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Work → In Progress: Gender In The Workplace, Past And Future

A fast-evolving question ...
A fast-evolving question ...
Rozena Crossman

PARIS — In 1919, the International Labor Organization adopted the first conventions on women in the workplace. In 2019, the women who won the World Cup earned $850,000 less than their male counterparts. Three waves of feminism have transformed sexual and interpersonal dynamics. Still, the #MeToo movement reminded us of entrenched power-and-sexual dynamics in the workplace. And other contradictions abound: a case is now before the United States Supreme Court about whether a company can force women to wear skirts or fire an employee for being transgender; and even as some women rise to the heights of corporate power, a report last year on gender disparity in tech found that men own 91% of employee and founder equity in Silicon Valley ...

Whatever the gender gap looks like in 2119, at the heart of the matter will be questions about work. The working world is both a microcosm of the world around us and its fuel: a place where networks are formed, ambitions are achieved and wages are earned. This edition of Work → In Progress looks at the future demographics and dynamics around the water coolers of the world.

YOU GROW, GIRL! Women are inundating the agricultural business in Africa. They constitute 70% of the workforce in the continent's agricultural sector, and are responsible for 60 to 90% of the total rural marketing. In the sub-Saharan region, much of the rural farming is carried out by self-employed farmers, most of whom are women. But there's still room for improvement: While women run three quarters of Kenyan farms, men own and control most of the land.

SHE'S IN CHARGE, JAPANESE-STYLE In the land of the rising #girlboss, Japanese companies are collaborating to bring more women into managerial positions: This year, Panasonic Group, Meiji Yasuda Life Insurance Co. and Yamato Holdings Co. launched a united training program that aims at helping female employees across industries build both their management skills and their network.

WAIT, WHERE ARE ALL THE WOMEN? Meanwhile, in the world's second most populous country, a new survey found that the number of employed women in India has decreased by a whopping 31% between 2011-12 and 2017-18. According to The Times of India, several recent studies show that Indian women of all ages, educations and incomes are dropping out of work for a range of reasons, from higher expectations for those with university degrees, to husbands pressuring wives to stay home, to the automation of agricultural jobs. No, the future isn't always synonymous with progress, and changes to stifling gender roles are crucial to economic advancement.

AN ITALIAN SOLUTION With Italy ranking 70th worldwide in gender parity in the workforce, Enrico Gambardella has set up an organization called Winning Women Institute that runs "severe" audits on companies to see if they are closing the gender gap on a range of factors, from pay equity to leadership to overall hiring. The companies that pass the test can promote the fact to customers with the organization's pink seal."It's like what's happening around environmental policy," Gambardella told Rome-based daily La Repubblica. "Shoppers today are more attentive about where they spend their money. Company reputation is a fundamental part of business today."


ROBOT HARASSMENT Every employee has the right to a safe work environment — including robots. The Telegraph reports that a recent study by De Montfort University found that British workers, fearing their jobs will be usurped, are purposefully vandalizing their friendly office robots. The study's author explains that employers often bring in robots without explaining to their employees that the machines' main purpose is actually to make their jobs easier.

A 360 DEGREE The Dominican Republic is introducing a whole new kind of degree at the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo. In partnership with the Ministry of Higher Education, Science, and Technology, the university will offer technical training alongside traditional classes so that students can also graduate with both their original degrees and technical certificates. The goal is to provide students with "short term" jobs after graduation, and to create graduates who can respond to the growing need for high-tech skills.


BUILDING THE FUTURE Architects all over the world agree: People from other disciplines will play an increasingly significant role in improving urban solutions, from communications to engineering. According to Moscow-based media Kommersant, this is because architecture and urban design is no longer a private matter, but a public one. Problems such as air, water pollution and rising sea levels are all the result of poor design. The current state of affairs should be used as a springboard for architectural research and expression.

DATA DIVINATION If a big industrial company has worked out an intelligent method of knowing exactly when to fix machines, could they do the same thing for employees? The growing popularity of HR analytics has algorithms predicting employees career evolutions and even absenteeism. Belgian business daily L'Echo reports that Jigso, an Anvers-based startup, uses data to track employee behavior. Now, Jigso is trying to create a data-based service that helps employees organize their work differently or gives them automatic paid leave to preserve their well-being.

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Bravo! Brava! Opera's Overdue Embrace Of Trans Performers And Storylines

Opera has played with ideas of gender since its earliest days. Now the first openly trans performers are taking to the stage, and operas explicitly exploring trans identities are beginning to emerge.

A photograph of Lucia Lucas singing with a lance, dressed in a black gown.

September 2022: Lucia Lucas performing at the opera

Lucia Lucas/Facebook
Von Manuel Brug

BERLIN — The figure of the nurse Arnalta is almost as old as opera itself. In Claudio Monteverdi’s saucy Roman sex comedy The Coronation of Poppaea, this motherly confidante spurs the eponymous heroine on to ever more lustful encounters, singing her advice in the voice of a tenor. The tradition of a man playing an older woman in a comic role can be traced all the way back to the comedies of the ancient world, which Renaissance-era writers looked to for inspiration.

The Popes in Baroque Rome decreed that, supposedly for religious reasons, women should not sing on stage. But they still enjoyed the spectacular performances of castratos, supporting them as patrons and sometimes even acting as librettists. The tradition continues today in the form of celebrated countertenors, and some male sopranos perform in female costume.

“I don’t know what I am, or what I’m doing.” This is how the pageboy Cherubino expresses his confusion at the flood of hormones he is experiencing in his aria in Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro – one of the most popular operas of all time, full of amorous adventures and sexual misunderstandings. Cherubino cannot and does not want to choose between a countess, a lady’s maid, and a gardener’s daughter. He sometimes wears women’s clothing himself, and in modern productions the music teacher even chases after the young man.

The role of Cherubino, the lustful teenager caught between childhood and manhood, someone who appears trapped in the "wrong
body, is traditionally performed by a woman, usually a mezzosoprano. The audience is used to this convention, also seen in Richard Strauss’s Rosenkavalier or Siegfried Matthus’s Cornet Christoph Rilke’s Song of Love and Death, first performed in 1984.

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