What I Loved in Blogs This Week

imageI want to write about things I love in my everyday life. But I want to read about them, too, and connect with other bloggers who are writing about the same topics. Although my blog reading, like my posts, is currently heavily slanted towards books, I did enjoy some really good posts in several of my favorite categories this week.


Adventures in Audio: Bookshelf Fantasies expressed her conversion to audiobook listener better than I ever did. Plus, there’s a great discussion going on in the comments section.

Career & Women in STEM

Barbie, Remixed: I (Really) Can be a Computer Engineer: A real life woman computer engineer rewrites a very demeaning Barbie book more to her liking. Oh, and Ken is a moron. (But we knew that already).


Review of Yogis Anonymous: Broke-Ass Yogi tries out an online yoga class subscription service, and lets us know how she liked it. (Spoiler: it sounds like she had the same problem I do with yoga videos – wussing out in the middle of a long sequence I don’t like.)


The False Gospel of Gender Binaries: Rachel Held Evans asks, “If Jesus started with the outliers, why wouldn’t we?”


Readers: What was your favorite blog post (not your own) from this week?

Maternal Employment May Negatively Affect Child Well-Being… Wait, What?

4405834014_aa2d188916_zA recent Wall Street Journal headline asked the question “No Time for Family Dinner? Try Breakfast”. It’s suggesting a new spin on the old truism that healthy families – and especially healthy children and adolescents – sit down to dinner together every night.

But wait, the WSJ says. Maybe it’s not really about the meal. Maybe it’s about the socioeconomic setting behind the meal.

Families with higher incomes, two parents, one parent who doesn’t work and strong family bonds have family dinner more often than families without those characteristics

Like the nerd I am, I clicked the supporting citation. It led to a 2012 paper by Cornell researchers, “Assessing Causality and Persistence in Associations Between Family Dinners and Adolescent Well-being“, published on the NIH website.

We controlled for variables… that may affect both the management of a regular family dinner and child well-being, including family structure, number of children in the household, family income, parental education, and maternal employment.

The link between this research and the WSJ quote above is pretty clear, except for one glaring difference. The WSJ (who knows their audience) mentions “one parent who doesn’t work” as a potential variable. The original research, however, controls for maternal employment. Not “dual parental employment”. Not even  maternal and paternal employment separately. It’s all about whether the mother has a job or not.

It’s reasonable to consider how parents’ work arrangements could affect the data. But by choosing only maternal employment as a variable, the researchers are assuming that it is only the woman’s decision to work (not the man’s) that may influence family meals and well-being.

Even worse, if you open the tables attached to the article, they go beyond just maternal employment. They actually correlate “mother starts work” and “mother quits work” with increases and decreases in depressive behaviors. Also, the research paper cites numerous other research on maternal employment and child health. Apparently there is an entire field of study dedicated to whether women’s employment – not the parents’ combined work arrangement – is bad for their children.

Are we really still asking that question?


Image courtesy GranniesKitchen via Flickr. License

What Works… and how to make it work

Career advice books aim to change you. It’s no secret. The only way they can produce results is to influence the reader, so they’re going to tell you how you’re doing it wrong (whatever ‘it’ is). On the one hand, you have Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office. On the other, Winning Nice: How to Succeed in Business and Life Without Waging War.

On the other end of the spectrum you have the studies in sociology that tell you why women can be at a disadvantage in their careers. Books like Through the Labyrinth: The Truth about How Women Become Leaders describe the world as it exists today, and give you little advice about how to actually navigate it. In my opinion (and despite the titular advice), Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg falls mostly in this camp, too.

What Works for Women at Work bridges this gap. Through an NSF grant, Joan C. Williams and Rachel Dempsey identified four key patterns of gender bias that women face in the workplace. Then – and this is the wonderful part – they advise you on how to deal with them, without making the bias your fault.


The four key areas they address are:

  • Prove It Again bias: women are judged on their performance, while men are judged on their potential
  • The Tightrope: women are either too nice or too mean.
  • The Maternal Wall: how motherhood, or the potential for it, affects women’s career paths
  • Tug of War: how women fight each other

The authors also do a wonderful job of broadening their audience, and along with it, their message. They emphasize that this book is not just written for women, but also for men to recognize these unconscious patterns that play out over and over again.


At the same time, there is recognition that in many cases (as in my example of “too nice” and “winning nice”, above) that opposing strategies can both be effective. It’s all about recognizing the situation and understanding your response to it. For example, they warn against taking on office housework, but also offer ways to turn those types of tasks to your advantage. My shortened version of their list:


  1. Take something else off your plate.
  2. Negotiate for a higher-status team member to help you out, so that you build valuable connections with someone at your company.
  3. Ask for a direct report to a higher-up.
  4. Secure a budget (money is power).
  5. Establish a sunset and succession plan.


And finally – realistically – the end of the book focuses on how to know when you need to leave.

Overall, this book both opens your eyes and puts tools in your hands. It’s enthusiastically recommended for both men and women professionals.


Library Loot: April 3rd

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Linda from Silly Little Mischief that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library.

Today’s library haul was more diverse than usual:

First, two nonfiction books that I am actually excited about (rare!)



What Works for Women at Work describes four patterns of workplace gender bias, AND promises to offer effective strategies for dealing with them. That’s important: so many business books, especially ones about gender, spend time discussing issues and never propose a solution. I can’t wait to see if this book delivers on its promise.

Otherhood is about being happy and childless – even if that’s not what you intended for your life.

I also picked up three fiction books – and two of them were “serious”! (For me, anyway).




The decisively non serious one: Disenchanted & Co, by Lynn Viehl. I’m hoping this book will scratch my Gail Carriger itch. I know that’s not a fair way to approach a book – but it has her name on the cover blurb! And a parasol!

The other two are potential book club picks. I am afraid my last pick, being fantasy, was way outside the group’s comfort zone. So, here, I’m going for something with more general appeal. Either A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith, or Half Broke Horses by Jeanette Walls. Readers – which one should I choose?