The Thread: Work-Family Policy

What kinds of policy changes would make your work-family life more manageable?

Last weekend former governor of Massachusetts Jane Swift wrote a thought-provoking essay for Fast Company about motherhood, career ambition—and power. Swift, who gave birth to twins while she held office, doesn't think it will be more difficult for new Yahoo chief Marissa Mayer than for men in similar leadership roles just because she's pregnant: "A woman with a family in a powerful position like Mayer's doesn’t have it that much tougher than a man in a similar position precisely because she’s in that position. The job comes with significant resources will help make the day-to-day details, as well as life’s tougher challenges, well, less tough."

This paragraph in particular, on working parenthood for the vast majority of us, caught my attention:

"Think about this data point: In 1960, just over 25% of American women worked; that number is more than 70% today. And yet U.S. work-family policies have not been dramatically updated to reflect this stunning demographic leap. So, let’s spend time talking about expanding access to proven levers of economic success for these families: paid maternity leave, flexible employment opportunities up and down the economic ladder, more emphasis on critical education and career readiness, meaningful on and off ramps for parents who slow their careers to meet family obligations."

What kinds of policy changes would make your work-family life more manageable? Tell us in the comments section below:

[Image: Flickr user Thiophene_Guy]

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  • Dave Needam

    I think the real issue here is the FLSA. The standards and paradigms by which "work" is classified are nearly 100 years old. In that time, assembly lines have been automated, communication has been digitized, companies have globalized, and businesses operate 24 hours a day. Using an 8-5 model or even qualifying knowledge or creative "work" by the number of hours spent is archaic and inaccurate. Outcomes need to be the focus of how people are paid, not time. Then the idea of balance becomes one of personal effectiveness, not timed activity.

  • Luis Miguel Silva

    Paid maternity leaves, hein?
    Well, how is an employee getting pregnant the company's problem?
    That is part of the decisions you, as a parent, must make before thinking about getting pregnant.
    I'm a legal immigrant here in the US and in my home country, Portugal, we have paid maternity leaves and 25 business days PTO per year (+ any national holidays), so it is very common for pregnant women to easily not set foot on the company for 6 months+, although being paid for it.
    That is a retarded policy and the Portuguese levels of productivity show just that.

  • Anjali Mullany

    Hi everyone - I know this is an issue about which people have strong opinions, but let's try to keep the conversation toward each other civilized here. Thanks, it's much appreciated.

  • Wize Adz

    It depends on how much turnover hurts your business, I guess.

    As a dad, I'm expected to work -- and I currently earn more money than my wife does (she's in graduate school), so if we have to choose, I'm the one who has to work.  But my wife has more choices, and if a company weren't going to play ball with her, she can quit.

    So: how much does it cost to bring a new employee up to speed?  If you have unskilled workers, then not much and you can kick the moms to the curb (I don't respect that choice personally, but it may be economically rational).  If you have highly skilled and educated workers, though, paying maternity leave is a win because it's the price you pay to skilled qualified workers who know how to do the exact job that you need done.

    So, do you like turnover?  If so, then you can pretend that your employees family-lives don't matter.  If you'd like to retain skilled and educated workers for decades?  You need make sure that family life is sustainable, because working for *you* might not be worth their while -- especially when they might be able to find a better job down the street.

  • ebr1dot618

    So much of this issue ties into (eventually) other prominent socioeconomic, health and political issues in the news lately.  For my part, until women have parity representation in all the major corporate boardrooms of U.S. and international companies, until they have parity representation in executive offices of major U.S. and international corporations, until they have parity representation in the U.S. Senate, the House and the Judiciary; until then, we are really just nibbling away at the margins of the problem.  The crux of the 'work-life balance' issue for women (and for men) will never be fully addressed until we understand the deep, extensive and unrecognized costs of this fundamental, chronic and pernicious imbalance.

  • Rukaya_79

    only reason that this is even a topic of discussion is because our society has become
    so materialistic and we live above our means. Each house hold needs double
    income or the equivalence of it for a single parent. We all want the American dream,
    because we are told that will make us happy and fulfilled. But, at what cost? It
    is great that we work 80 hour a week so we can afford a better living, but most
    people don’t even get to enjoy the fruits of their labour. They work so hard to
    pay a mortgage on house they never really live in, they have children but they
    are raised by the daycare or babysitter.  We have lost the importance of family and the
    purpose of having children. We diffidently new policies that give parents more
    time with their children. I think each parents should be guaranteed one year
    paid parental leave, the 1st two years are the most important years
    of child’s life and it is imperative that a parent is there. But I think more importantly
    we need change people’s values and go back to what is really important, our
    family. I don’t know what policy will fix the broken family system

  • Susan H.

    More part time jobs w/benefits or job sharing w/benefits for all. Increased child care subsidies and/or tax breaks.  Child care facilities w/sick child care areas.  Nothing is so difficult for a working mom as having to make the decision to stay home w/ a sick child, or go to work.  It's OK for a day or two usually, but when the illness lasts longer, or there are multiple children involved, a working mom may end up having to make this decision for longer periods of time. You feel guilty leaving a sick child w/someone else, or missing too many days of work. It's a lose-lose situation.  You feel guilty no matter what choice you make.

  • Adam Quinn Keefe

    Having the flexibility to non-commute if same job function/performance and quality can be achieved from the persons 'tlalxicco', which means "in the umbilical of the earth," perhaps even suitably chosen for this discussion. Beyond the continuous if not obvious time, expense, fossil fuels and the like saved, a Corporate and Personal Tax break for both could feasibly be concluded. Employer and employee have met their respected goals, the technology exists, and our respected green, climate-changing and sustainability friends would be pleased with the results.  The savings are astonishingly realistic and achievable. The persons 'tlalxicco' stays local, stays home, stays community based. Jane's essay is timely and well received.

    Just my thoughts, `Adam Quinn Keefe

  • Carl

    I am a busines owner and realized I needed to re-order my life to show my family they were the most important part of my life. I now leave the office at 3pm and pick up my 4 yr old son from school. People think I am crazy, but I am confident it will change generations in my family.

    Check out our blog for work and life thoughts:appraisalblog.mountai...

  • Gregory Marcus

    Good for you Carl.  I am a stay-at-home dad who left the corporate world three years ago.  A few people said I was crazy, but more said (in private) that they were jealous.