Finally, a terrific article about why gender equality has hit a wall in the US. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/17/opinion/sunday/why-gender-equality-stalled.html?_r=0
It’s about time, and there just isn’t enough of it for an American to be an engaged parent and employee. Stephanie Coontz writes:
“When the United States work-family policies are compared with those of countries at a similar level of economic and political development, the United States comes in dead last.”
Why? Among other things, we are stuck in a model that maximizes time rather than productivity and innovation. How is it working for US companies? In terms of innovation and inclusion of talent, it’s not. 1% of companies drive 40% of new jobs, and only 1 in 10 sustains growth. Although women work proportionally, by and large, they do not lead.
How is it working for Americans at home? Coontz hits the nail on the head:
“What was really a work-place problem for families became a private problem for women. This is where the political gets really personal. When people are forced to behave in ways that contradict their ideals, they often undergo what sociologists call a ‘values stretch’ – watering down their original expectations and goals to accommodate the things they have to do to get by.”
“…tensions increase when a couple backslides into more traditional roles than originally desired.”
What to do? Put children at the center, then design our work with innovation in mind (e.g., more flexibility, less time overall…starting by eliminating ALL unproductive meetings!).
Coontz: “So let’s stop arguing about the hard choices women make and help more women and men avoid such hard choices. To do that we must stop seeing work-family policy as a women’s issue and start seeing it as a human rights issue that affects parents, children, partners, singles, and elders. Feminists should certainly support this campaign. But they don’t need to own it.”
Yes. It is the right thing to do for our children, but there is more to it. What I am suggesting here is that enabling employees to be “whole”, as parents especially, contributes to the currency of empathy in an organization (as summarized in the “Organizational Empathy and Innovation” page). Contrary to fears rooted in antiquated, industrial-revolution based models of the workplace, widely elusive growth and innovation will also be the prize for shifting our paradigms of work.
More talent engaged in fulfilling work, empathetic leaders who have not “stretched” their values at home or at work, secure parents, flourishing children, and innovative and growing businesses contributing to our economy – what’s not to love?!