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It’s Time to Get Real About Work/Life Balance. It’s 2016.

January 14, 2016
Stormtrooper sisyphus

Photo: Kristina Alexanderson via Flickr Creative Commons

When we talk about flexible work, what image comes to mind? It’s that same dang woman with the 1980s shoulder pads and grocery cart, right? Yet let’s get real: Ellen Galinsky, head of The Families and Work Institute, told me that their research shows that men actually work more flexible schedules than women do. Men even telecommute more than women. Why? Because more men are in positions of power. Affinity bias, or the Old Boys Network, ensures that men stay in those positions of power. And when you have power, you can control your time.

So let’s stop talking about how women lack ambition, or that they don’t have the drive—or the capability—to get to the corner office. Let’s get real: It’s time to carve different paths to the top, to re-design the way we work for everyone, even in the corner office, to reward focus, not multi-tasking, to value effectiveness, performance, and results, and not wear our long hours in the office like a badge of honor.

I was talking recently with Brad Harrington, director of Boston College’s Center for Work and Family who has pioneered much of the research on the evolving roles of men and fatherhood. We were lamenting how, when you say “work-life,” or “work-family,” people’s eyes tend to glaze over. Up rises the specter of that woman in a power business suit, wearing heels and wielding a shopping cart. We wondered if what we needed to grab people’s attention, and convince them how central these issues are, is new language.

But I’ve come to see that it’s not vocabulary that needs changing. It’s our thinking. That these issues have languished so long on the mommy track/women’s initiative backwater is nothing short of a colossal failure of imagination. Now it’s up to all of us to get real, to think bigger, and begin to make the real changes we all need in order to live a good life not in 2102, but in 2016.

Full story: Pacific Standard »

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