Women’s March

07Mar19

On the heels of the devastating news that only men applied to serve on new Public Safety Building Committee came the bombshell that no women were among the top 50 highest paid town employees.

What’s a girl to make of this during Women’s History Month?

In the real world, most people understand how the list of the 50 highest paid town employees works. Most of them are cops, followed by firefighters, Light Department employees and DPW workers. What do these jobs offer that others don’t? For one thing, they have the opportunity to pad their base salaries with lots of detail and/or overtime pay. So, if you’re willing to work your butt off and spend lots of time away from hearth and home, you can rake in a fair amount of cash.

But that still doesn’t explain why there aren’t more women on the list.

Or does it?

Despite the claims of science deniers, genetic and biological differences between men and women stubbornly persist. There are always exceptions, but in general, jobs like police work and firefighting still tend to attract far more men than women.

Whether this is primarily due to nature or nurture is debatable, I suppose. But it takes a certain kind of person to be a police officer. Most men don’t want to do it (including me, as much as I admire cops). So, is it really so scandalous that fewer women want to enter fields that even most men shy away from?

I don’t fret over the gender of police officers or firefighters. I’m just grateful that anyone is willing to do it.

So, the question remains: Is Wakefield town government really the teeming cauldron of testosterone-fueled sexism and misogyny that some would have you believe? Take a stroll through Ye Olde Town Hall. The scene hardly resembles a Mad Men episode, with females relegated to the secretarial pool.

The Tax Collector is a woman. The Town Clerk is a woman. The Executive Director of the Retirement System is a woman. The town’s Human Resources Director is a woman. The Health Director is a woman. The Executive Director of the Council on Aging is a woman. The Library Director is a woman. The Executive Director of the Housing Authority is a woman. The Assistant Superintendent of Schools is a woman. The Veterans Services Director is a woman, etc., etc.

Until their recent retirements, Kim Smith was the School Superintendent and Carol Antonelli was the DPW’s second in command.

It turns out that women are well represented in top positions in town government, even if those jobs don’t have access to the overtime and detail pay to propel them into the 50 highest paid.

Not all gender roles are the result of stereotypes or “social constructs,” much less a sexist conspiracy. A lot of it is deeply rooted in human nature and millennia of evolution.

No amount of nagging is going to change that.

[This column originally appeared in the March 7, 2019 Wakefield Daily Item.]



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