Can women really have work-life balance? Many would say that in our current cultural moment, the answer is a resounding no. According to Anne-Marie Slaughter in her recent article in The Atlantic entitled, “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All,” there are many different reasons for the continued inability of women to find a truly family-friendly workplace. For Slaughter, that is what it really came down to – not her education, not her ambition, not how much her spouse pitched in, but where she worked. In her own experience, and in talking to other women, she discovered that for so many women, the status quo in their fields or even in their individual offices made long-term work-life balance an impossible goal.
Challenges to Work-Life Balance
-Jobs which require intensive, inflexible hours in the office
-Jobs which require frequent travel, particularly weekend travel
-Jobs which don’t allow employees to have any control over their own schedules
-Companies which don’t have any female employees who model work-life balance
-Employees who can’t find high quality childcare to cover all of the time they need to be at work
-Businesses which don’t coordinate their company calendar with that of the local school districts
-Women with unsupportive or unhelpful spouses
Slaughter sees many of these issues holding women back from gaining power and influence in the workplace. Without women in the upper ranks, businesses, are less likely to create and enforce family-friendly workplace policies. It is a viscious cycle, because “Only when women wield power in sufficient numbers will we create a society that genuinely works for all women. That will be a society that works for everyone.” Current policies, current stereotypes, and the like, just make it easier for men to have a family than for women to do the same. One root of the problem is that in many cases, families are just not valued by the status quo. Indeed, “Workers who put their careers first are typically rewarded; workers who choose their families are overlooked, disbelieved, or accused of unprofessionalism.”
Women who successfully juggle raising a family and having a rewarding career should be celebrated rather than marginalized, especially since, as Slaughter describes, “The discipline, organization, and sheer endurance it takes to succeed at top levels with young children at home is easily comparable to running 20 to 40 miles a week. But that’s rarely how
employers see things, not only when making allowances, but when making promotions.” So how can you make a difference and change this attitude in your workplace?
Building a Family-Friendly Workplace
-Provide excellent in-house childcare options that will help employees feel more comfortable with the time they spend away from their kids.
-Allow employees to make their own flexible schedules that will allow them to care for sick kids or get to that soccer game.
-Encourage employees of both genders to put their families first.
-Incorporate more women into leadership positions.
-Build the infrastructure necessary to support teleconferencing and other family-friendly technologies