Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Culture of Patriarchy Observation

I had the pleasure of attending two CPE seminars within the past 30 days; both sponsored by the same organization:

The first, a tax planning and wealth preservation seminar, was strongly attended; with 70% of the attendees male. Almost all of the attendees regardless of gender were wearing a business suit.

The second, a 1099 and W2 preparation seminar, was sparsely attended with at least 70% of the attendees female. The only attendees wearing a business suit at this event were the seminar sponsors and me. (No it was not a Friday.)

In the eighties, my friend Laura earned a masters degree in tax. She likes to tell stories about being the only woman in her tax classes and subsequently at CPE tax seminars. (She is also the first person to say that the glass ceiling still exists.) I must say, I was surprised and disappointed to see how few women attended the tax planning and wealth preservation seminar. Obviously, males donning a power suit continue to manage the money and wealth in the Milwaukee area while the women continue to perform the grunt work.


  1. Savvy, I have found all of your posts on this subject fascinating. I wonder, though, sometimes, about how and why the glass ceiling exists. I think it should be taken into account just a bit that perhaps some women are attending the "grunt work" seminars because that's work they enjoy, or perhaps work that can be done more easily part-time.

    I am way out of my depth here, as I do not work in the financial field. But I am an educated (master's degree) woman who often did grunt work in my field (libraries) because it was work I enjoyed and work that allowed me to put in time, get a decent paycheck, and then go home to where my real life was. I was often told to apply for management stuff, but I couldn't stay far enough away from that: sit around in meetings, and do so wearing more "professional" clothing? God, no thanks.

    I'll admit having this attitude has never made me wealthy. But just because a certain job might be less prestigious or less well-paid, does that make it unworthy of respect? I never thought so. I sometimes wonder if perhaps the genders don't differ in the types of work they prefer--maybe (some) women like to DO, get their hands dirty, knock through some concrete tasks, while (some) men prefer to dress up in suits, attend meetings, and put in long hours at the office.

    I'm stereotyping widely, of course, but I always just have the feeling there's some issues we're not addressing in these discussions of different types of people in the workplace.

  2. CR,
    You’ve brought up some interesting points. I agree many employees both male and female work in non-management positions because they enjoy the work and don’t want the hassle of management. My husband is one of them; he is also a strong proponent of me finding a non-management position; I am an accounting manager. I must say he does seem to enjoy his work and is more content with his life than I am with mine.

    In actuality, I think the gender disparity between the two seminars occurred because the tax planning/wealth management audience consisted of CFO’s and company owners in their fifties to seventies. For this age group, men most likely still manage the company and family finances. The 1099 seminar was attended by mostly females because this function is usually performed by an accounts payable employee. Typically A/P clerks are one of the lowest paid positions in an accounting department. Males do not typically work in this capacity because they seek out higher paid accounting positions.

    The glass ceiling comes into play when two equally qualified employees apply for the same position and the male is selected based solely on his gender. Whether this really occurs I am not sure. I do know my friend Laura thinks it does and so does my friend Kate who I wrote about previously.

    But it is this sentence that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about all week:

    Just because a certain job might be less prestigious or less well-paid, does that make it unworthy of respect?

    I like it so much I have to write about it in my next post.

  3. Laura8:32 PM

    I believe the gender discrepancy occurred because women have been the ones who have dropped out of the workforce for care giving reasons whether its children or elder parents. Preparing 1099's and W'2 are more routine work and focus on a narrow area of tax whereas wealth management and tax planning require a larger knowledge base plus they rely more heavily on relationship building.

  4. I know this isn't really on topic to your post, but it reminded me of my last few years of getting my tax CPE. I observed much the same phenomenon, the vast majority of participants were men.

    But what I really noticed about this group of men was that they looked SO old (not to mention stereotypically accountant-ish--I know you know what I mean). It just made me wonder whether tax season after tax season is aging accountants faster than other professions!

  5. Syd,
    Yes I know what you mean and I'm sure you are correct; I couldn't work 70 hours a week during tax season year after year and stay healthy. I worked long hours when I was younger and have no desire to go back to that. Once you get a life it is hard to give it up.

    I have a colleague who is 57 and has been working as a tax accountant in public accounting for the past 13 years. She admits each tax season is a greater struggle both mentally and physically than the year before. She’d love to quit, but with a husband laid off and two kids in college she can’t.