Women lean every which way

Nearly a century after women got the right to vote and several generations after they became mainstays in the workforce, it seems society – at least the male half – is learning there is no one box in which to place women when it comes to work and business.

We still tout feminist firsts, such as former lieutenant governor Kerry Healey being named the first female president of Babson College, the business-focused school in Wellesley. Yet when the focus is put on successful women corporate leaders such as Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg or Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, the tone of coverage is as much about celebrity as it is their business acumen. Raise your hand if you know where Mayer got her degrees. Since we doubt there are few hands in the air, we’ll tell you she got both bachelor’s and master’s from Stanford. Now let’s see a show of hands for those who have heard about Mayer’s dictate to end telecommuting at Yahoo or have heard her described as having “model looks.” The virtual room must be awash in elevated hands.

For all the gains women have made, it seems there are still stories focused on all the gains women have made and analysis of gains still to be made. This week, Harvard is celebrating its 50th year of admitting women to its business school and released a survey that shows female MBA graduates still lag behind men in the full-time workplace, though mainly by choice. The survey found that alumnae of all ages were more likely to opt for part-time employment or become stay-at home parents than their male counterparts. The biggest gender gap came in the 31- to 47-year old age group, where 95 percent of male graduates were working full-time while only 74 percent of women had 40 hours or more of a work week.

That study, though, presents a different view from a recent analysis of census data by the University of New Hampshire which found that women are increasingly becoming the main breadwinner in married households. The UNH researchers found that wives account for 47 percent of household income, up from 38 percent a quarter century ago. Much of that shift, the researchers say, stems from the recent recession that disproportionately affected traditional male-dominated industries such as construction and other blue-collar jobs, a move highlighted by CommonWealth in our 2011 special issue on the American Dream.

The findings can seem confusing. The number of women-owned businesses have grown over the last 16 years by nearly 60 percent around the country, though Massachusetts ranks in the bottom third with just a 39 percent increase, according to a report from American Express. If you stop and think about it, that number resonates in the progressive Bay State. Beyond Fidelity’s Abigail Johnson, how many women business leaders can the average Massachusetts resident name?

Facebook’s Sandberg, a graduate of Harvard Business, was in town yesterday to tout her new book “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead.” Sandberg spoke to a receptive audience of Massachusetts women in business and some in attendance, such as former lieutenant governor  Evelyn Murphy who started a nonprofit focused on wage discrimination toward women, said the book and Sandberg’s appearance are “a call to action.” Yet others dismiss Sandberg’s best-selling book as the out-of-touch musings of a multi-millionaire with few of the day-to-day concerns of the average household.

But women, regardless of how successful they are, still have to contend with headlines such as “Women at Work: A little makeup goes a long way.” That was atop a story yesterday in the Rochester, Minnesota, Post-Bulletin summarizing a study from a little more than a year ago by other Harvard researchers. The same study got a little more high-minded treatment by the New York Times when it was released but the bottom line was the same.

“Smoky eyes and glamorous lips: Women who adorned the ‘sexy’ look at work were rated as significantly less trustworthy,” reads the Post-Bulletin story, which could have been written in the 1950s. “Here is a hint – if you need to earn trust, opt for the natural look with a little enhancement of concealer, mascara and natural blush.”

When we see a study telling men how that beer gut and receding hairline affects their chances of advancement, then, indeed, women will have attained true workplace equality.

                                                                                                                                                –JACK SULLIVAN

BEACON HILL

Gov. Deval Patrick threw down the gauntlet, ripping the transportation finance package unveiled earlier this week by legislative leaders as wholly inadequate and vowing to veto it if it arrives on his desk in its present form. The Berkshire Eagle argues that the Legislature’s plan is not worthy as it focuses on the problems of the MBTA aka “Boston-based sinkhole,” and ignores “timely and adequate” Chapter 90 funding.” CommonWealth’s Paul McMorrow digs into the numbers and politics behind the big tax battle on Beacon Hill in the cover story of our spring issue, which we’re releasing early. The Herald focuses on House Speaker Robert DeLeo’s attempts to secure a veto-proof majority.

Former state Transportation Secretary Jim Aloisi writes an open letter to the Legislature saying: “I give up. You win.”

CommonWealth’s Jack Sullivan reports from the trial of former probation commission John O’Brien, where prosecutors paint a picture of “Bacon Hill.”

State officials are finally getting around to cleaning up the way state property is leased to yacht and boat clubs, CommonWealth’s Colman Herman reports.

The House gives its Ethics Committee subpoena power to investigate a complaint against an as-yet unidentified rep, the State House News Services reports (via Lowell Sun).

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

The still-forming mayoral field in Boston is a pale imitation of what some had hoped for in a city where a majority of the population belong to racial minority groups.

CASINOS

The state gambling commission inched closer yesterday to opening up the competition for a casino license in Southeastern Massachusetts to commercial bidders. The Cape Cod Times also explores the issue.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

With recent decisions on same-sex marriage and gun control, Maryland is becoming more like…Massachusetts.

Gun owners’ groups are using Congress’s two-week spring recess to press senators into supporting Rand Paul’s planned filibuster of any gun bill, ever. Tom Coburn, one of the primary objects of this squeeze play, is not amused: I’ve done more filibusters than Rand Paul is old.” New York magazine debunks every argument against the expanded background checks Coburn and Senate Democrats are weighing, while Slate explains how the NRA sinks laws that 90 percent of the country support.

The Wall Street Journal’s ed board can’t believe New York crafted a tax credit specifically for the Tonight Show that will probably also benefit America’s Got Talent.

ELECTIONS

Scott Brown, whose electoral luck seems to have run out in Massachusetts, says he may take his truck and barn coat over the border and see whether New Hampshire voters are interested. New York worries that Brown is addicted to campaigning.

Peter Gelzinis writes that Boston Mayor Tom Menino is already having difficulty with the “hard reality” that he won’t be able to control the campaign to succeed him.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The latest US jobs report is very disappointing, Time reports.

Pickets have gone up around the new $30 million YMCA building in Quincy after union officials said the organization hired a nonunion electrical company to install lighting and reneged on a promise to give a union shop last crack at a bid.

EDUCATION

CommonWealth’s Michael Jonas says extended learning time for kids in poorer communities makes sense — but it may not pack much punch if it doesn’t come with other reforms that free up school leaders to really put high-expectations learning on track.

Washington’s governor switches stance on grading schools, the Seattle Times reports.

East Bridgewater school officials say they cannot operate with a level-funded budget because of increased special needs costs — unless they implement cost-saving measures such as program cuts, increased sports fees, or even staff cuts.

There was no lunch for students at an Attleboro middle school who were short of money this week in the cafeteria, a scene that the Globe reports was “more akin to ‘Oliver Twist’ than 21st-century Massachusetts.”

HEALTH CARE

A federal judge rules that the morning-after pill must be available to women of all ages without a prescription, the New York Times reports.

Officials in Worcester are vexed by teen birth rates, the Telegram & Gazette reports.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Residents in several Massachusetts communities say “shadow flicker” from nearby wind turbines is driving them nuts.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

A former Saugus library employee who stole more than $800,000 gets five years in prison, the Item reports.

The former Wareham animal control officer is one of two town residents being charged with animal cruelty for mistreating and abusing their pet dogs.

Lawrence Police find 22 “bottle bombs” around the city, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

Meet the Author

Jack Sullivan

Senior Investigative Reporter, CommonWealth

About Jack Sullivan

Jack Sullivan is now retired. A veteran of the Boston newspaper scene for nearly three decades. Prior to joining CommonWealth, he was editorial page editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, a part of the GateHouse Media chain. Prior to that he was news editor at another GateHouse paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, and also was city edition editor at the Ledger. Jack was an investigative and enterprise reporter and executive city editor at the Boston Herald and a reporter at The Boston Globe.

He has reported stories such as the federal investigation into the Teamsters, the workings of the Yawkey Trust and sale of the Red Sox, organized crime, the church sex abuse scandal and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has covered the State House, state and local politics, K-16 education, courts, crime, and general assignment.

Jack received the New England Press Association award for investigative reporting for a series on unused properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and shared the association's award for business for his reporting on the sale of the Boston Red Sox. As the Ledger editorial page editor, he won second place in 2007 for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association, the nation's oldest national journalism association of nearly 900 newspapers as members.

At CommonWealth, Jack and editor Bruce Mohl won first place for In-Depth Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors for a look at special education funding in Massachusetts. The same organization also awarded first place to a unique collaboration between WFXT-TV (FOX25) and CommonWealth for a series of stories on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and city employees getting affordable housing units, written by Jack and Bruce.

About Jack Sullivan

Jack Sullivan is now retired. A veteran of the Boston newspaper scene for nearly three decades. Prior to joining CommonWealth, he was editorial page editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, a part of the GateHouse Media chain. Prior to that he was news editor at another GateHouse paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, and also was city edition editor at the Ledger. Jack was an investigative and enterprise reporter and executive city editor at the Boston Herald and a reporter at The Boston Globe.

He has reported stories such as the federal investigation into the Teamsters, the workings of the Yawkey Trust and sale of the Red Sox, organized crime, the church sex abuse scandal and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has covered the State House, state and local politics, K-16 education, courts, crime, and general assignment.

Jack received the New England Press Association award for investigative reporting for a series on unused properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and shared the association's award for business for his reporting on the sale of the Boston Red Sox. As the Ledger editorial page editor, he won second place in 2007 for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association, the nation's oldest national journalism association of nearly 900 newspapers as members.

At CommonWealth, Jack and editor Bruce Mohl won first place for In-Depth Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors for a look at special education funding in Massachusetts. The same organization also awarded first place to a unique collaboration between WFXT-TV (FOX25) and CommonWealth for a series of stories on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and city employees getting affordable housing units, written by Jack and Bruce.

MEDIA

Pulitzer Prize-winning movie critic Roger Ebert died yesterday, just two days after he announced he would take a “leave of presence” to deal with a recurrence of cancer.