May 24, 2007 at 4:05 pm | Posted in Gender | Leave a comment
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Just a quick one: I went on an excursion to vaude, manufacturer of mountain sports equipment and clothing who won I don’t know how many prizes for family friendly work conditions. Roughly a dozen of people were on the excursion, and it left us drooling about what they offer.

Anybody can work part-time, even in the management, with a ratio of up to 70% of part-time employees in some departments. Work-hours are flexible, they have both teleworkers and job sharers, and they also have a day care centre for kids from half a year to ten years, costing no more than 180€ (half a day) to 208 € (a full day) a month, including food. And the food’s organic, btw.

Employees may use the company’s vehicles, having to pay no more than the gas they use themselves. They can take out all the equipment on loan AND the company regulalry organizes courses and events in skiing, climbing, hiking, surviving in the wilderness which start Friday noon (meaning employees get half a day off if they take part in a course).

The company is located in a village that is part of Tettnang, a municipality in the Allgäu, and a year ago, the public swimming-pool was almost closed town. A local initiative approached the company for help – they trained some of their staff as life guards and are now running the pool for half the amount of the original costs and it is even open longer than before. The have also introduced courses in work organization, helping employees to work more effectively in order to reduce extra hours, have special reward and incentive systems (financial reward for employees who make recommendations that affect the whole company; small financial rewards for small recommendations within the departments which go into the department’s kitty).

Improvement? The majority of their employees are female, and almost all of them return to work from maternity leave – some of them return to work in their home offices only a month after having given birth. They can decide whether they want to work 5 hours on two days or two hours on five days a week. Over the past five years the birth rates among employees have almost quadrupled, from 5 to 18 children born a year, in a company with 300 employees. Needless to mention they also have special pension funds to support their employees.

It was all pretty amazing and I am still drooling… I was close to asking them for a job although I really want to move back into the city:-)

Inclusive means: not some, but all, all, all, all, all

April 19, 2007 at 7:02 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I just chanced upon a terrific quote by Desmond Tutu with which he commented on the appointment of the first openly gay bishop in the Anglican church. It is applicable to many other spheres, too:

I am deeply saddened at a time when we’ve got such huge problems … that we should invest so much time and energy in this issue… I think God is weeping. […]

Jesus did not say, ‘I if I be lifted up I will draw some’.

Jesus said, ‘If I be lifted up I will draw all, all, all, all, all.

Black, white, yellow, rich, poor, clever, not so clever, beautiful, not so beautiful.

It’s one of the most radical things. All, all, all, all, all, all, all, all.

All belong. Gay, lesbian, so-called straight.

All, all are meant to be held in this incredible embrace that will not let us go.



Doing it all for equality

March 21, 2007 at 10:23 pm | Posted in Women | 2 Comments
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That was a tough day at work today, and with little immediate effect, although I think everything went alright. I’m an equality officer without a budget at the place where I work, and there is absolutely no infrastructure in place to integrate the EQ officer in any of the crucial decision that have to be made in a place like this (description of vacancies, appointments, definition of strategies – nada). All I can do is keep my eyes open, like a tiny chihuahua trying to oversee a herd of buffaloes. My latest effort now is to set up a forum for our women in sciences: a support network, a counter public (Gegenöffentlichkeit?), a non-gender-biased agenda, a launch pad for career development.

More than half of the women that were invited came, and I am very happy with that result. It’s not as though women in sciences, just because they are women, do all think positively of EQ strategies. Quite a few think that’s all big fussing about nothing – mainly women who have found other ways of dealing with the drawbacks of being a woman in an academic/scientific community. You’ll find all stereotypes represented: the ones that deny their femininity, the ones who’ve turned to workaholism and think that that’s the only road to salvation, the ones that think that all problems are nothing but a result of them looking at the situation as problematic (and who therefore deny that there’s a need for a strategy to counter-balance gender-bias), the ones that think that feminism has harmed women more than patriarchy, the ones that wear miniskirts to carve out a career for themselves.

The discussions today were good, but some of the participants were dissatisfied because they had a very specific result in mind, a very specific idea of the action that should be taken. My thought was, however, that we cannot just skip the phase of brainstorming, and that all ideas must be heard at the early stage. I still think that this decision is the right one, it just needs a little patience from everyone now.

EDIT: The single good thing about being an equality officer is that you can suddenly be completely outspoken about all your concerns about the patriarchal structures of the institution around you. It’s actually almost expected that you do that, and while you still might find women who think you’re a pathetic feminist, you won’t get that response from men – for as long as they know you’re the equality officer. They’ll even listen to you eagerly, at least the men here do, because they know what a fucked-up place this is in terms of gender equality, and they’re afraid that you, the EQ officer, might officially point your bony finger at them.


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