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« Help Others, Help Others Help You... But Don't Help Yourself | Main | Inability to track ROI Does Not Absolve You from Measuring »

January 06, 2010

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Nigel Fortlage

Rachel, I agree 100% with your take on this. For my own situation with 2 kids, my wife choose (or felt she had too) to go part time and she appears to love based what I know about her after 20+ yrs together.

But at work I see your points all too clearly. That's why one of my approaches is to consider a solid remote worker program that takes into account none contiguous time devoted to work, allows for ways to stay connected and interacting as part of the team, allows for flexible pay based upon work performed as in most cases this applies to front line work in our business not management nor executive as we all work remote already as part of the way we get things done.

This will take time and part of underlying desire to get good at social is to bring it inside the organization and using osmosis take it out to our remote workers. Yes we have challenges with management of people and supervisors who think they need to see the white's of someone's eye's etc... but it is possible and part of our corporate journey.

After all when you start thinking about your place of work, as an employer of choice for new workers, you start to grasp the possible and work outside the box to make it happen.

Rachel Happe

Nigel - Kudos to you and I do think there is more and more of this going on thanks to people like you in executive roles that are seeing the issue and the opportunities it brings. Social software, mobile, video all make this flexibility a lot easier to manage but you are also right in that there is a lot of lingering 'if I don't see them working, I don't trust that they are'. I've been fortunate in almost all of my jobs to either be required or allowed to work remotely at times and it has been extremely valuable and due to enlightened managers (for which I've also been fortunate to have had).

Thanks for your thoughts here - this type of thing doesn't happen over night because there are so many cultural/logistic issues.

Apolinaras "Apollo" Sinkevicius | LeanStartups.com

Rachel,
I was reading your article and just was itching to start commenting without finishing it (but my willpower helped me finish it). This topic is something I am extremely passionate about, especially as a man who has been surrounded his whole life by phenomenal women.

I will shamelessly suggest you check out my recent article "Time to end the frat house culture! We need more women in our midst." http://leanstartups.com/time-to-end-the-frat-house-culture.html There I cover why do we need more women in the ranks of entrepreneurs, scientists, techies, and leadership, what proof is out there to support my claims, and what I suggest we do.

Now back to your post. What I am sensing a lot is acceptance of the old ways where woman handled all the house duties, child rearing, etc. etc. etc. I think in progressive families (that just also happen to do better, because of the way they operate) gender inequality is becoming less of an issue. I grew up with two other siblings (three of us about year appart) and parents who both had successful careers, were equal partners, and did not use any nannies. They had no "secret" methodology. Both took on tasks (I learned how to cook from my father), both juggled schedules, and both were very efficient. I also do not recall them engaging in BS activities or needless quarrels. Now this was in 70s and 80s in a very conservative country. So don't tell me folks can't get it done here with an abundance of options and services.

Another thing to consider: maybe us gents need to sometimes balance our career drives with that of our partners, so both succeed. It is a better diversification strategy. I left a really nice and cushy position in Chicago to support my wife's move to Boston to do cancer research post-doc in Harvard. I know the day will come when she will do the same for me. It is all about looking at a family as business - family before any other commitments of ego.

Now when it comes to companies, as someone who heads business operations and is usually in charge of molding corporate culture, policies, and endless list of stuff, I have greatly enjoyed deploying those initiatives to make companies I work for irresistible to a broad range of folks. It is not that hard to build an environment that works not only for a single white 20-something gen-Yer, but also for a married gen-Xer with kids, or Babyboomer with an empty nest. You just need to think outside of what B-schools teach and do more listening with more agile/flexible mind.

Rachel Happe

Apollo - awesome comment/post/observations - thank you for adding your perspective. I happen to think that fair balance in teamwork creates better outcomes as well.

Your parents were truly exceptional I think and I am fortunate to have very supportive men around me and I couldn't agree with you more that families need to think of themselves as a financial portfolio of assets and risks(if you will) - and manage the ebb and flow that goes with that over time.

I think where I struggle is that I am more willing than many men I know to sacrifice something at work to do something at home. I think that as a woman I may have more psychological pull as well... not sure. So for me - what is an ideal work balance is different than say my husband. I may *want* to be home more than he. My point is - as companies... can we make room for that balance, whatever it is for each woman or man - ultimately it's going to be different for everyone because every person's home life/needs is different and they also change over time. And yes... maybe push some of the men who are more conflicted about leaving work because they feel it may compromise how they are perceived to achieve more balance :)

MimiMeredith

First of all...Apollo, you rock. What a balanced, thoughtful perspective. Kudos to your parents, and to you and your wife.

Second, to Rachel's point, we need to create cultures where the best interest of the company is recognized to be serving the best interest of its employees. I believe there are companies that try to practice a healthy lifestyle culture.

I am one of those women who did do it all for 19 years before a variety of things made me reconsider my personal mission and step off the corporate track. My children are now healthy and happy young adults who I cherish, and though I would change a few moments, I wouldn't trade a day of the times we had when I was working full time. I could explain some of the skills I developed to make it work for me personally (if anyone is interested, just ask me!), but I think the important issue raised here is beyond the individual coping skills of a family and begs consideration of a systemic corporate shift to a model that makes it possible for everyone to fully engage. Conversations like this keep the need for new models at the top of corporate thinking. Thank you for that Rachel. Keep asking these questions, please!!

Rachel Happe

Mimi - thanks for the comment. I think the only real solution to this issue is to keep talking, listening to each other, and trusting each other. Ultimately companies need to figure out how to be more flexible in all sorts of different ways - that is really the kernel of what it means to be 'social' as it allows for human variability.

Rachel Happe

I just saw this survey from Harvard Business Review if you would like to add your thoughts on this topic: http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2010/01/survey_why_dont_more_women_rise.html

The caveat, it is for people is large organizations.

Janet Fouts

The tools available now for distance workers has radically changed the ability for families to juggle kids and work more effectively. In many states (not just Cal) it is difficult or impossible for a single earner household to own a home, so both parents have to work.

We both have home offices and although we do go to an office for meetings we've found this allows us the freedom to not dump our child in daycare and still run successful businesses.

I know other families who do this by juggling meetings and soccer games between them too. It doesn't have to be the woman's job to stay home and take care of the kids anymore.

As companies recognize this flexibility both makes for a happier workforce and reduces overhead it will enable us to work without that traditional guilt bearing down on us.

Josephslima

Hi Rachel,
Great post. I have been struggling with these very same questions for months now with no clear resolution. It was nice to read what I have been thinking about. Look forward to the day when I find the right work environment that supports my desire to spend as much time as possible with my kids.

Thanks,

Rachel Happe

Hi Janet -

Thanks for stopping by and commenting - I too believe working from home gives people a huge leg up on juggling work and family life. One issue I do have with it is that it is very hard to be in management and work from home - and that cuts off career mobility. I think it also creates other trade-offs - for me it is isolating and for friends who are working mothers who do this it creates a constant sense of trade-off (do I answer the phone or attend my crying child). So, yes - a big step toward flexibility but it doesn't come without trade-offs.

Joseph - thanks for stopping by and commenting. I think I'm exactly where you are... not seeing any clear solution, just a lot of on-going complexity.

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