good money.

Then I traveled back in time to a company called NSP. When I got there, most of the power plants were still trapped in the 70’s. It was and still is a heavily male dominated company. There weren’t just Snap On tool calendars on the walls; there were Playboy and Penthouse magazines in the break rooms. That was all cleaned up by 2001, but there were still few opportunities for women. It did occur. The Head of Shared Services is and was one of my favorite people, and she was a tough VP, but she was an exception. I had no way of knowing if women that were in the same jobs as men got paid less or not. I made sure that in my department, were possible, there weren’t any pay inequities. Assuming two people had the same position description and had the same experience, they were hired in at the same pay. Same with raises, people that performed got higher raises.

Clearly, that is not the way most of the country handles their business, or we wouldn’t have the ridiculous statistics that still has women in identical roles making only 77 percent of their male counterparts. It’s the year 2014 and I don’t think that number has significantly changed since I first hear it back in the 1980’s. There’s a term for that. I believe it’s BULLSHIT!

One of the arguments I’ve recently heard is that some men are threatened by women that make equal to or more money than them. This is part of the argument being put forward by some women. That’s not a typo. Women are making this argument.

I’m a Minnesotan and we are not known for bragging. Unlike most of the bullshit stereotypes shown first in the movie Fargo and now the TV series Fargo, that one is accurate. By the way, you can love Fargo, it’s ok, but if you start saying “yaaaa” to me at a convention, I’m going to punch you in the throat.  If you know me, you know that I don’t beat my chest a lot and don’t really care for people that do. I’m going to break that trend and be hypocritical for the sake of proving a point.

I am claiming here and now that my man card can't be seriously challenged by anybody. I have all the manly credentials needed to include the really silly polls that show up on FB to the more serious credentials that are usually not included because they only apply to 1% of the population (that would be veterans of the military). I was rendering safe unexploded ordnance before I turned 21 in the US Army. Back then my balls would clang together when I walked. Luckily I never needed to sneak up on anyone. By the time I was fifteen, I was proficient in all manner of firearms and woodcraft and eventually became an even better tracker than my dad. By the time I was 25, I’d been in enough fights that I no longer dreaded getting my as kicked and would rather wake up in the hospital than take shit from anyone. I’ve had pistols pointed at me, knives pulled on me and my life threatened several times. I am not a badass. I don’t seek out trouble and never have, but this Jackpine Savage doesn’t run, especially now because I’m overweight and out of shape. But my point is still valid.

Why does this matter? Because I’m confident in my masculinity. I don’t shove it in peoples faces precisely because of the C word. Confident, not the other one. I’m here to tell you that if there are any “men” out there that are intimidated because a woman makes more than them, They. Are. PUSSIES. Why would a woman ever be attracted to a man that she had to act meek for fear of intimidating him? Men like that don’t deserve to propagate.

I would LOVE to have my wife make more than I do. I make a good wage, more than I ever thought I would make when I was in the Army, thats for damned sure. If my wife made more than I did, that means that WE would be able to reach more of OUR financial goals. It sure as hell would have made 2012 easier because when I got laid off, I was the only one pulling in a salary. Most married households are two income families. The middle class is only still the middle class because of those two incomes where before, one would do. How could any husband anywhere argue that their wives shouldn’t make as much as they do? It makes no damned sense.

I have two daughters and no sons. If my daughters do the same work, they also deserve the same pay, as does my wife. Their gender is irrelevant in the workplace. If they end up being poor employees, then they should not get high increases. But if they are the best (more likely IMHO), then they should lead whatever department or company they are, and that goes for all women everywhere.

As I said, my opinions on some topics have changed over time, usually because I have been exposed to a new argument or position that opened my eyes and made me think about the topic in a different way. Please, feel free to make any cogent argument here on my Blog or on FB. Who knows, maybe you can even change my mind.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Leaves On The River

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A river as a metaphor for life is not new. It could be described as a cliché. So be it, because today I feel like a leaf drifting down a river.

We know there was a beginning and we know there is an end, but we only know about the section we have traveled. Other parts exist only theoretically.

Today I have to put my dog to sleep. That is a kind turn a phrase. It gives us a small comfort and gives us distance from the guilt. Those that have pets know this day will come even as we pick them out as puppies or kittens, but we don’t linger on it nor should we.

When should it be done? There is a fine balance between keeping them with us as long as possible and letting them go before their pain or complications become more than an animal should bear. Because they would bear it. They'd bear it for us, anything for us.

So despite the pain it causes you, the decision must be made and the act carried out. The act is kinder for animals than people. Until that last ride in the car, they are allowed to be home. Then they are put to sleep with the first injection and their hearts stopped with the second.

It's April 26th and I'm writing this in my man cave because I don’t want to cry in front of Ursa more than I have to. It causes her distress and she tries to comfort me. There are two hours before the drive and my daughters are spending time with her.

We will need to be careful in and out of the car. The bone cancer has made her left leg painful to the touch. Her decline has been rapid, yet she still is so full of love and kisses. Luckily she still has her appetite so we can spoil her with apples and watermelon, her favorite foods.

Ursa is Greek for bear and like the constellation that shows so bright in my northern sky, she is my Ursa Major. She's Labernese, black lab mixed with Bernese mountain dog. Her fur is glossy black with  white spots on her nose, throat and chest. Her rear feet look as if someone ran a brush of white paint at an angle across her toes. Her chest is huge, required to hold a heart that is twice the size of most dogs. Her head is large and heavy and her tail is a solid and always thumping a greeting. There is a v shaped piece missing from her left ear tip, proof that she was a hellion as a puppy.

It occurred to me this morning that of our three dogs, Ursa is the last to have known my dad. He loved her as much as all of the dogs we’ve had, but didn't care for he constant need to kiss, especially our faces. Perhaps he loved her a little more since despite not liking it, he let her.

Six days from now is the sixth anniversary of his death. I put him down as well, though not as swiftly. For people it's called Hospice, an ever farther removed term that means letting someone die.

After eleven months of struggle and several complications that included strokes, double bypass surgery and the removal of his colon, he got an obstruction in his small intestine that refused to clear. After my last consultation, I agreed to move him to Hospice. The last thing he said to me was "quit crying, I'm not going anywhere".

What happened to him next was pamphlet. I've decided that if textbook can be a word then so can pamphlet, since in hospitals that's what they give you to explain complex or difficult issues. The pamphlet explained that when he was taken off all of his medications, he would have a day of euphoria. He would feel better than he had in months and be convinced that he could go home. The feeling would last a day, no longer, after which he would likely fall into a deep sleep, no injection needed.

I told him all of this before I left. I never saw him awake again. I was at work during his elated state, but all of his remaining friends chose that day to visit, most for the first time since he entered his first hospital. By the time I got there, he was sleeping. I'd seen him sleeping in a hospital bed dozens of times that year, but I'd never seen him so peaceful. On the day he died, I visited him, kissed his forehead and said goodbye. That night I got the call that his pamphlet predicted decline had started and that I should hurry. Before I finished dressing, the second call came.

His heart stopped, also without an injection. But instead of being at home, surrounded by his loved ones, with his boots on and eating his favorite foods, he spent eleven months being cold, poked, injected, cut on, reduced, humiliated and in a constant state of discomfort that ranged from moderate to agony. All the time we hoped. For hope I did that to and for my father only to end up in the same place as Ursa.

When my journey on the river stops, I pray that I will be at home. I pray that no one will love me the way I loved my father. Better to be loved as I love Ursa.  

Monday, April 14, 2014

A Jackpine Savage Abroad


I’ve heard a lot of chatter over the last few years about how people from other nations hate Americans. Or perhaps they hate America, though I’m not sure how you differentiate one from the other. I have no idea how true this is. I have no love for the French, yet my sole opinion is not likely to be enough for the French media to declare that Americans hate France.

In the last decade I’ve done a small amount of business travel. My primary locations have been the UK and India. Perhaps this isn’t a big enough sample size, but I have not felt hated in either country. Quite the contrary, I’ve felt welcomed and have made friends, no French, but a few Brits and Indians. While I’m not particularly fond of any travel, especially when it requires 24 hours of transit, I am glad for the opportunity to see these foreign countries and make new acquaintances.

I’m just a poor country boy from northern Minnesota, but it seems to me that I act the same as most Americans. By that I mean that I treat others as I wish to be treated and try to learn a little about the local culture. Who knows, maybe as soon as I’m out of sight, they spit on the ground and curse the day they laid eyes on me, but I think that would have more to do with my personality than my nationality.

This trip I got to spend a couple days in Bangalore and even got a few minutes one on one with my team members in between other meetings. Then we swung up to Mumbai to meet with an interesting part of the business and I was impressed for a number of reasons. Power is in short supply across much of India, especially in the summer months. Few if any exterior lighting exists in Delhi, Pune, Hyderabad or Bangalore, but Mumbai is different. Skyscrapers are painted in blues, greens and reds. Shops were decorated with string lights of all colors. There is massive construction and new buildings pushing though the desiccated corpses of old neighborhoods.

On my first trip to India a lady at one of the bazars in Delhi told me unsolicited, that all of the whores live in Mumbai. It may be true, but I saw no proof. There were women dressed in western style, and I think that was the basis for the old woman’s judgment. No matter, I doubt I will meet her again so I won’t have to face her judgmental stare.

Next I went to London. It was only my fourth trip, but it already felt like and old friend. I only got to spend a short time with my Britannic coworkers but I made sure I complained about the lack of Diet Dew anywhere on the island. Then I returned home feeling no more hated than normal.

This trip was unusual for the amount of places visited in six days. I made a post of FB about being in Bangalore and being afraid that I would melt. At the time I was dead serious. I remembered my first trip in 2006 when I went to Delhi and felt like I was always seconds away from heatstroke. It was the hottest month and even the short walk from the lobby to the taxi left my shirt soaked through. I’m a Minnesotan. I can handle cold, but not the heat, wet or dry.
Some of my FB friends apparently took my remark for a cloaked brag.

“Hey look at me, I’m traveling internationally and you’re not.”

It never even occurred to me. I may have been looking for a little sympathy since I was dreading the heat, but I don’t think of business travel as a positive thing. The only place I ever traveled for a vacation on my own dime internationally was Mexico, and I think I just finished paying for that trip. It was a good time, but it was a vacation. Business travel is the same whether it’s Dallas or Bangalore. I see the airport, the taxi, the inside of the hotel, another taxi, the office building, the taxi again and so on. Rarely is there any time to see anything else and usually, you are too tired to truly appreciate it.

On this trip I woke up at 2 AM on my first night in Bangalore knowing something was very wrong. I spent the next three hours in the bathroom. Mumbai looked interesting and different from other India cities, but that was only from the view of my taxi or hotel window. London on this trip was no different and then I was on yet another 9-hour flight heading home. The weekend I left was shot and the weekend I got back was mostly recovery for sleep and my digestive track. Some people may still yearn for the experience even as I’ve described it, but don’t think it even comes close to resembling a vacation.

I will say that I’m glad for the opportunity regardless of the discomfort and inability to explore the countries I visit. The reason is the people. I go to these places because people from my company work there, either on my team or from another part of the business. I’m fortunate to work for a great company filled with dedicated and intelligent people. Even though I fall on the side of introversion, I enjoy meeting new people and visiting with the people I already know. Whether it’s learning about a new part of the company or a short one on one with my team members, it makes all the discomfort and time away from my family worthwhile.

Some day, I might even be able to swing some vacation time to see the sights up close and not just through a cab window.