Friday, July 23, 2010
The Elephant in the Room
Had a wonderful evening at Theatreworks in St Kilda last night. I needed a social night! A colleague's husband, Bill starred in the play An Elephant in the Room. It is a good small piece, but surprisingly not a two hander as I had expected from the reviews. The two leads needed the support of the multi-role players to convey the plot and interpersonal relations which become the focus of the plot. I enjoyed seeing younger unrecognised (by me) actors on the stage. It is always heartening to see how many very talented professionals the Melbourne scene nurtures. What does dismay me, however, is that the big commercial companies seem to have a blind spot for using only a 'select' group of mature actors, therby excluding talent such as US trained Bill.
This is perhaps the actual metaphorical 'elephant' that is in my life at present, the inability of sheer, talent, guts and determination is not enough for mature workers. Despite continued rhetoric of skills shortages, elongated working lives, need for recognition of mature workers knowledges and experiences... and in the Academy a hysteria with respect to under-supply of qulaified staff, it remains networking and nepotism that ensures a painless transition into the workplace at an older age. I would hasten to add that the very nature of our workplace experience is a factor actually mobilised systemically to disciminate against our employment. Despite the EO legislation there is no way to ensure that systemic and attitudinal discrimination is not the determining factor of employability.
Why are there so many overseas-born, Australian trained newly qualified Doctors (PhDs) employed at our Universities? Is it that with youth comes an ignorance of reasonable workplace demands? Is it the awareness that passion, coupled with the fear (of the newly settled employee) that any requirement and expectation from the employer is unquestioningly complied with?
Is it the very work-life balance that mature workers seek which is the 'elephant' standing in the way of employment? Can knowledge and experience ever be valued equally with willingness to be exploited?
What is going on here. On the one hand we have a Federal governent investing heavily in local- based PhD candidates, then not ensuring the employers are 'encouraged' to utilise the human capital and investment of the previous three-four years? This is a call for positive discrimination in the direction of
a) older workers, to ease the social security burdon on the State in years to come as the boomer generation is disproportionatley represented in the 'retired' workforce.
b) Australian-trained PhDers into tagged early career positions tied to the University who received the benefits of the federal funds to train these post-graduates.
c) recognition that older women's academic careers have often been delayed/interrupted by child-rearing, or family carer duties more often than their male colleagues. Queensland Unis seem to be the only Instiututions that recognise this form of systemic discrimination by tagging Post DOC fellowships and Academic positions... what's wrong with Victorian Institutions?
d) Finally, an overseas-based fellowship targetted to these Aussie PhDers so we can take advantage of the of the globalised higher education industry.
So, the 'elephant in my room'... why beat myself up to finish the doctorate in a timely completion schedule when there is ZERO encouragement to pursue and academic career, after so many years of study, personal commitment and private debt? How can younger women and men (academics) from two-income families with extended family support networks ever be able to empathise with those of us from the lower socio-economic groups (usually due to carer responsibilities and isolation) ? How can the establishment ever recognise how the accepted practices are actually gatekeping mechanisms to maintain privilege and power.