Edith Stein labor

Women and the Workplace

6:00:00 AMVeronica Buehnerkemper

Recently, I watched a great number of my friends walk across a stage and receive their undergraduate diplomas, ready to leave one chapter of their lives and begin a new one.  I began to consider where they are headed.  Some will be moving home to figure out their next step, some have jobs lined up and waiting for them, others will continue on in their studies, some are preparing to do mission work, and still others are engaged and planning weddings — looking forward to lives with their future spouses. 

At this time of year, I come back to the same question: what do I want to do with my life?  This is a question we ask quite often, but specifically, I wonder where I will fit in the workforce.  Will I find myself in a field related to my Math and Computer Science degree or will I discover some other fulfilling and worthwhile position?  As a woman about to enter the workforce, I cannot help but realize that this question leads  into the controversial debate on the place of women in the workplace.  

As women, bound tightly to both our physical and spiritual nature, we bear the remarkable potential for becoming wife and mother.  This specific potential is marked by a depth of emotion and personality, a depth which reveals itself in compassion and care for others.  As a result, society tends to associate women with certain professions, particularly those which require the compassionate and caring manner that we women innately have.  These caring and compassionate careers include nursing and teaching.

But what about other professions?  For example, engineering or software design?

The question becomes: Does the workplace inhibit a woman’s free choice of career?

Some are tempted to say that there is no place for the “motherly” side of women in certain fields, especially those of a very technical nature.  Fields that are more detail oriented and less people oriented are often understood as more masculine, requiring a level head and strategic thought process.

Edith Stein would have to disagree.  

She claims that even the professions outside of those traditionally associated with women “could yet be practised in an authentically feminine way if accepted as part of the concrete human condition” (1).  In a unique way, women help prevent the depersonalization of the workplace, taking into account the individual needs of those around them and seeking to address them on a personal level.  They can improve morale in the workplace as they aid in preventing others from feeling forgotten.  

Whether it be as simple as remembering a birthday or asking about one’s family, a woman’s concern for another’s well-being and her desire to make another feel appreciated and cared for can have a great impact.  Women are capable of bringing a unique outlook to these areas of work as their very nature prompts them to lovingly make people a priority - cultivating relationships and remaining aware of others and their well-being - while simultaneously working to complete a task.

As a woman, sometimes it seems that my compassionate nature gets in the way of efficiently getting work done.  Compassion feels unnecessary because it is inefficient.  Some of us don’t particularly enjoy being asked by three different, caring and concerned females if we are feeling alright after a single sneeze or sniffle.  

However, it is important to remember that compassion can be a true asset to a team, no matter the situation.  Not only does caring for others allow us to fully live in light of our personal nature, but it also reminds us that, no matter the situation or profession, people are important.


Veronica Buehnerkemper

Some of my favorite things to do are dance, travel and coordinate events, as well as study mathematics and computer science.  After college, I would love to work as an event coordinator or high school teacher, and I plan to eventually move back to the country!     

(1) Edith Stein, Essays on Women


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