Recently, I had the pleasure of moderating an online chat with the fabulous women who created the Fem 2.0 Conference and a variety of bloggers about how we can change the conversation about families and their work/life obligations.
Doesn’t it feel like we all talk in circles sometimes on this? We need balance, whatever that is, but are afraid to ask for it in this economy? Most thinking people can agree that everyone benefits when employers allow employees flexibility — understanding that many jobs can be done from home as well as the office and cutting people slack when they’ve worked 12 hours one day, but need to leave early the next for pick up a sick child at school.
But the words we have for talking about the issues of work and life and all it’s complex messiness don’t seem to be getting us anywhere in terms of convincing employers and lawmakers that something has to change.
I hate to invoke Venus and Mars two times in one week, but I wonder whether part of the problem is that we need better vocabulary to communicate with each other? We all want the same thing — we know employers are focused on the bottom line and employees need something to give before the next nervous breakdown caused by conflicting obligations. So many policies and mindsets companies have about working life still stem from the days of Ward Cleaver, and I’m afraid not too many working families have an existence that looks like this anymore.
So what do we do? If we keep talking about something in the same way with the same words, will anything ever chage?
From Katherine Lewis who writes the About.com Working Moms column: Employers are losing some of their most creative, talented workers because there’s no real flexibility in corporate America. If we truly want to be internationally competitive we must overhaul the structure of the workforce to allow everyone to participate – not just diddle around the edges.
From Stefanie Gans of the Business and Professional Women’s Foundation: I also think mutual respect – respect that employers give their employees predictable schedules and that employers can also respect their employees to know that sometimes life outside of work needs to be a priority.
And from Working Dad: The word I think is needed is rhythm. I have said work-life balance is a crock, and what I aspire to is a sense of rhythm, there will be crazy busy times and quieter times, but having the tools and flexibility to gain a rhythm to balancing work and family.
Working Dad also suggested that more efforts need to be made to reach out to working fathers “where they are” — they’re not going to be here at PunditMom (mostly) to talk about this as an issue. But where do they hang out and how can we involve them in a conversation that at least, for the most part, is driven by working women?
You can read the whole chat here — there were so many people who wanted to weigh in on this discussion, we had to split into two chat rooms!
So what do you think? Is it possible to change the way we talk about work and family obligations? How do we get employers to acknowledge that life doesn’t look like 1956 anymore and that being flexible and providing things like paid leave are actually in their financial best interests?
Or is this another topic that we’ll still be chatting about when PunditGirl is my age?