As a regular presenter at the Women and Technology Conference for high school girls, I have dutifully year after year talked about such topics as "Technology: Treat or Threat? A Look at the Impact of Technology on Your Job Future." Each year my session drew a respectable 50-60 students. This year I decided on a new tack. I called my session: "Today's Dreams Tomorrow's Realities: Your Technological Future."
The operant word, of course, was dreams. My session drew an overflow audience of close to 200 girls standing in the aisles, leaning against the back wall of the theatre. eagerly listening to my "fairy tale" account of a young woman who when she was their age knew that school wasn't really all that important. Longing for love, for the man who would make "bells ring", she drifted through high school, into university, into a teaching job.
Finally she met and fell in love with a handsome pilot in the Royal Canadian Navy... After two marriages, three children, and thirty-five years of teaching, she finally realized that through it all, teaching, working with young women in particular, had been the constant, the substantive, the rewarding part of her life--and so, even though she was now old enough to retire, she kept on working.
Once I had their attention I was able to delineate some of the facts of life. Even good men, I explained, sometimes let you down. They die, they leave for parts unknown, they lose jobs, they break legs. What happens then to the woman who has no career training? In particular, with technology eliminating or deskilling a great deal of traditional women's work, what's going to happen to those women who felt they could always fall back on their typing skills or their nurse's training to pick up a job when necessary?
Susan: How would you sum up your primary message?
Martha: Young women need to be educated about the realities of career planning, of the need for job training, of two pay-cheque families, of job sharing vs part-time work, of the need for increased involvement in unions, of the lack of adequate child care programs, of societal support for the working woman generally. But before that can happen you've got to get their attention and you've got to convince their teachers that such matters are urgent.
Susan: In your 1984 article you remarked that you still worried about the students you taught in high school because of our (older women like us) lack of success in changing the world for them. Do you still feel that way?
Martha: Yes, I'm still worried about young women largely because their sense of entitlement to both marriage and career has increased so much faster than men's awareness of the changes this will bring about in the personal lives of both men and women. Moreover, die-hard traditionalists are organizing their resistance to changes in women's lives. Still I feel hopeful with each passing year. An increasing number of young women are choosing demanding careers, are insisting that husbands and housemates shoulder a fair share of household responsibilities, are taking a more active role in political and community affairs.
Susan: What successes, if any, stand out in your mind?
Martha: When I think of successes, bright fragments, like bits of a patchwork quilt, come to mind:
A few weeks ago the dynamic keynote speaker at a large educational conference on program evaluation was a tiny young woman, a professor of Educational Administration generally recognized to be tops in her field.