A “Women’s” Problem

A “Women’s” Problem

From The New York Times:

Jody – and I mean this in a sweet and not a clinical way – has been in a state of perpetual schizophrenia since our daughter was born. She used to run a company, but she loves being a mom. So she’s settled on a string of part-time roles that (in my view, at least) call on a fraction of the skills corporate America spent two decades helping her develop.

Maybe you know a woman (or a few million) like her. It’s hardly news that the issue vexing talented people is the struggle to balance their professional lives with time for fulfilling lives outside of work. The shock is that after decades of wrestling with these tradeoffs, the obvious answer is the one everyone has been too skeptical or afraid to explore: changing the way top jobs are structured.

I’ve been reading about this issue a lot recently. Why aren’t there more women in CEO positions? How long will it take to achieve parity? There was an article about it recently in the Globe and Mail, and the answer there was never. I think it was a Wente column, and she said that men want to trounce the other guy into the ground at all costs while women just want to be happy. So men will continue to take the jobs that require 24/7 attention and women will take the more reasonable, mostly-satisfying positons that allow them to live their lives around it. That’s what she said. I felt it was essentialist and problematic, but I didn’t have a better answer.

Here’s the deal: this isn’t a “women’s” problem; it’s a human problem. Yet for 30 years women have tried to crack this largely on their own, and one thing is clear: if the fight isn’t joined by men (like me) who want a life, too, any solutions become “women’s” solutions. A broader drive to redesign work will take a union-style consciousness that makes it safe for men who secretly want balance to say so.

Sounds good. But why is it that men didn’t fight for balance to start with? What was so appealing about not having a satisfying family life in the first place? Were we really never closer to parity in parenting than we were in the 1950s? Didn’t we have dads who were closer to their kids? Is corporate culture the last to get a breath of fresh air?

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