Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Feminine Mystique

I recently finished reading Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique which I read for the Women Unbound Challenge.

Motivation for reading:
Grace of GRACEful Retirement inspired me to read this book when she left a comment on my blog post: Ten non-fiction books that help us understand the world stating this was the book that helped her better understand the world. It was also included on Caroline Benders list of 20 business books they expect you have read.

What is the Feminine Mystique?
Friedan begins with her discovery of women’s unhappiness in post-World War II middle-class suburbia which she calls “the problem that has no name.” She attributes this unhappiness to the loss of identity women experience from devoting their lives to housewifery and motherhood. “The Feminine Mystique” was the phony bill of goods society sold women leaving them financially, intellectually and emotionally dependent on their husbands.

My thoughts:
For me, this book was a difficult read. I found it to be long and repetitious. I understand Friedan needed to hammer in her points to get woman to take notice, but if I had attempted to read this book when I was younger I am sure I never would have finished it. Despite the books difficulty, it did leave me with several valuable insights I would like to share:

Women abandoned their careers, so they could buy the latest carpet sweeper and cleaning cleanser:
The important role woman served as housewives was to buy more things for the house. The real business of America is business. The perpetuation of the mystique makes sense (and dollars) when one realizes that women are the chief consumers of American business. Somehow, someone must have figured out that women will buy more things if they are kept in the underused, nameless yearning, energy-to-get rid of state of being a housewife.
Magazine editors perpetuated “The Feminine Mystique” by restricting the topics and advertisements portrayed in their magazines:
Friedman had studied women’s magazines for decades and found the editorial decisions were made by men who enforced “occupation housewife.” Articles and advertisements only portrayed women as housewives. They didn’t want them to have any other ambitions than to be housewives.

A perceptive social psychologist showed Friedman statistics which seemed to prove American women under 35 are not interested in politics. “If you write a political piece they won’t read it. You have to translate it into issues they can understand – romance, pregnancy, nursing, home furnishings and clothes. Run an article on the economy, or the race question, civil rights, and you’d think that women never heard of them.”

Maybe they hadn’t heard of them. Ideas are not like instincts of the blood that spring into the mind intact. They are communicated by education, by the printed word. The new young house-wives who leave high school or college to marry, do not read magazines. Magazines today assume women are not interested in ideas.
Nineteenth-century feminists fought a ferocious battle:
Friedan recalled the battles faced by nineteenth-century feminists in the United States. As in her own time, nineteenth-century society attempted to restrict women to the roles of wife and mother and slandered women who challenged this gentle image. However, despite harsh resistance, early feminists held their ground, and women were ultimately given many opportunities men enjoyed, including education, the right to pursue their own careers, and, most important, the right to vote. With this last major goal fulfilled, Friedan says, the early women's movement died.

The Feminine Mystique was still prevalent in my community in the late 70’s:
Less than ten percent of the females in my graduating class went on to earn college degrees immediately after graduation. They either married, found a job or took secretarial courses to bide time until they got married and had children. My father didn’t support my college education decision thinking I wouldn’t use it once I got married. My Aunt advised me to find a man who would take care of me.

Then there was my mother’s unhappiness in her role as a housewife. We lived in the country and she did not have her driver’s license. She had to ask my father for every penny she needed (not to mention a ride to the store); justifying each purchase whether it was a card for a sick friend, a birthday present for one of her six children or a tube of lipstick for herself. She fondly reminisced about her life before she was married; her friends, her job and apartment in the city and her own money.

What can women do to break "The Feminine Mystique?"
Women need creative work of their own equal to her actual capacity. The only way for a woman, as for a man to find herself, to know herself as a person, is by creative work of her own. There is no other way. But a job any job, is not the answer-in fact, it can be part of the trap. Women who do not look for jobs equal to their capacity, who do not let themselves develop the lifetime interests and goals which require serious education and training, who take a job at twenty or forty to “help out at home: or just to kill extra time, are walking, almost as surely as the ones who stay inside the housewife trap, to a nonexistent future.
Is The Feminine Mystique a non-fiction book every woman should read?
The subject matter of this book is certainly relevant today. Many Americans both male and female are currently trapped by their circumstances; underemployment, housework, child rearing and caring for their aging parents. Advertisers and marketing schemes continue to influence us to make poor decisions; purchasing huge Mc Mansions we can’t afford with money we don’t have comes to mind. Despite these circumstances, the book will not be making the list. I foresee my list as a list of books that not only teach, but inspire women to read additional non-fiction and I don’t think The Feminine Mystique is up to that task.

For a case study of “The Feminine Mystique,” I recommend reading Life List: A Woman's Quest for the World's Most Amazing Birds by Olivia Gentile. The book details the life of Phoebe Snetsinger an overeducated, bored, depressed and underutilized suburban housewife before she took up birding as an excuse to get out of the house.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Cheap laptop not always a deal

I would like a wireless laptop. I don’t need a laptop; my desktop computer works fine. I just like the idea of blogging from my couch. I wouldn’t need anything fancy only wireless internet, a good battery, and a new version of office. Oh and of course I don’t want to spend a lot of money.

My co-worker’s son who has a small home-based computer business offered me the following deal:

Hi Savvy:
I was talking with my mom the other day and she mentioned you may be interested in a laptop. I hate to sound like a salesperson, but I do distribute a formerly corporate owned refurbished laptop. It is an AWESOME laptop for anything outside of video gaming. I carry them for $320, but for you I’d be happy to let one go for $280. This would come ready to use out of the box, with office 07 and full antivirus/anti-spyware.

What a deal! I can almost picture myself sitting in front of the TV blogging away.

Fortunately, I stumbled across Mr. Credit Card's  guest post "Not all deals are created equal" on Simply Forties.

He writes about electronic retailers who sell cheap out-of-date products on Black Friday:

There is nothing inherently wrong in selling old models, but one of the problems I have encountered is buying an old laptop that had "new software" installed on it. If you looked at Black Friday 2009, there were a lot of laptops going for under $200. Yes, under $200. But the problem was they had Windows 7 installed on them! Unfortunately, there wasn't enough memory in those laptops to really run Windows 7. Folks who bought those laptops would be shocked that they took so long to boot! When they add Microsoft Office and a Norton Security Suite, they will find their new laptop runs like a snail! Additionally, many Black Friday deals lure you to buy a product and then the product does not work until you buy additional software!
Thank you Mr. Credit Card! You’ve just prevented me from making a $280 mistake.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Unethical Boss Behavior

Everyone is talking about the embezzlement that occurred at Koss Corp. If you are not familiar with the story JS Online reports:

Sue Sachdeva allegedly misappropriated funds to the tune of $31 million while working as Vice president of finance at Koss Corp., a Milwaukee maker of headphones.

Sachdeva's alleged scheme which goes back to at least 2004 came to light in December when American Express notified Michael J. Koss, chief executive officer at Koss, that money was being transferred from Koss accounts to pay for Sachdeva's luxury shopping bills.

According to her indictment:

Sachdeva had fraudulently authorized transfers from Koss accounts to pay her American Express bills and also transferred money from Koss accounts to fund cashier's checks that she used to pay for her personal expenses. She also issued checks payable to petty cash, and then she told employees to cash the checks and get cash, which Sachdeva used for her personal expenses. Sachdeva also converted traveler's checks that Koss purchased for its employees who were traveling on Koss business for her own use and the use of others.

She concealed the fraud by making and directing others to make many fraudulent entries in Koss' books and records, to make it appear that her transfers were legitimate business expenses. Sachdeva concealed and directed others to conceal the fake entries from Koss management and its auditors.

In addition to firing Sachdeva, Koss also suspended without pay two members of the accounting staff who served under her pending further investigation.

The question I was asked this week was not, “Why would she steal 31million to just piddle it away on clothes and luxury items” or “How could Michael Koss have been so oblivious?” or “Why didn’t Grant Thornton discover the fraud?”

I was asked:

Why didn’t her subordinates turn her in?

Tracey Coenen says Sachdeva may have coerced or tricked them.

I think it could have been possible for Sachdeva to have tricked them for awhile; the assistants may have been inexperienced, didn’t have an adequate knowledge of accounting, or were inept, but I’m having a hard time believing that over time they didn’t have an inkling something was amiss. Come on, any semi-competent accountant would have thought at least once during the five year period, ISN’T IT ODD SHE NEVER HAS A RECEIPT, as they handed over cash from the petty cash box or wired company money to pay her personal credit card.

I think they had suspicions or maybe even knew exactly what she was doing, but choose to look the other way. She was well known and respected in the community and they may not have wanted to be the one to bring her down; I guess this could be considered coercion, but I also read the rumor the lady at Koss was selling designer clothes to Koss employees with the tag on them originally for hundreds of dollars for as little as $10 per item.

We may never know why they didn’t report Sachdeva, but we do know they owed it to their company and their career to tell someone what she was doing. Even if it is determined they were not her collaborators, I highly doubt they will retain their jobs at Koss and can guarantee they will have a difficult time finding future employment in Milwaukee.

It is never easy to report your boss. What is a subordinate to do if they witness suspicious boss behavior?

- The easiest thing to do would be to collaborate with your colleagues. You’ve heard the phrase "safety in numbers."

-Approach your boss’s boss or HR with solid evidence. We think Mr. Jones is stealing from the till doesn’t cut it. Present emails and written documentation. In the absence of documentation, keep a log of conversations pertaining to the unethical activity as evidence.

-Stick to the facts. Saying, “And besides we don’t like him,” is irrelevant.

-Pick the most significant unethical behavior when reporting. I have a colleague whose boss asked her to issue him $40,000 of unapproved payroll advances. She chose to report a $4 questionable parking ticket to his boss. Needless to say, she accomplished nothing except appearing petty and further deteriorating the already strained relationship she had with her boss

-Is there more to the story than you realize? Donna my company’s accounts payable clerk confronted a manager about a salesman she thought was eating donuts on the company every day. He’s not eating them he’s giving them to prospective customers.

-Don’t be afraid to suggest your own internal controls if you see a deficiency or ask your audit firm for assistance in implementing stricter controls. My colleague above should have said, “I’m sorry Mr. Jones, but I can’t issue the $40,000 advance without our owner’s approval.”

-If you are not comfortable talking to your boss’s boss you could alert your outside Accounting firm of abuse and have them deal with it. If you go this route, it is imperative you have your facts in order. You do not want to subject your company and boss to unnecessary scrutiny when the situation could have easily been resolved in house.

-And finally you may have to quit. I know an accountant whose boss (the owner of the company) asked her to underreport the company’s payroll taxes. My advice to her was you need to get out now.

How about you; have you ever reported unethical boss behavior?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Why would struggling company reinstate benefits?

Rob writes:

My company, an architectural firm, had a difficult 2009. Thirty percent of my co-workers lost their jobs and those who remained had salary and benefit reductions. Effective January 1st, 2010, our company reinstated the 401(k) company match. Employees took this as a sign the company’s financial status had improved. Then last Friday, three employees were laid-off; one worked in marketing and the other two were administrative employees. One had been with the company 30 years! What is going on? Why would my company reinstate benefits then turn around and let three employees go?

From my experience working for an engineering firm, engineering and architectural firms compete aggressively for top talent and feel they need attractive benefit and salary plans to attract and keep employees. You write your company laid-off 30% of their workforce. In doing so, they most likely lost talented employees and feel they can’t afford to lose anymore of their professional staff. Your company’s management reinstated the company match to increase confidence and improve moral. Also, they have to be confident in the company’s future financial outlook or they wouldn’t have bothered with the match.

As to the three employees who were let go, I think all companies who experienced tough times in 2009 will continue to look for ways to cut costs well into 2010. Perhaps your company has decided to outsource their marketing. My own company has done so and reduced our marketing expense by 65%. Improved technology, reduced workloads due to poor sales and job combinations could all have contributed to your co-workers losing their jobs. I realize it is sad to see them go, but a company in a fragile industry such as yours has is to remove every unnecessary cost in order to remain viable in 2010. The worst is over, but it is still going to be a bumpy ride.

According to, Architects saw more job losses in 2009 than any other profession. They attribute these losses to tough times in the construction industry. They also sight the BLS most recent Labor Review that looks at employment projections through 2018 which shows that architecture and engineering occupations will grow by about 10 percent.

As an interesting side note, sites health care as the only industry that added jobs last year. Other professions losing the most jobs in 2009 were:


Production supervisors and assembly workers


Computer software engineers

Mechanical engineers

Construction workers


Bookkeeping, accounting and auditing clerks

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Non-Fiction Books Every Woman Should Read

I was so pleased with the comments I received on my post, "Ten non-fiction books that help us understand the world," I began searching the web for additional book recommendations; preferably a list of non-fiction books every woman should read. I must say, I was disappointed with my non-fiction findings. I found several lists of “fiction” books every woman should read. My favorite is:
75 Books Every Woman Should Read: The Complete List
Unable to find an adequate list of non-fiction books for women, I decided to come up with my own. I discussed my new project with the reference librarian at my local library who offered to provide a list to get me started.

Here is what she came up with:

Women Don't Ask: The High Cost of Avoiding Negotiation--and Positive Strategies for Change by Linda Babcock

Our Bodies, Ourselves: A New Edition for a New Era by Boston Women's Health Collective

I Feel Bad about My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman by Nora Ephron

How She Does It: How Women Entrepreneurs Are Changing the Rules of Business Success by Margaret Heffernan

If They Only Listened to Us: What Women Voters Want Politicians to Hear by Melinda Henneberger

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas Kristof

In the Name of Honor: A Memoir by Mukhtar Mai

Confessions of an Eco-Sinner: Tracking Down the Sources of My Stuff by Fred Pearce

Do Gentlemen Really Prefer Blondes?: Bodies, Behavior, and Brains--The Science Behind Sex, Love, & Attraction by Jena Pincott

Millionaire Women Next Door: The Many Journeys of Successful American Businesswomen by Thomas Stanley

On My Own Two Feet: A Modern Girl's Guide to Personal Finance by Manisha Thakor

Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution by Caroline Weber

A History of the Wife by Marilyn Yalom

I am pleased with the above selections, most of which I haven't read previously and was happy to see Men are from Mars not on the list. Prior to receiving this list, I had read a review of:

 - Bibliotherapy: The Girl's Guide to Books for Every Phase of Our Lives on Celia's Goodread's account where she wrote:
 I don't think Men from Mars, etc, should be included in anyone's must-read book list (at least, not someone whom I want to take book recommendations from).
I was also pleased to see Eat, Pray, Love (Gilbert lost me with all the crying) and Nickel and Dimed (I still haven't forgiven Ehrenreich for Bait and Switch) were not on the list. Plus, it was interesting to see On My Own Two Feet: A Modern Girl's Guide to Personal Finance by Manisha Thak was recommended instead of Suse Orman's Women and Money. One book that needs to be added to the list is:

Natalie Angier’s Woman: An Intimate Geography Eva at A Striped Armchair writes this is the one book every single woman should read.

So, this is my project for 2010; I am going to read all of the books on the above list, plus the books I’ve selected to read for the Women Unbound Challenge with the intention of coming up with a final list of non-fiction books every woman should read at the end of the year.

Do you have any non-fiction suggestions I should consider for my list? If so, please write them in the comments.

Also, it you have a list of non-fiction books on your site you would like to share, I'd be happy to include the link below:

Other non-fiction book lists to consider:
The Business Women's Social Club: 20 Business Books They Expect You Have Read

Please Note, I am an Amazon Affiliate

Saturday, January 02, 2010

How to increase your earnings; read more non-fiction

I came across an interesting statistic in an Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) publication:
People who read seven non-fiction books a year earn more than twice as much money as people who read only one.
Non-fiction includes biography, history, self-help or business books.
 Okay I read probably twenty non-fiction books a year and I certainly don’t think I make twice as much as people who only read one; maybe it’s all those memoirs…