Sunday, October 27, 2013

Bossypants by Tina Fey

This month The Savvy Reader Book Club read Tina Fey’s book Bossypants. I chose this book after learning it was the best book Sheryl Sandberg read last year. I was a bit apprehensive about selecting it after reading several mixed reviews; some reviewers found it hilarious while others didn’t think it was funny at all.

My thoughts:

Bossypants is funny:
It’s not the funniest book I’d ever read. Bill Bryson’s book A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trailstill holds that distinction, but it was funny. This book’s humor is classic Tina Fey. If you ever watched Tina’s TV show 30 Rock you will recognize the humor. I realized Liz Lemon was Tina Fey or perhaps Tina Fey was Liz Lemon.

Tina can be a bit vulgar:
When I checked Bossypants out from the library, the librarian told me her book club didn’t like it. They thought it was too vulgar. I actually didn’t find the vulgarity to be too bad. In my opinion Caitlin Moran’s book How to Be a Woman was much worse. As you may recall her book was so crass I wasn't able to finish it. I do think if you’ve never watched 30 Rock you will find the chapter that includes dialogue of the show’s characters weird.

I’m not sure what this book is:
Bossypants is not a memoir. Tina Fey doesn’t analyze her life or provide us with insight in to who Tina Fey really is. Nor is it a career or how to book. My library classifies it as stage entertainment (whatever that means).

Tina is one of us:
I did learn the reason I like Tina Fey is because she started out like many of us. She grew up in a middle class family, had a regular childhood, felt like a misfit in college and struggles with many of the same issues we do. She is tenacious, an incredibly hard worker and has difficulty balancing work and family like most women.

I usually base the value of a nonfiction book, by how many notes I take while reading the book. Unfortunately, I didn’t take a single note from this book, but I did bookmark a couple of interesting passages. Here is a sampling:

Tina’s views on Photoshop:
Give it up. Retouching is here to stay. Technology doesn’t move backward. No society has ever de-industrialized. Which is why we’ll never turn back from Photoshop. At least with Photoshop you don’t really have to alter your body. It’s better to have a computer do it to your picture than to have a doctor do it to your face? (Pg. 161)

On luxury cruises:
Luxury cruises were designed to make something unbearable-a two-week transatlantic crossing – seem bearable. There’s no need to do it now. There are planes. You wouldn’t take a vacation where you ride a stagecoach for two months but there’s all-you-can-eat shrimp. (Pg. 100)

What she tells young women who ask for career advice:
People are going to try to trick you. To make you feel you are in competition with other women. “You’re up for a promotion. If they go with a woman, it’ll be between you and Barbara.” Don’t be fooled. You’re not in competition with other women. You’re in competition with everyone. (Pg. 88)

Her unsolicited advice to women in the workplace:
When faced with sexism or ageism or lookism or even really aggressive Buddhism, ask yourself the following question: “Is this person in between me and what I want to do?” If the answer is no, ignore it and move on. Your energy is better used doing your work and outpacing people that way. Then when you’re in charge, don’t hire the people who were jerky to you. (Pg. 144-145)

Final thoughts:
Unlike Sheryl Sandberg, I don’t think this is the best book I’ve read this year, but I did enjoy it. I would recommend reading it if you are a fan of Tina Fey, are looking for a light read, a beach read or a palate cleanser. If you are looking for a memoir that includes an in-depth analysis of who Tina Fey is or how she became one of the funniest women in comedy you will probably be disappointed in this book.

Have you read Tina Fey’s book Bossypants? If so what were your thoughts?

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Monday, October 21, 2013

The Adjunct Trap

This month The Savvy Reader Book Club is reading Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus's book Higher Education?: How Colleges Are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids---and What We Can Do About It. Today’s post is the first in a series of posts I will be writing this month inspired by this book.

The book begins by informing us that the American colleges and universities are bound by a caste system. At the top of the caste are 320,000 associate and full professors, most of whom have tenure or will soon receive that reward. Below them are about 170,000 assistant professors, of which most are on the “tenure track.” The third tier consists of instructors and lecturers who aren’t in line for promotion and who handle introductory sections at modest salaries and benefits. (A number are faculty spouses unable to find other employment). The fourth and fifth castes are made up of part-time adjuncts and graduate assistants. They are the contingent people of the campus - exploitable, disposable, and impoverished by low wages. They do the bulk of the undergraduate teaching at many universities. (Pg. 15)

What is an adjunct?
Adjuncts belong to a diverse group of teachers called contingents, who are hired to take on chores regular faculty members don’t want to do. They come from respected professions like lawyers and film producers who teach one evening course (largely because they enjoy it) or are among the gypsy scholars who commute among as many as four campuses in a single week. Pay rates are shamefully low. The American Federation of Teachers found the average is about $3,000 per course, which means many get less. And of course there are no benefits.

Here is an example of the huge inequality found in the adjunct/professor pay structure:
At Queens College, a branch of the City University of New York, the pay is better than average but the disparities are typical. When students walk into the gleaming building that is Powdermaker Hall, they might see one classroom where a full professor is explaining the economic ideas of the Nation’s founders. He’ll earn $116,000 for six classes taught over nine months-$17,000 per course. In the very next room is an adjunct teaching political theory to thirty bright-eyed freshmen. But she gets a flat fee of $4,600, admittedly higher than the national average, but so is the urban cost of living. Moreover, the professor has health insurance, sick days, sabbaticals, and a hefty TIAA-CREF pension. The adjunct’s benefits are akin to W.C. Field’s reward in The Bank Dick- “a hearty handshake.” (Pg. 48-49)
Adjuncts are not respected:
Many adjuncts are not respected by the salaried faculty members and administrators and are not perceived as part of the campus community.

Why is adjunct teaching a trap?
Many women think they can have families and stay in the game by adjuncting. They get trapped there. Age and time trap them. Vagabonding from job to job isn’t so terrible when you’re young, but it takes a toll on you as they get older. In another example sited, an adjunct teacher tried to cobble together a livelihood by teaching sixteen “distance” courses. Online teaching, she said, was tougher than face-to-face instruction, because if you do it seriously, “you never get a break from it. You almost sleep with your computer. (Pg. 54)

The sad fact is it is difficult to earn a living wage teaching as an adjunct even when you teach multiple classes.

What are the chances an adjuncts position will morph into full-time?
Many years of adjuncting wouldn’t count as valuable classroom experience. Rather, for most, it’s a black mark. This was borne out by an informal survey Angelo Gene Monaco, the vice president for human resources at the University of Akron, performed. Out of curiosity, he surveyed sixty heads of departments at a sample of Midwestern colleges. Only three told him they’d even consider hiring a contingent for a full-time post. Monaco created quite a stir at the 2008 meeting of the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources when he declared: “We’ve helped create a highly educated part of the working poor.” (Pg. 53)

A real life example:
Which brings me to Kate; I’ve previously written about Kate’s disillusionment with her job after she was repeatedly passed over for promotion. Kate has since abandoned her dream of being a controller or CFO and refocused her energies on becoming a full-time teacher at a local college. She taught her first adjunct class last semester – an introductory business course.

Initially, Kate was extremely frustrated by the lack of support she received from the college. She had difficulty setting up her email, accessing the school’s intranet, and even getting a ‘teacher’s edition’ of the book. She earned $2,600 to teach the class which met once a week for four hours. She took a week of vacation from her day job to prepare and lost sleep fretting about whether to send emails to students who hadn't turned in their homework.

Next semester she is contracted to teach this class again along with a 12-week accounting class. Surprisingly, the 12-week class pays the same as the 6-week class; it too meets once a week, but for three and a half hours instead of four. I can’t imagine the accounting class taking any less time to prepare, so there goes another week of vacation.

Has Kate fallen for the adjunct trap?
Unfortunately, after reading this book I think she has.  I told her what I had learned from the book, but she refuses to listen. My experience has been when someone wants something badly they rarely listen to naysayers.

What do you think?  Is adjunct teaching a trap?
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Femme Frugality

Thursday, October 17, 2013

“Pull Her Down” Syndrome

Last month The Savvy Reader Book Club read Leymah Gbowee's book Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer, and Sex Changed a Nation at War. Earlier this week I shared Leymeh Gbowee's Lessons on Domestic Abuse. 

Today I want to share a surprising syndrome I was made aware of reading this book:  

After working tirelessly as the official spokeswoman and inspirational leader for Women in Peacebuilding Network, or WIPNET Leymeh Gbowee was asked to come to a meeting at the WIPNET offices. Most of the women who had been a part of the Liberian Mass Action for Peace were there. They formed a circle and one by one the women began attacking her.  She was undermining them, she was still trying to run things, she had stolen money. She had taken credit for everything WIPNET had done while “not doing shit,” and all she ever wanted was power.

Some time later, Gbowee met the American Feminist Gloria Steinem who talked to her about the “pull her down” syndrome:
A way in which too often women denigrate other women. This infighting happens in any society or group than has been impoverished or disenfranchised for a long time. You see one person doing well, think she is getting it all and want only to take it away. I understand it, but it is very destructive. (Page 199)
So there you have it – pull her down – syndrome. It is similar to how Americans love to build up their celebrities then tear them down. Think Martha Stewart and Paula Deen. This instance is much sadder though. Didn’t the women of Liberia have greater problems? What good was it going to do harboring grievances and jealousies against each other? 

Have you heard of “pull her down” syndrome? Do you have any examples you’d like to share?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Guest Post: Will Bad Credit Hurt Your Job Search?

Photo Credit: Waponi via Compfight cc
I am excited to inform you I am guest posting today over on   Nowadays with employment credit checks increasingly becoming the norm, I am asked frequently whether someone's bad credit will prevent them from being hired. To learn if bad credit will hurt your job search click here.  

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Leymeah Gbowee’s Lessons on Domestic Abuse

Last month The Savvy Reader Book Club read Leymah Gbowee's book Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer, and Sex Changed a Nation at War.

There are so many lessons to be gleaned from this book. The very first being:
Life seldom goes according to plan:
When Leymah Gbowee was a young girl in Liberia she dreamed of becoming a doctor. Her plan was to study, work, marry, have children, and maybe someday live in one of the sprawling brick air-conditioned mansions that lined Payne Avenue. Six months after graduating from High School all of her dreams would be gone. By age 19 she found herself pregnant and in an abusive relationship with an older married man.
Gbowee is not afraid to write about her flaws and the mistakes she made in her early life. In doing so she shares important lessons she learned about domestic abuse. 20 years after meeting the father of her children she still has hard time thinking or talking about him. He almost destroyed her. She was never in love with him.

Why did she make such a bad choice?
  • Financial security – At a time when almost everyone she knew was out of work and struggling from day to day, Daniel made eight hundred US dollars a month- the equivalent of tens of thousands of Liberian dollars – working as a logistics officer at the American embassy complex, and he freely spend money on her: gifts of jewelry and perfume from the Lebanese merchants, meals at Angel’s, his favorite restaurant. (Pg. 42)
  • Intense and passionate sex.
  • The war – without it she would have been in school and living at home. Rebellion – She was tired of being the good girl who took care of her parents’ house when relatives crowded in, who went out into dangerous streets to look for food so everyone could eat, and carried hungry kids on her back. She’d seen so much destruction and death, felt so much rage and misery. (Pg. 43) 
  • She was only nineteen and wanted to have a little fun.
She shares what she has since learned about domestic abuse:
  • Pregnancy never solves anything, and more often it makes things worse. Now that I was “his,” Daniel’s need for control tightened. He didn’t like my friends visiting. Which Boyfriend are they bringing a message from?” If we needed food, he had me wait for him to come home from work so we could shop together. A moment of rebellion, and now I was caught. It’s hard to explain. You start with fantastic sex; you give another person that power over your body, then gradually, you give him other powers, too. I’d always vowed never to be like some of the women I’d seen when I was growing up, who had babies with multiple fathers. The father of my children would be my husband, and I would stay with him. (Pg. 44)  
  •  Men like him always want you to believe no one else wants you. (Pg. 47)
While still in her abusive relationship Gbowee enrolled in a program run by UNICEF training people to become social workers. She learns the following in a class on marriage and social life:
The Cycle of Domestic Violence:
In an abusive relationship there is a romantic honeymoon period followed by hitting, which led to apology and making up and another honeymoon period.
While working as a social worker with Sierra Leone refuges Gbowee meets women with troubles much worse than her own. Slowly she is able to build up her resolve; while pregnant with her fourth child she leaves her abuser for good.
Leymeh Gbowee's story provides an inspirational account of someone who was able to tap into her inner strength leave her abuser and go on to achieve great things.

Have you read this book? If so, what were your thoughts?

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Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Is Taking an Administrative Role Career Suicide?

A reader writes:
My current role of accounting supervisor for a smaller company has been restructured and I'm looking at different opportunities. I was contacted by one of the global companies in my area for a position that has piqued my interest. The problem is it might be career suicide. The position is a hybrid of an executive admin and analyst. I think it weighs heavier on the admin side. Aside from it actually sounding interesting to me and paying well, I think it might be a good way to get my foot in the door. I don't know many admins that have turned into CFO's, which is my long-term goal. Any feedback on the possible impact it could have on my career is appreciated.
Before answering I contacted the reader and asked whether the company was in a growing or dying industry

She returned with:
The company has a lot of growth potential, but my concern is that this position might be too far out of the box.
Dear Reader,
Knowing this job is with a growing company, I wouldn't rule out the position. During the interview process ask how visible the position is, whether there will be opportunities to work on special projects and what if any professional development the company offers. Then evaluate whether this position will allow you to gain experience, learn new skills or make valuable contacts. All of the above is more valuable than being unemployed.  If you don't have another supervisory position in the works I'd recommend taking the position.

What do you think? Is taking an administration role career suicide?  Do you know of any CFO's that got their start in administration? 

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

The Savvy Reader Book Club Choices for October

The Savvy Reader Book Club is an online nonfiction book club created for the serious reader.  At the beginning of each month I select one or two books then host discussion posts covering the books throughout the month.  If you write a blog post about one of my selections I will be happy to include its link in my final post.

The Savvy Reader book club selections for October are:

Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus book Higher Education?: How Colleges Are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids---and What We Can Do About It

I decided to choose this book after talking to a recent college grad who after spending over $100,000 on a fashion merchandising degree can only find employment as a retail associate; a job that does not require a 4-year degree. This book promises to expose the truth about what is wrong with higher education and is guaranteed to provide interesting conversation.
I am also selecting Tina Fey's book Bossypants
I chose this book after learning it was the best book Sheryl Sandberg read last year. After reading a depressing book like the one above we will most likely be ready for a funny book. I've read mixed reviews about this book though.  Some reviewers have found it hilarious while others thought it wasn't funny at all.  Please join me if you would like to find out for yourself.   
Have you read either of these books? If so what were your thoughts?  Be sure to stop back in throughout the month to participate in the discussions. 
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