My banana scandal certainly seems to have pressed some buttons and comments continue to pour in (you can read the post and billion comments here) . A special shout-out to Lee who wrote an essay on the subject.
I thought I should respond to a couple of points that have been raised in the comments.
Firstly, let me clarify something about the way work experience works in a big office: the staff who provide the tasks for the Workies (as we called them) are usually the most junior people in the office.
Accomodating work experience students takes a lot of extra time and energy for whoever is managing them. This is on top of their regular workload and it’s something the Workies are rarely aware of.
So all this talk about work experience doing "unpaid labour" needs to be put in the context of the "unpaid labour" done by whomever is responsible for looking after them, answering their questions, setting them tasks, supervising the completion of these tasks (and often having to re-do them) and trying to ensure they have a pleasant, educative experience in their chosen workplace.
When I was an editor, the truth is that I didn’t have much to do with work experience. Not because I was superior or a snob or a bitch but because I was JUST TOO BUSY. I had to prioritise the needs of my boss, my staff and my own family above those of work experience. There were simply not enough hours in the day to sit down and have chats with the hundreds of girls who came through our work experience program every year.
Often, this was my loss and I knew it.
When it was possible, I would try to talk to the girls or answer their questions but the demands of my job meant this rarely happened. I always tried though because I knew the work experience girls are not just the readers but likely to be passionate and loyal readers. I always valued hearing their thoughts and opinions about my magazines and magazines in general.
When I was at Cosmo, I designed a questionaire for all work experience girls to fill out and whenever I had time, I’d call them in and ask them to pick their most and least favourite covers from my wall. I was never so arrogant to think I couldn’t learn from them. They were my readers!
As far as menial tasks go, I can’t remember ever asking a work experience student to do anything personally. I didn’t have that kind of involvement with them and anyway, that’s why I had an assistant. That’s not to say they weren’t asked to do things for me by other people. Because sometimes? When she was busy?
I’m sure my assistant on-passed some of the more menial tasks to the work
experience students. In fact, I hope she did! It’s called delegating, prioritising and time management – all crucial when you’re working in any industry.
Hence the banana incident.