September 27, 2010

Numbers

          I have never been one for numbers. I hate math, mainly because I suck at it. I blame my education for this. When I was in kindergarten, my class was selected to try a new "experimental math" program (this was the 1970s). From kindergarten through 6th grade, we played with shapes and colors instead of working with multiplication tables. I never learned standard math. And when I entered a prestigious college preparatory school in the 7th grade, math kicked my a**. I never recovered, or caught up. And yes, I'm bitter.
         No worries, though, because I'm a word girl. And that has served me well. I have been able to go through life pretty much avoiding numbers as much as possible. But sometimes, they do interest me. As I prepared to write my current book, I sent out a one question survey to women in my personal network. And I became very interested in the numbers, as they ended up determining the direction my book would take, in a very unexpected way:

         The second half of my book goes beyond these numbers and shares stories from the women behind them. As I have been connecting with more and more moms lately, I decided I would widen my sampling. I put the same one-question survey on my new website. I was hoping the responses would be similar. After all, what would it mean for my book should the numbers be drastically different? And here's what I got:

          Not only are the numbers amazingly close (phew!), I believe I can explain what differences there are fairly easily:
          For the first survey I targeted a specific age group; my own generation. Women who were raised during the second wave of feminism. I expected the influences of that movement to impact the number of women who chose to work (purple on both charts). I did not capture any demographic data on the second group, but I do assume the age range is wider based on those I have connected with on Twitter (and therefore the ones most likely to have completed the survey). And so their influences growing up would likely have been different.
          An atypical percentage of the women in my first group hold graduate degrees. Higher than the national average. And when I delved deeper and asked follow up question, I found that to be a significant factor in why the 20% of women from that sampling with financial options did choose to work. Again, I don't have details on the second group, but since it was not as targeted, it stands to reason that its higher education levels would be more in line with the general public.
        However, since I am neither a statistician nor an expert in pretty much any area, this is all conjecture. But I personally found these numbers fascinating. Of course, no one wants to be thought of as just a number. There are times, however, when numbers can tell us a lot about people. And I think this is one of them.

10 comments:

  1. Very interesting! I probably "needed" to work when my kiddos were little--heaven knows, we could've used the money--but I chose to stay home anyway. I suck at multitasking. ;)

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  2. @ Linda - I have the utmost respect for working moms. I don't know how I would manage it all.

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  3. Interesting numbers. I've done both, although I've been at-home longer. But with the 3rd kiddo, there was no way I was going to be successful at teaching FT and parenting. Thankfully, we're getting by. Barely, but we are.

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  4. I guess it could be said that I choose to work. I like the lifestyle my income allows my family. But on the same note, I NEED to work for my mental health. I don't have the personality to stay home. That could change when my children are of school age and I could homeschool them.

    How do you put that in a chart?

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  5. @ Kristina - Same here. We're making it. It's tight, but we knew it would be. It was a choice. Our plan is for me to go back to work when SB starts schoool.

    @ Mad Woman - You can't put it on a chart, which is why I share the stories and experiences of the women I polled. You have to go deeper than these numbers to tell the whole story.

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  6. It is interesting because I had to go back to work. But as a teacher, I am able to live vicariously as a stay at home mom in the summer...and I have come to the conclusion that I would need to work at least part time, if for no other reason that both my daughter and I need our own lives. I realize that when I am home in the summer, I tend to pick at details more than during the school year, I tend to get impatient more quickly....

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  7. I've never really like math, but I love accounting. Ya weird.

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  8. Very interesting ... I have been a stay-at-home mom, but mostly a work-at-home mom who has been able to be very flexible with my schedule, thereby hardly missing a field trip or other events. Which doesn't mean it doesn't have its downside, too (not the least of which is that no one, including my family, thinks I have a job! I just eat bon bons all day! ;0)

    Your book sounds like it is going to be very interesting!

    Oh, and I HATE math, too! Geometry is what kicked my butt. I limped through my high school experience. I'm definitely right-brained. Now I'm seeing my poor 8th grade daughter have the same struggle. Last night, she had to do a graph chart that ended up (if done correctly) looking like a dinosaur. She said, "Tell me, Mom. When in life am I going to have to graph a dinosaur?" She has a point.

    I'm tweeting this for Tweet Me Tuesday!

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  9. I hate math as well. That would be interesting...a survey of bloggers (I bet most of them dislike math). Hmmm. This was enlightening-and you actually did something with numbers that benefits what you're doing instead of graphing dinosaurs (lol@Melinda)!!

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  10. I''m not a numbers gal either, but thee are interesting.

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