This morning, "Women Need to Stop Giving It Away For Free" (http://www.dailylife.com.au/news-and-views/dl-opinion/women-stop-giving-...) came across my Facebook feed. The conversation (and the article) focused on business, but it raised some interesting questions for me as an educator, a coach, an author and a presenter. I'm often asked to do things for free--sometimes I even ask for the privilege of doing so because I support the cause and I believe in sharing good ideas. More and more, though, I'm wondering about this as a norm in our field. In education, nearly no one (other than a handful of big names) gets paid to present at conferences or to publish in the mainstream journals or blogs. (In fact, we often have to pay full registration fees to attend the conferences at which we present.) I wonder if this is because education is a female dominated field and we women are socialized to be “nice” above all else, and as a result we don’t demand that our work be valued at an appropriate level.
I mentioned this to a colleague online, who responded, "Education has been devalued for a long time and the profession has been disrespected entirely. Women (usually) give away their time and skill set as volunteers. Additionally, ed reform types make no bones about seeking free labor (TFA) and and/or people interested in "giving back". As if giving back pays the bills! They say they want to bring "best business practices" to the field, but what other industry relies on free labor, underpaid staff and volunteers?!"
So, on the one hand I want to make sure that everyone gets what they need. I’ve often bent over backwards to ensure that potential clients weren’t priced out of services they needed. On the other hand, I wonder if the whole "You'll do it for free if you really care about kids" meme plays on the expectation that women (and those who work in fields traditionally dominated by women) will put the needs of others above their own. In either case, the result is the same--we give away a great deal of valuable time, hard-won expertise, and resources.
What do you think? How would things change if everyone was paid for the expertise they share? Why do we still tolerate--even encourage--this practice as part of the culture in education?