Thursday, February 3, 2011

A New Work Ethic (that ends gender discrimination) for the 21st Century?

Bringing Baby to Work
(My second son at work with me in 2008)
Family friendly policy is critical, especially during the first year. 
(It helps that I own the company and set family friendly policies.)
To borrow the words of John Lennon, Imagine if...

...there was no more discrimination against women in the workplace, there was paid maternity leave for mothers and fathers, every workplace had flex-time, job sharing, compressed work schedules, the option of working from home when possible, and no child went without quality care from their parents during their first year of life...'s easy if you try...

Actually, these progressive workplace policies, which I believe are basic human rights, already exist - in almost every developed country except the United States.  The time to change this - to support the American family - is now.
For example, in the Netherlands, one attorney states "working part time is now the rule rather than the exception among his friends."  Fathers are taking a more active role in child rearing, which also allows mothers to continue working as well.  The difference - a flexible, progressive workplace that values the family.  In the Netherlands there are "part-time surgeons, part-time managers and part-time engineers. From Microsoft to the Dutch Economics Ministry, offices have moved into “flex-buildings,” where the number of work spaces are far fewer than the staff who come and go on schedules tailored around their needs.
"The Dutch culture of part-time work provides an advance peek at the challenges — and potential solutions — that other nations will face as well in an era of a rapidly changing work force."  Read the full article here.

Staying informed with the information below - can help you advocate for a modern workplace in your own profession. Policies such as flex-time, job sharing, telecommuting, and the Dutch concept of "flex-buildings"should be considered. At present, only 22% of American workplaces even offer telecommuting.

It's About Time
Mindy Fried, a sociologist, questions the lack of paid family leave in the US versus how common it (paid family leave) is around the world. Opponents of the recently squashed Paycheck Fairness Act argue that it is the fault of women for putting themselves in the position to have to take lower paying jobs - because they demand flexibility and more time with family. 
However, Your Wo(man) in Washington's Valerie Young disagrees, as do I.  She argues, "Women do most of the unpaid family carework in this country. Culturally and socially, it is more acceptable for women to do it than men. Is that fair? At the same time, women have to support themselves and their families. They work without the benefit of paid sick days, or family leave, or even the ability to ask for an alternative schedule. Is that fair? Is it even a good idea? Paid leave is a political issue, a gender issue, and as Dr. Fried shows below, a class issue as well." Read Mindy's full essay, It's About Time, here
What Working Women Want
A Rutger's University conference, "What Mothers Want," sponsored by the National Association of Mothers' Centers, gave this report from a recent blog post by Valerie Young.
Pamela Stone - Professional women were three times more likely than their male counterparts to interrupt their employment for "family responsibilities."  When they return, they frequently turn away from their former fields and enter lower paid, lower prestige sectors of the economy motivated by the desire to "give back" or pursue caring professions or social service.  Becoming a mother has a profound impact on a woman's values, priorities, and sense of identity.  After a career hiatus, a mother often changes both her behavior and career aspirations.  Motherhood exerts a powerful transformational effect. Read What Mothers Want here
The Glass Hammer: Shifting Gender Roles in the Workplace
From The Glass Hammer, an online community for women executives in business, law, and financial services...Director of External Affairs and the Women’s Institute at the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies, Carla Goldstein reports “Women have been doing double duty since WWII, but now we need to shift our focus and figure out how we can support men and women at work; how do we ensure that parents have the time to nurture happy, healthy families?” Read Shifting Gender Roles in the Workplace here
White House Report on Jobs and Economic Security for Women in America

Family support, especially for women, in the workplace, has gotten the attention of our current administration. Here is the official report and Executive Summary on how the US intends to respond to family discrimination in the workplace.  However with the recent squash of the Paycheck Fairness Act, it remains to be seen just how or even if this administration can begin the process of modernizing the American workplace. Read the Summary and Report here

Remote Working and Productivity
Opponents of modernizing the workplace, i.e. those who might argue that telecommutinghttp://www. is not productive, should read the latest report from The Glass Hammer on Remote Working and Productivity in the US.
In the UK, businesses are reporting huge savings by instituting telecommuting.  “Fifty-five per cent of businesses are seeing more home working now than before the recession,” said Mick Hegarty, Strategy and Communication Director at BT Business. Productivity is up by 20% in those who work flexibly compared with those who don’t, he went on. BT have generated a saving of between £6million and £7million as a result of improved productivity. Read more here 
Slowly but surely...To be learned, each day add something. to be enlightened, each day drop something.
...The US can be the example of family friendly work ethics, which stand to benefit every worker - not just those with children.
More Resources
How To Negotiate Better Every Day
Remote Employment
Your Wo(man) in Washington 
The Price of Motherhood

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