Yes, she did. Patricia Arquette talked about the motherhood gap at the Oscars: “To every woman who gave birth to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It is our time to have wage equality once and for all, and equal rights for women in the United States of America!” The logics feels so fresh and compelling, but it’s not new. The pro-suffrage poster above circa 1900, reminded men who already had the vote where they came from.
By now you’ve read the story about Patricia Arquette, but have you seen the comments? Are you following the reactions? The conversation we are having feels like a bit of a throw back, doesn’t it? Us vs them. A fight against oppression and -isms. Is this really structural sexism at work again…or still?
We are fighting something far more pernicious and widespread now: the devaluation of caring. And this is far from just a women’s issue. The math is simple. Women make less money than men on average today because when we can, we often opt for the flexibility to care, especially for children, but also for aging parents and others. This flexibility has a price in $alary, but it has an upside too, especially for the children who get what they need from a parent. But there is an upside to the caregiver too, her/his workplace, and society overall, and that is empathy. At an increasing clip, management gurus are talking about the importance of empathy to leadership, but no amount of “empathy training” at work can match caring for people in real life.
So, who is really losing here? Men. Business/organizations. And society overall.
What are we really fighting for? The right to care, for everyone.
How will we make progress? By recognizing that caring is vital to empathy development which is vital to leadership. We’re lucky to face this challenge at the upswing of a technological and communications revolution that makes it possible to integrate home and work for everyone. And we’re making progress. Fathers today are generally far more involved in their children’s lives than their dads. But these men pay a price too. What we really need is a #SlowLeadershipDevelopment movement, in which professional men and women are equally expected to care as they rise. We need wise leaders who have the whole of life’s experience, not burned-out, bossy executives who race to the corner office by 35.
What about men and women who don’t want to care, really? That’s the most interesting question of all, and the answer is easy. That is their right. But they should not rise. They should not lead. The $alary math will work out fine.
So, thanks for bringing the issue into focus yet again, Ms. Arquette. Let’s get clearer about the fight. Let’s move beyond optimizing individual money and power toward wise leadership, sustained innovation, and abundance for organizations and society. This is today’s choice, to optimize the currency of empathy as well as money.