Monday, November 9, 2009

Women`s work

posted Sun, 21 Nov 2004

Fatchick is frustrated, exhausted and upset about working five jobs and who can blame her? She has two part-time jobs for money, and also has the full-time jobs of mom, homemaker, and wife. Even though men also have full-time jobs being husbands and fathers, they do not seem to bear the same burdens.

This is just reality. It is the way it is. I don’t know how to fix it – or at least the at-home part. (And no, the answer is not government-funded day care. It is not my responsibility as a taxpayer to pay for someone else’s day care, even though in my state, I already do.)

I do know that where I work, there is a dearth of professional women over 30. The company puzzles over this issue: why do we always lose our professional women once they start to get some experience and become really valuable to us?

The answer is so obvious to me: you lose women as soon as they start having babies. For the most part, the only women who return to work once they have children are the ones who have no choice in the matter. But any woman I have known who has been in a financial position to do so has quit working once she has had children.

I have friends who tried to keep working after the first baby was born, but really struggled with it. They decided they could not be good mothers and be good at their jobs at the same time, so they quit the jobs. Every single one of them tried to work out a true part-time option with her employer, to no avail. (Part-time does not mean the company cuts your pay in half but still calls you on the days you are “not working.”)

I have never heard a man say he doesn’t know if he can take a certain business trip – he’ll have to make sure his wife will be in town to stay with the kids. Men just assume – whether their wives work outside the home or not – that childcare is the woman’s responsibility.

This attitude permeates everything where I work – that there is someone at home taking care of the details. Why can’t you come to a meeting that starts at 7:00 a.m. or stay late? Isn’t there someone else doing the grocery shopping, the laundry, the cleaning, the cooking? Someone else taking the car to get the oil changed, letting the plumber in, going to the post office?

There are very few senior women in my company. The ones who have children also have stay-at-home husbands. There is not a single senior-level executive woman with children I can think of who is married to a man who has a corresponding job – or a job at all.

All the executive men have stay-at-home wives. (This does not stop these men from having their secretaries – paid for by the shareholders – do their personal chores, like arrange for their grown children’s plane tickets or make their doctor appointments.)

The rest of the executive women do not have children. Many are single or divorced. From what I have been able to gather, most of these women have chosen to put their careers ahead of everything else. That’s their choice – that’s fine.

But I don’t understand it. I am where I am only because this is how my life has worked out. It’s not like I planned on being a 41-year-old singleton in the corporate hierarchy. I think I confuse a lot of people at work. They think that I have chosen this path because I am so serious about my career and so I should be willing and even happy to work for hours on end at any hour. Ha. I work because I like to eat and to have a roof over my head.

Back to my company and their confusion. How can we keep these women, they moan. They have all these “diversity” programs. Shouldn’t that be enough?

No. If they really want to keep women from quitting, they need to offer part-time options. But when I suggest that, I am told that is not possible. Fine. Let some other company realize that it is better to have half an experienced person than none. Let that company get the advantage of that woman’s experience and talents. This is a competitive business issue. If there is a dearth of talent in the market, then this is one place companies can go to get it. The first companies that figure it out are going to reap the benefits.

I actually do know a few women at my company who have gone part-time so they can stay home with their babies. These are under-the-table deals that no one is supposed to know about. The company will not publicize them. They don’t want anyone else getting any ideas.

Instead, what they get – with the departments where they won’t deal – is the complete loss of talent. And they wonder why our stock price stinks.

No comments:

Post a Comment