Wednesday, September 2, 2009

This is why I care so much about doing good work.

My mom pointed me to the cover article in last week's New York Times Magazine. Written by Nicholas Kristoff and his wife, Sheryl WuDunn, "The Women's Crusade" chronicles the appalling conditions in which far too many women in the developing world live out their lives. You should really read the article for yourself if you haven't already, but I'll provide a very short and very incomplete summary here. Basically, Kristoff and WuDunn write, there are anywhere between 60 million and 107 million girls and women who are missing. They've been aborted after their sex was discovered via ultrasound; allowed to die as children (baby girls in some countries aren't given the same health care as baby boys); or kidnapped and enslaved, sometimes as sex workers. For perspective, they note that number is larger than the number of men killed in battle in all the wars of 20th century combined.

That's astonishing by itself, but, at least for me, the real punch of this article lies not so much in its compilation of facts, but in the way it explains the tragedy and stupidity of this "gendercide" and its implications for the rest of the world. There's a growing body of research that suggests that educating girls and giving aid to poor women may be most effective ways to alleviate global poverty. Many of the world's poorest countries are also those with the lowest rates of female education, and researchers are concluding that the two may be related: by neglecting girls' education, those countries are essentially using only half the talent available to them.

As I was reading, it occurred to me one of the reasons--if not the main reason--that I care so much about doing good work is simply because I can. I touched on this in an op-ed I linked to in an earlier post, but I think it bears repeating, especially because I worry that sometimes this blog makes me sounds as though I think I'm somehow entitled to a good job, when in fact nothing could be farther from the truth. I know I'm incredibly privileged even to be looking for a job in the first place. Had I been born almost anywhere else at almost any other time, my job would be raising children, and that would be that. So, once again, I'm not kidding when I say I feel like I have a moral obligation to find employment that will help other people in meaningful ways. And if that doesn't convince people I'm a motivated worker, I don't know what will.


  1. Lizzie - I've always thought that this world was a better place for having you in it. And this post reminded me that I'm right! I can't wait for the rest of the world to catch on...particularly the hiring world :)
    I'm proud of you for wanting to do something that matters. I know it's not always easy. I also know it's the only worthwhile way to live life.

  2. Thanks Ms. Guice! I can't wait either...