Part I of this post reflects on the Marie Claire article suggesting that single women in the workplace are impacted negatively, professionally and ultimately personally, by married/married with children colleagues.
Taveras believes that “businesses are increasingly sensitive to helping parents manage their time”. This statement is laughable and goes unsupported with fact or examples. I wouldn’t have to go far to find many working mothers who would strongly disagree, myself included! In our capitalist society, land of the stimulus package, her belief that companies are seeking to help parents manage their time better confirms her skewed perspective based on personal feelings rather than fact. Companies love money and they employ people to bring it to them. That is all. The larger the company the less likely they would be seeking time management options to assist your parenting capabilities. It’s much more likely that they would have a corporate mandate that you learn to manage your time well and they only time they care about is the time that impacts your JOB.
She quotes different women who feel slighted by working parents and uses anecdotes to support her beliefs while attempting to make them seem scientific. Anecdotes aren’t hard to come by on this side: I recall working on a side project in the office while attempting to accomplish sales goals directly related to my position. When I detailed why I had chosen to lower the priority of this project because I had “ a lot of work on my plate” that was actually more relevant to my hired position (goals that could actually lead to the evaluation of my success or not), the male superior suggested that the end of the school year and two hours that I had left early was the actual reason that I prioritized the projects. Never mind my closure of two sales contracts during that same period of time or my after hours commitment—including responding to 4 am emails to prove that I’m always able to work. This type of anecdotal perception of the working mother and it’s impact is well supported by years of scientific data.
Her arguments about working parents also confirm a suspicion that I’ve had regarding the corporate mindset: To some, becoming a parent means that your professional ambition was sucked out during the birthing process. Nothing could be further from the truth! There are many of us who are concerned about our ability to further our careers and ascend the corporate ladder. Having children or getting married may refocus your priorities but it rarely changes core ambition. Actually, my desire to be successful increased upon the birth of my children. I knew that I would never be a full-time stay at home so I focused on making my career a value add for my family, which meant harder work and yes, sometimes, longer hours.
Corporations follow the “skin in the game” mentality too closely to allow a mere woman to change their mantra for the sake of her breastfeeding hours or youth basketball games. It’s much too easy for them to justify promoting a man (yes ladies, we are the least of each other’s worries), so we have to make the argument tough. To Ms. Byrd, I say, “please email me a list of the companies that have moved wiping dirty baby bottoms ahead of cleaning up on the bottom line, while still offering the opportunity to be promoted”, it’s just not happening! If in-house day care is the ‘assist’ that companies are offering, I’ll tell you that it’s another method to encourage longer working hours (yes, the powers that be even thought that through).
The article would have been better focused on teaching women how to develop work/life balance without feeling the threat of job loss…it’s possible and should be expected! As a matter of fact, rather than suggesting that women who leave at 5 pm to be responsible parents (who may also be working from home as I did many nights when my children were young) are slackers, she should suggest that they pair up with a more experienced employee who has figured out how to address balance in a productive way. I guarantee you can find a female executive that has nurtured corporate revenues and a household family budget successfully, although not without a few growing pains—and you will have to be willing to forgo the easy path that this article seems to believe working mothers have.
In her effort to promote her argument, Byrd misses another demographic: the single, working mother. As the sole provider in a household or primary caregiver, you have the irony of needing to accomplish everything but not being able to risk your job. Therefore, the nose to the grindstone mentality may take over. There have been plenty of cheer practices that I’ve walked into late or last-minute calls for a ride that I’ve arranged on my daughters behalf without expecting a childless/unmarried employee to pick up my slack!
We want to be seen as equals in the workplace, yet Ms. Byrd, supports the “look at Sally” mentality. Pointing fingers and shifting blame. Instead of focusing on what you believe someone isn’t doing perhaps time would be better spent focusing on what you CAN do. There is significant power in demonstrating balance. While working mothers may be perceived to be spending less time in the office, I can see many great lessons of those same women putting in more “concentrated” hours throughout the day to accomplish everything necessary should they need to leave on time. Because those of us who value career and family recognize the need to burn the candle on both ends, we may spend more time with our heads down and engaged in work while the single person may be able to take lunch every day without fail or spend a little time building interpersonal relationships at work that could turn out to be very helpful to career growth, I don’t hold a grudge based on that but in a section of the article a woman complains about moving up the career ladder because she fears never having a family. I’m less saddened by the fact that she’s choosing to work long hours and more concerned that she feels she has to choose. Bob in the corner office is doing both!
You can do BOTH just be aware that sometimes the balance will be imperfect! Melissa Mayer took time to focus on her career growth, plenty of time! I don’t get the feeling that she perceived her life as wasting away while she worked long hours as an early Google employee. There’s no irony that she reached what is obviously a career pinnacle as the Yahoo! CEO before deciding to be a mother. She also wasn’t married during this period time, I’m sure by choice. She has proven that you can have it all, maybe not everything at once but this may be the mantra for many working mothers. Ironically, she has also been lambasted by women for her short period of maternity leave, while I read very few articles with men questioning her work ethic or qualities as a parent.
Most of us won’t reach the heights of CEO of a publicly traded conglomerate but I’m sure that many corporate women have prioritized career over family and then family over career while still being successful wives, mothers and employees. You see how that works, you can have them both with varying priorities. You can even flip flop your priorities day-to-day or hour to hour. During work day, I am not focused on my two teenagers, I’m putting in a valiant effort as a conscientious employee. When the bell tolls, I put on my mother hat and swap priorities. There may be days when I don’t swap hats at 5pm and I hang around longer but I know when it’s necessary for me professionally. Additionally, there are days when I have parenting responsibilities that I manage during my day, because I have to.
Ultimately, creating one more issue in the office between women, one more level of cattiness, detracts from the chasm of disparity between the sexes in the workplace. Less pay, less promotions, less opportunity, and greater expectation to choose between family and career, outweigh the few extra hours that you perceive are being stolen from your single life due to someone else’s work choices. Our resources as a group can’t afford to be filtered down by one more girl fight! As a matter of fact, this particular fight has a high potential for returning to your doorstep: the woman you complain about is actually the woman you’re complaining you aren’t right now but want to be. If you are a single woman with a mission to be married one day, remember that you will be in the workplace as a wife and mother soon, unless you plan on embracing the single life indefinitely–no problem. Why embrace and promote this false notion that working women are an office handicap when the fight that you are promoting will eventually become your own.
Last statement in this lengthy but necessary article: My balance is not the catalyst for your imbalance so I suggest that if you fall into the category that Ms. Byrd is championing, you find a way to demonstrate the ability to manage your life, career and time. The article does nothing for the perception of women as whiny in the workplace but does, I assume unintentionally, aid the negative perspective that women in general have to deal with and combat. Less time working against each other and more time supporting the greater good could mean less Lily Ledbetter based fights in the future.