Monday 19 January 2009

Sexual Paradox & Gender Gap?

I recently came across Susan Pinker's ideas on behavioral and professional differences caused by gender & hormonal influences. Particularly her explanation in a recent Dutch TV documentary, on why female success (or seeming lack thereof) should be defined and measured differently, stroke a chord.

To some degrees, I myself am an example of Susan's "high achieving women [who] choose jobs that pay less or opt out at pivotal moments in their careers".

In my mid thirties, rather than continuing my thus far quite successful career, I resigned a profitable position with a prestigious organization, not for any rational reason, but because it felt like the right thing to do at the time. Since then I have foolishly turned down several interesting opportunities and started my own company, which has not been making a lot of profit so far. This is partially due to the fact that I have approached my company more as a hobby (my main task being currently that of a mother), and many of my projects represent honorary work.

Thus measured by traditional standards, in the past couple of years I have not been very successful professionally. A fact that seems to baffle my accountant, my husband, and many of my friends and colleagues.

Nevertheless, I feel that I have contributed more value to my profession and society in recent years, then when I was still receiving a lucrative salary. Indeed most of our communities could not operate without the dedication and commitment of talented individuals, many of them female, who are not driven by status or financial rewards, but humanitarian values and long-term impact. And I wonder if for myself this might not in fact be a more accurate and justified measure of success.


Chris Ryan said...

My feeling is that your decisions will pay off in the long term, financially and/or just in terms of satisfaction and accomplishment.

Chris Ryan said...

My feeling is that your decisions will pay off in the long term, financially and/or just in terms of satisfaction and accomplishment.

antje said...

Thanks for you support & kind words, Chris!

I guess you yourself and Redrooffs ( are (male!) proof that great things can come from an alternative approach :-)

Tess Doucet | Twitter: @spellfinder said...

A very interesting point you make. I have been thinking along parallel lines, mainly selfflagulating because I fail to make money and/or achieve the status that I feel my contributions do deserve.

Where do I go wrong? Is it a matter of lack of personal PR or will the work pay off in the longterm by itself, like Chris suggests?

As I am developing my own company, I have tried making up my own answers. Find them on my company blog Spellfinder(under construction) and please, comment if you have something (anything? anyone? oooh, it's quiet...) to say : )

Keep it up Antje, I like the dialogue you are starting... you are an inspiration!

antje said...

Thanks, Tess! (blushing)

I must admit my lack of (financial) success at the moment mostly stems from me taking on a lot of volunteer work, because I find it more intriguing and beneficial in the bigger picture, rather than choosing mainly paid projects.

An attitude that many of my friends seem to find somewhat strange (and indeed does not make much commercial sense).

But I do hope that I have made a positive impact on my profession and individuals within my (limited) sphere of influence during the past years. And this seems to be currently more important to me.

(Of course I would not have the luxury of making such a choice without the support of my dear husband, who has kindly taken on the role of main income earner for the time being. And I do certainly hope to eventually earn a more regular income again.)

Anonymous said...


I have been sent here by Tess and now I read your article I can see why. A nice piece, written from the heart with openness and honesty.

What a crazy thing to do! Give up a good job, a promising career, great prospects, a great salary and hardest of all the respect of people who looked up to you. What on earth will you tell people when they ask you at social gatherings -”so what do you do Antje?” How can you you justify your existence on the planet now you aren't earning money and contributing to the GDP of your country?

Something inside you is telling you that the values by which society require you to live are not right for you. You may not understand why they aren't right or consciously know what in particular is wrong with them. All you know is that you must follow your own values and find what's right for you. Not many people have the character to go against the herd. It takes courage, determination and sacrifice. It can be a lonely path and there's rarely any support or encouragement. Every step of the way you'll find yourself questioning yourself.

The problem is that people who can't feel the imbalance in the worlds value system won't ever be able to understand why you are doing what you have chosen to do. Most are so mentally and physically ensnared by the demands of our social systems, that questioning the system itself is beyond their ability. To them it seems simply that you are wasting a talent when you could be using it to make MONEY and making yourself comfortable!!! Why would anyone not want to use their talents to make lots of money! Some may even find what you are doing a criminal act, depriving society of your money making talents and being a burden on society.

It's something that both Tess and I and many others world wide are going through with you. I gave up my job as a senior IT professional with Vodafone 5 years ago now and have been looking after the kids ever since. I have used this time studying our current political, financial and social systems and going back through history to find out where many of our 'ways' originate from. I can tell you from my experience you have a very good reason to question the way we are currently doing things and it is my suspicion that you are currently operating on a level of intuition that can be hard to explain logically. Just because you don't have the evidence yet doesn't mean that it isn't valid though. My advice is to be true to yourself no matter what, follow your intuition and eventually the jigsaw will come together.

Sadly, if you choose to follow your own values the historical evidence is against Chris's optimistic and hopeful outlook for you. Many who chose to follow their own path may indeed bring great benefit to mankind and rarely does great change occur without these individuals effort and sacrifice. However, the monetary value of these individuals is seldom recognised until long after the individual is gone. This is because the return on any investment in such individuals is usually too long term to tempt investors and also what they are proposing is so far outside the current system it is not possible for most investors to see the potential.

Of course you could try to find a way to make a profit from your intuitive gift which might bring financial reward but this would probably require you to sacrifice your principles in some way in order to conform but there's a spiritual price to pay for this path. Only you know how strong and determined you are and therefore which path best suites you.

Here's a few articles I wrote to help me clarify the issues in my mind and so help me choose my path.

The Zen of Lego
How Much Are You Worth
Money in Crisis - Series



Anonymous said...

Hi Antje, I posted a reply to your comment on my blog here.

I'm not sure if external links show up on your site so you might not have seen it?