Monday, June 26, 2006

Doing community service

I was drafted to chair a session at a regional conference on gender and education last Friday. By drafted, I mean my friend was the convenor, she asked me and I said yes, so I was kind of doing this as a personal favour.

The session I chaired was surprisingly well-attended (not because I am the chair, obviously). There were the usual technical problems (powerpoint files won't open, microphones didn't work properly, air-con was too cold), the papers over-run (they actually had a student helper to do the timing and he was supposed to ring a bell at indicated times, but this one fell asleep and I had to take over at one point), but all in all it went okay. Towards the end I think I made a comment which offended someone in the audience but I we don't know one another so I think that's okay.

One of the presenters stopped me on my way out and asked if I live in Taipo. I said well yes! How did you know? Have you seen me in the wet market in me flip flops and no make up? She said, you live in XYZ right? I said, why, yes! She said, I think we live on the same block.

Turns out, we do live in the same building. I often chat to/intimidate her daughter when sharing a lift (she's only two and a half - communication is mostly one-way) and she is going to send her girl to the kindie that J has just left.

I must have seen her personally at least a couple of dozen times but it's strange how her face did not register at all.

And I was drafted to give a talk at the official so-called government think tank yesterday morning. This time by a well-respected figure in my trade who has been drafted into the think tank himself last year. I don't really understand why he asked me to do this but I thought it'd be something decent to put down in my "contribution to the society" category for my next application for personnel actions.

This one, again, was surprisingly well-attended. In fact, more or less everyone who was supposed to show up, showed up. Many of these are big shots in the local "community". Businessmen, legislators, professors (the kind whom you see on TV regularly), heads of NGOs, the like. Anyhow, I honestly was not expecting such turnout. I did not think these people take these things so seriously.

There was this one professor of management, who not only shows his face on TV all the time and writes for newspapers and columns, who was sitting next to me. The topic of my talk was on dual-earner families and I gave some statistics on the number of economically active married women, households with dependent children, number of foreign domestic helpers in HK, etc. After my talk he said according to his calculations (which are bogus), there are ONLY around 200,000 working women who are not employing foreign domestic helpers, which is so small a number that he sees no problem at all and so there is no issue on how the government should "support" dual-earner families.

Other than that, he's pretty friendly though. He asked me later in private whether there are any studies on the divorce rates of dual-earner couples versus single-earner ones. He is a man of great intellectual curiosity. Obviously. I wonder what he will make of the numbers if say dual-career couples actually have higher divorce rates. Will he think that makes a "problem", then?

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