Remote work (or lack of it) is a diversity issue

As the primary caregivers of their children, homes, and often their aging parents as well, women benefit greatly from the flexibility that remote work can offer – simply not having to commute every day can be a major timesaver. “Hybrid” working models, where employees are expected to be in an office one to three days a week instead of five, can facilitate this. But that model assumes that you’re still able to live within commuting distance of your office, which is not always the case.

In a heterosexual couple, even if both spouses work, it is typically the woman who bends her career to that of her husband, staying with or following him to where his work is, even if that limits her own job options. This often makes economic sense because he is also the higher earner in the family. But it’s a classic Catch-22: As long as the family is prioritizing his career, she’s not likely to become the higher earner. (It may not help if she does: there was a point in my first marriage when I was earning three times my husband’s salary, but he still refused to move to Silicon Valley so that I could pursue my career. And studies show that, when women earn more than their male partners, domestic strife, violence, and divorce become more prevalent.)

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US healthcare: hazardous to your health

When I got my first non-temporary job in the US, I had health insurance, but I soon started to experience the pains of for-profit healthcare. I was recently returned from study abroad in India, with lingering exotic health problems requiring expensive testing, which I had to pay up front and then wait to be reimbursed. This was a recipe for disaster when I was living paycheck to paycheck.

The insurer was slow to pay, and I was short $300 to pay my rent. After a fruitless phone call to hurry them up, I started crying in the office – I had no other resources. My manager personally loaned me the money to tide me over. Which was very kind of him (thank you, Larry!) but it was absurd that I’d needed it.

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Why I don’t want the AstraZeneca vaccine

First, let’s get a few possible misconceptions out of the way:

I’m not an anti-vaxxer

I already got my flu shot, as I do every year. I have been vaccinated frequently throughout my life, having lived in many “exotic” countries when you had to travel with a vaccination record to show you weren’t carrying yellow fever, typhoid, etc. I raised my daughter in Italy, where kids cannot go to school without being fully vaccinated. I had no problem with this, in fact I considered it a favor when we were reminded to get her childhood vaccines on time and it was easy to do so with the family GP. Her entire school was once given Hepatitis B vaccines without parents even being informed. I had no problem with that, either. I am grateful that vaccines exist and have even gotten better over time.

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Exotic Pets

When I was growing up in Bangkok 1967-71, one of my favorite places to go was the Saturday-Sunday Market. It was big even then, with sections devoted to food (the smell of dried fish raises warm memories for me), housewares, clothing, and live animals. I don’t know now whether any of those animals were intended for eating, but many of them were there to find homes as pets. Over the years, we tried out parrots, white mice, hamsters, fish, and of course cats and dogs.

We stayed mostly on the mundane end of the pets spectrum, but others literally went wild. It was something of a fashion among expats in Thailand in those days to keep gibbons as pets. We never tried this, probably because my parents’ observed others’ experiences: it is hard to raise a wild gibbon as a pet. I have seen one instance where it went well: the gibbon was treated as part of the family, eating at the low, traditional Thai-style dining table with them, with table manners at least as good as anyone else present. More often, pet gibbons became uncontrollable and bitey and had to be got rid of.

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Remote work, in good times and in bad

I began working from home in 1993, from Italy, for a California company. Other remote experiences have included working in San Jose for Ericsson (HQ in Sweden), and working for AWS (HQ in Seattle) from my home in San Jose, and now from Australia. 

In some ways, I wish I had spent more of my working years in  a “normal” office routine. Working intensely side by side every day, with people you like and respect, is a fantastic feeling, and at times I’ve had that and enjoyed it. But other times workplaces went toxic, so that going into the office every day became a torment to be dreaded. I’ve also had working from home situations go bad, and at those times I dreaded getting up to face my computer every day, even if I didn’t have to directly face the people who were making my life hell.

Often, remote work was the best option available to me. When my Italian employer moved most of the company to the US and then sold out to a US company, continuing in that job was the best paid and most interesting work I could have while still living with my family in Milan. 

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