Lab+Life Scientist Apr 2015

Page 4



Aspiration isn’t what it’s cracked up to be Aspiration is the carrot on the stick for 21st-century workers. We all aspire to the good life filled with rewarding careers, property, travel… We all believe that if we are good enough and work hard enough we can get there.

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The truth is we won’t. OK, some of us will - but most of us will just mosey along, doing alright but not reaching the heights. It is aspiration that is motivating the youth of today into unpaid internships which they believe will turn into rewarding careers if they are good enough and work hard enough. A more and more unlikely outcome is cynical employers exploit their free labour and then simply replace them with another aspiring youth. In the publishing industry where I work, it is the aspirations of would-be photographers that feed the cost-saving frenzy of the publishers. “We’ll put your name on the pictures you supply us for free. This publicity will establish your reputation as a photographer and lead to a full-time job.” What full-time jobs? The publishers are making whole photographic departments obsolete and

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relying on ‘free’ pictures from aspiring photographers. Being a member of the baby boomer generation, I started my career thinking life was pretty cruisy. I honestly believed that the women ahead of me had paved the way so that I could have a good career with its potential dictated by my ability and that my gender would not be a liability. I thought a similar, though even more rosy, future would be available for my three daughters. But I was wrong. The last 50 years of ‘women’s liberation’ have not resulted in a fairer and more equitable society. Women are not equally likely to be CEOs; in fact, they are still a long way behind even getting equal pay. The only real change seems to be that women are now expected to maintain fulfilling careers

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on top of all the other things they do. I am blaming aspiration and the myth that we can have it all. Personal aspiration has been one of the causes of the erosion of collective bargaining and the trade union movement. I look at the talented, educated and inspiring women featured in the article ‘Empowering women to stay in science’ and desperately hope that the future will be theirs to take and make of what they will. The formation of supportive groups such as Franklin Women is a really positive note in a fairly bleak landscape for professional women. I wish them every success.

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4 | LAB+LIFE SCIENTIST - April 2015

Janette Woodhouse |