Category Archives: Missing Our Significance – and Others’

Worth Valley in the Snow by John Sargent

Worth, Gender Inequality, and the Baseball Hall of Fame

Two scorecard-related announcements this week led me to think about the question of worth and how we measure it.

The Worth of Your Work

First, How Much have Global Problems Cost the World?: A Scorecard from 1900 to 2050, was published, edited by Bjørn Lomborg, an adjunct with the Copenhagen Business School. Lomborg wrote an article for The Atlantic summarizing the results of the report card. Overall, this books sounds like it offers a great perspective on the material progress that humanity has made and continues to make.

One of the measures, however, struck me as a bit odd: gender equality. Not the issue itself, but the way in which it was measured:

In 2012, women’s lower salaries and exclusion from the workplace cost the global economy 7 percent of GDP, the difference between boom and bust. How did we get that figure? We looked at how much more women could have contributed to GDP if they had worked as much as men and with the same pay. Today, women earn only 60 percent as much as men and make up just 40 percent of the workforce—a significant improvement from 15 percent in 1900, but still a ways off from gender parity. Even by 2050 the gender ratio will not yet be even, and women will still earn 30 percent less than men. [Emphasis added.]

Lomborg has clarified that the measure used in this case takes into account both paid and unpaid work, expressed in terms of GDP. Reducing questions of equality, however, to an economic measure creates the false impression that how much you are paid is an accurate measure of how much you are worth.

Continue reading Worth, Gender Inequality, and the Baseball Hall of Fame

Vintage eyeglasses

Seeing the Person, Not Just the Money

In my first job after college, I wrote grant applications for a major orchestra. This work required me to stay knowledgeable about local philanthropy, so I once attended a panel discussion featuring several of the city’s leading donors, discussing their priorities for giving and their preferences for how to be approached for a gift. The room was filled with other grant writers, major gift officers, development directors, and others, waiting to discover how to tap into all that wealth.

Most of the panelists were in their fifties or sixties; their giving came after a successful career provided them with the means to give. One donor, however, was only a few years older than I was. The scion of an old and wealthy family, she had inherited millions in her early twenties, upon the unexpected death of her parents. While she spoke strongly about causes she supported, what jumped out most to me was her frustration with fundraisers who hadn’t done their homework, approaching her for gifts to organizations she would never support, ignoring the clear guidelines of her family’s foundation, and, worst of all, confusing her family with another local dynasty with a similar name:

“They don’t even know who I am!”

At the time, her comments struck me as incredibly arrogant. I couldn’t relate to her at all. I was on the opposite end of the ask, trying to get her to write a large check so that I could justify my low-paying, barely-making-ends-meet job, while she (I imagined) lived a carefree Scrooge McDuck-style life. She was right. I couldn’t care less who she was: I just wanted her money. Continue reading Seeing the Person, Not Just the Money

Good is not enough

Feelings of Inadequacy

Last week, instead of publishing a post about feeling inadequate, I missed my self-imposed weekly deadline. How’s that for timely?

The week before, I heard Dick Gordon, on NPR’s The Story, interview a woman who had worked for many years at a chicken processing plant. Her job was putting stickers on chicken wings to mark their quality – A-grade, B-grade, or X for discards. The chicken wings came by on a conveyor belt, and she put stickers on them.

“That sounds like an easy job,” Gordon said, just as I was thinking the exact same thing. The woman laughed and described the conditions in more detail. She was required to tag 25 wings per minute — about 2 seconds per wing. The conveyor belt never stopped moving during her shift, and her shift might last 7 to 8 hours — maybe longer if the plant had more chickens to process. What I had thought sounded like an easy job, now sounded brutal in its difficulty.

If a job sounds easy, it’s probably because you either don’t know enough about it or don’t care enough to do it well.

Called by God…and Not Good Enough

Several years ago, Darrell Johnson spoke at Regent College on the subject of calling. He had just concluded a study of every person recorded in the Bible as having received a call from God to perform some task. He wanted to discover what they had in common, whether there were any patterns to their calls that he could learn from. As you might expect, they had several things in common, but the first surprised me: they all felt inadaquate. Continue reading Feelings of Inadequacy