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New Attitudes About Gender, Work, and Family — Kathleen Gerson and Jerry Jacobs

Work and Life is a radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by Wharton. Every Tuesday at 7 pm EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community, and the private self (mind, body, and spirit).


Jerry Jacobs is Professor of Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania and Founding President of the Work and Family Researchers Network, an interdisciplinary and international scholarly association that focuses on work and family issues. His research with Kathleen Gerson was honored with the Rosabeth Moss Kanter Award for Excellence in Work-Family Research in 2002, and led to the publication of The Time Divide: Work, Family and Gender Inequality, published by Harvard University Press in 2004.

Kathleen Gerson is Collegiate Professor of Sociology at NYU, where she studies gender, work, and family change. Her most recent book, The Unfinished Revolution: Coming of Age in a New Era of Gender, Work, and Family, is an award-winning study of how new generations have responded to the gender revolution of the last several decades. She is now conducting a study about the challenges facing today’s adults, who must build their work and family lives amid the increasingly insecure economic climate of the new economy.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation. Full podcast.


Kathleen Gerson: kathleen gersonOur findings seem to provide one more piece of the puzzle of how dramatic change has been. Jerry [Jacobs] and I continue to be baffled that so many people are skeptical that these changes have occurred. I think in some ways our private lives have moved forward in a way that public discussions about them simply haven’t caught up.

Stewart Friedman: Can you elaborate on what you mean by that?

KG: There’s a bad news orientation in the media and, to some extent, in our political discourse, in which people tend to be quite skeptical about social change. If I were to sum that up, I would say two opposite arguments are being made. First, nothing is really changed, we’re going back to the old ways, women are still facing these huge barriers and men continue to be resistant to these changes. The other side of the story, which ironically or paradoxically presents the opposite picture, is women have changed so quickly that men are being left behind and this is not good for society and men and women are unhappy about this reversal. What Jerry and I have found is that neither of those stories is true. In fact, what’s happening is men and women are converging in terms of not only how they want to live their lives and what they want to get done in their lives, but also in terms of their views about what other people’s choices should be, and how we as a society should allow people to make those choices. Even though the political discourse is very contentious, what Jerry and I have found is that ordinary Americans, across a very broad spectrum of demographic and social categories, support the idea that gender, in fact, should not be the primary driver of who does what, at work or in the home. These decisions should be driven by what people want, what people prefer, and what’s best for their families, and how they can do the best in a very increasingly uncertain and difficult situation.  What we really need is to relieve the difficulties that families are facing to allow them to develop the strategy they prefer.

SF: To produce greater human freedom, after all, right?

KG: I would underline the world human.  It would be nice if we could move beyond these categories of women and men, and talk about human beings, parents, workers.

SF: Creating options and choices for people, then produces the kinds of roles they want to create with the support that they need.  But there’s so much here to unpack.

Jerry Jacobs: Jerry JacobsBut before you unpack, let me explain a little more specifically what we did. There’s a body of research that talks about gender role ideology, and it shows that a lot of people are much more flexible in terms of their views on what women’s and men’s role should be. It also shows there’s a substantial minority stuck in the old ways, committed to traditional, standard gender ideology.

SF: That is, of course, the model of the single-earner dad with a mom at home taking care of kids;  caregiving and breadwinning split by men and women doing one or the other roles.

JJ: Our concern about this research is it doesn’t really say very much about situations and specifics. One of the motivating factors behind what we did is we asked ourselves, if we give the average person, respondents chosen at random, a national random sample, if we give them specific stories, specific situations regarding men’s and women’s choices, what will turn out to be more important: the situations or commitment to gender ideology? The question is are people stuck in a set of blinders that basically say women belong in the home no matter what, or does it depend? Does it depend on if she likes her job? The other thing we specifically looked at was whether her family depended on her income. We have remarkably powerful evidence to suggest that situations are more important than anything else, than whether you’re a man or a woman, whether you’re single or married, it’s not that the patterns are identical for fathers and mothers, but the situations were more important than gender.

SF: Why is that so important, as an observation about our society? I think most of our listeners are less interested in sociological literature, but of course those two are related, what’s the so what there in terms of what people in business as well as public policy makers ought to be thinking about as a result of what you observed?

KG: it’s important because what it tells us is is that ordinary Americans, women and men across ages, races, and situations, are far more sympathetic to the particular situations that individuals families are facing and are far more flexible in their views about what women and men should do than either our political discourse or our public policy or our workplace policies, even for private workplaces, recognize. If both our government policies and employers would pay more attention to this, then I think that would not just improve the way we talk about these issues but could make a real difference in the lives of men and women, mothers and fathers, and children.

JJ: If we could make childcare more affordable and higher quality, our data suggests that more people would support women working, or more people would support mothers of young children being in a labor force.

SF: How does that equation work? Why is the advent of a greater daycare support going to lead to greater support of women in the workplace?

JJ: One of our key findings was that when mothers are satisfied with the childcare that they’re getting, people are more supportive of her working. They’re much more skeptical of mothers’ employment if there’s a feeling that the childcare that they have access to is inadequate or unsatisfactory.

KG: Another finding is that if women can earn enough to support their families, there’s enough support for fathers staying home with their children, especially if those fathers are dissatisfied and unhappy with their jobs and their families don’t feel they have adequate childcare. In a sense, the implications for public policy are both about the childrearing and family side but we need more support, both for employment of mothers and fathers, and also for gender equity at work.  If mothers and fathers have access to well-paying and secure jobs, it gives them more options about who can do what in the home.

SF: It’s clear that the more men lean in at home, the more women can lean in at work and enjoy the fruits of their productive output in the labor market contributing to society through their work.  But it does mean that men need to be not only supportive but really given legitimacy in the role of caregiver. It sounds like your evidence suggests that the legitimacy is out there.

KG: I think that was one of the more uplifting and surprising findings. It’s not really surprising to find out that people support single mothers working, for example, and it’s even less surprising that they would support married mothers with good jobs and good childcare working.  But I think it is definitely worth noting that they also support fathers who don’t have good childcare and aren’t happy with their jobs and aren’t providing necessary income, that they support those fathers being more involved at home and being the primary caretaker.

SF: I, too, find it uplifting Kathleen that men be seen as legitimate in the role of caregiver, that is something that we found in our study comparing the Gen Xers with the millennials here at Wharton and that men’s and women’s roles are converging and how they think about what’s valid and true. I also got an email yesterday from someone who attended one of my workshops on leadership from the point of the whole person, where people look at what’s important to them, who is important to them, and they make creative changes based on those diagnostic analyses and here’s what she wrote to me:

While doing the exercises in the book and discussing with my coaches we discovered a great way to improve my whole self and my life has dramatically changed. Prior to this change, I was working 26 hours and my husband was working 40 hours in a job he disliked that was too far from home. We discovered a solution that led me to coming back to work full-time with a flexible schedule and location and my husband now doesn’t have a paying job; he takes care of the house. If nothing else, I’d like to thank you for putting this information out there and let you know that you helped me change my life for the better.

Of course, I hear this type of thing all the time from students, but they don’t necessarily thank me, but I hear these issues a lot. You’re finding research evidence that this is common, that people are making choices on the basis of economics, the need for childcare, and not whether it’s the man or woman doing the caregiving at home.

KG: I think one thing that is important for us to point out is that this study was really asking people what their opinions and beliefs and attitudes were, but we shouldn’t gloss over the fact that implementing those beliefs may be a lot harder than having them. That’s where I think we’re lagging behind and not giving people real options to implement those beliefs, rather than having them but not feeling they’re socially legitimate or even logistically possible.

SF: It’s something that’s at issue in the presidential campaign. Some of the people who are wanting to be our president are talking quite strenuously about this issue and I think it’s going to be one of the platform issues that’s going to draw a lot of attention, because it will be a stark contrast between the Democrats and Republicans, right?

KG: It’s certainly something that Obama has put on the agenda in the last several years of his presidency as well.

SF: What you two have done here is to advance the knowledge about what is fundamental to any kind of real change and that is the legitimacy of this shift and simply acknowledging that people’s attitudes really have changed, and that’s very powerful. What’s been the reaction to this work?

JJ: There’s been a lot of interest, and we got some very interesting feedback in our New York Times piece. Among our colleagues, there’s a lot of engagement in these issues and trying to see how we can probe further into the aspects of work that are most essential and the aspects of family life that are most important. In a sense, this is a first step in that area, but the feedback we’ve been getting is very positive.

SF: What are people saying?

KG: One of the more important reactions has been not simply about the findings themselves but also about the way we went about asking the question, because part of the problem, as Jerry pointed out earlier, is I think we’ve been asking the wrong questions up to this point. We’ve been asking questions like is it alright for a mother to work and will their children suffer and those questions already start to presuppose an answer, you almost have to disagree with the assumption of the question, which is hard for people to do to give a more accurate answer, but they also focus only on women and mothers. If we have any larger effect on even the way that these questions are phrased, I think that will be important, not only because we’ve included fathers as well as mothers.   And we’ve also taken account of the fact that not everyone is married and there are all sorts of family forms and patterns these days that were not prevalent 30 or 40 years ago.  We’re asking people not just a global question, but rather given this particular situation where these parents are facing these constraints and these opportunities, what do you believe is the appropriate action. That’s very different from just saying this blanket statement about whether or not it’s good for mothers to work.

SF: It seems so obvious that we should have been doing that all along, so how did you come up with this better method?

JJ: It’s an experiment. We had an opportunity to do a controlled experiment in a survey setting, which is kind of unusual.  A number researchers around the country and around the world are thinking about how they can replicate what we’ve done, extend what we’ve done, and that’s always exciting.

KG: We had this opportunity to use this method where you’re actually setting the stage before you ask people questions and then seeing how people might respond differently depending on how that stage is set differently. We’re able to add all these different situations, which is very hard to do if you’re asking everyone the same questions. Part of what happened is we began to realize from our own research how misleading some of these surveys that were asking questions formulated 30 years ago were. Because we know 40 years ago most people lived in a particular kind of family and a certain set of beliefs were prevalent.   But we’ve gone through a revolution since then and we began to ask ourselves how we can begin to formulate questions for the 21st century that don’t make the assumptions that might have been reasonable to make in the 1950s. For example, if someone is faced with bad childcare, and this is something else we looked at, they have a set of choices. They might stop working, but they also might decide to get better childcare. Same with a job. If you were unhappy with your job, one option might be to pull back from work but another option is to look for a different job. We wanted to give people realistic options rather than forcing them to give answers that really didn’t fit with the realities Americans face today.

SF: Randy is calling from Texas. Randy, welcome to Work and Life. What’s on your mind?

Randy: I was thrilled when I heard this topic. In my family, my husband and I had a very heated discussion about this exact same topic over the weekend. It seems like the research is focusing on do we think it’s okay, is there a societal shift in the belief that it’s okay for men and women to do something that’s not sticking with a gender stereotype. My question is was there any look at a non-binary question so is there an impact if you choose a non-gender-specific role, do you face consequences in the workforce, specifically thinking about men who choose to make family a larger priority than work, are they then experiencing negative consequences in the workforce because we aren’t willing to accept it in practice?

JJ: We work with companies all the time and talk to corporate leaders and try to encourage them to promote workplace flexibility and to give working parents the option to work less to pursue lots of different creative choices. You’re absolutely right that there’s a reluctance with many people because they’re concerned that there are real consequences. There is often some income loss in the short term, but I think people worry even more about the long-term consequences for their careers, and that’s both men and women. I think you may be right that there’s still more of a sales job that’s needed for men to convince everybody that this is a legitimate choice.  Kathleen and I are arguing that we’re moving toward convergence. Neither of us feel that we’re there yet. I think there’s an understanding that there are costs for both male and female employees, and that’s one of the reasons we want to move toward more explicit, systematic policies like paid leave so that it’s more institutionalized and accepted.

SF: And available for both men and women. It’s clearly not just a women’s issue anymore. Your research really helps to move us past that debate of is work and family a women’s issue. It’s a human issue, as we said earlier.

KG: There is research by others that does show that there is a stigma attached to taking advantage of the family leave policies that companies offer, and ironically I think to some extent, is greater for men than for women, because we still have a ways to go in terms of thinking about these as issues that men and women both care about and face.

SF: The data from that research is probably five years old now.

KG: Let’s hope that current and future research shows that’s declining. The more we talk about it, I think the greater chances are that it will. In the past, I think we’ve talked too much about the clash between women and men and perhaps the way we need to start talking about this now is the clash between workers’ needs and workplace policy. That will help us begin to reduce the stigma and actual career and long-term economic consequences.

JJ: Randy, what kind of choices were you considering —  cutting back or opting out of the labor force for a spell?

Randy: For the longest time, we were both equals and we had a nanny, which was wonderful. Through changes in the economy and one of our companies closing, we had the opportunity for one of us to stay home. It was me, and that’s what we decided to do. There’s a whole host of issues with that for me, but for my husband, career continues to go up and mine doesn’t go anywhere. Part of that was it’s socially acceptable for me to opt out for period. It would be harder for him to opt out even when we were both equals.   But if there was push-comes-to-shove with a family requirement, I was always the one that figured out a way to make things work because it’s okay if I leave to take someone to the doctor and not okay if he leaves to take someone to the doctor.

JJ: I do think the world is changing. Mark Zuckerberg was very public about taking paternity leave. I think there are lots of men who get points for going to their kids’ soccer games and taking off for their kids’ softball practice.  I think as more and more examples become known, I think we’re chipping away with this. The other thing I want to add is we are also very interested in re-entry ramps, trying to make it easier for people to come back into the labor force.  Stay-at-home dad is not a perfect situation. It’s not as though dads are staying home for 16 years or 18 years, they’re often doing it for six months or a year, or a lot of times they’re just cutting back to part-time. It’s not that different for women. A lot of women opt out of the labor market at some point. A lot of times it’s not their choice, things happen at work, the company closes, the office moves to a different location or whatever, and one of things that we need to do is to facilitate the re-entry of people who developed tremendous skills and abilities and are able to contribute significantly to our economy. We have to create an economy for settings where it’s easier to get back in.

SF: To off-ramp and on-ramp and to use the assets that you obtain in the parental role. There are things that you learn as a parent or by managing a household that make you more effective in the workplace; it’s not that it’s down time. Jerry, you just mentioned Zuckerberg’s very visible paternity leave.  One of the things I didn’t like about his announcement on Facebook was that he talked only about benefits for his child, which is lovely of course, citing the importance of fathers in child development, but what he didn’t speak to were the business benefits of his doing this, and I’m sure he’s thinking about them. How do you see the argument unfolding in terms of these high-profile examples but also the shift in attitudes in America about the need for support for parental leave, whether paternity or maternity?

KG: It makes a great difference, especially when the leaders at the top set the example, because that sends a signal to the people below them that they’re not going to be penalized, and if they are, it would be completely illegitimate. I think the best example I can provide is from Norway. There, they develop a use-it-or-lose-it policy, which means all parents have the right to paid parental leave for six months, but it cannot be given to the other parent. If a father doesn’t use it, then he relinquishes it and the family loses that option. Surprisingly, what that’s done is up the percentage of fathers who take it to the point where that’s the predominant pattern. What’s interesting to me is the cultural spillover effect of that change. Now, the norm has generally shifted so if a father doesn’t take leave, that’s considered strange and that requires an explanation, as opposed to the situation here where if a father does take leave, that’s considered strange and has to be justified.

SF: And that’s all as a result of social policy change.

KG: It’s not just that cultural change can lead to policy change, policy change can cause cultural change as well and we need to keep that in mind when we talk about things like Zuckerberg providing a good example for his company. If he provides an example, it also means that it changes the signals that other men and fathers and mothers receive and it gives them rights they may not have thought they had before.

SF: It might also spur people to try to push for changes in policy.   We’ll probably not see a policy like Norway’s in our lifetime. Aside from knowing that attitudes are changing and there are these outcroppings of real progress in the corporate world and a push for changes in social policy that we’ve talked a lot about on this show and that we’ve been active in, what can an individual do based on your findings in this study? Are there any implications for fathers and mothers out there listening?

JJ: Kathleen and I had the great privilege of attending the White House Summit on Working Families. Not only were the president and Michelle Obama and the vice president and Jill Biden there, they were all speaking very frankly and from the heart about their own work/family challenges including Vice President Biden commuting back and forth everyday from Washington to Delaware on Amtrak when his kids were very young. Those were incredibly powerful stories, and talk about taking leadership from the top, their commitment to these issues I thought was very powerful.

SF: I was there, too, and it was truly moving to hear all four of them and so many others speak about this issue from the heart and from real experience just like the rest of us.

JJ: Getting back to individual choices, in job interviews, this is information to be asked about. What are your work/life policies? That’s something that people need to find out about. Many corporations are increasingly flexible, and technology is making some of that more possible like working from home one day a week or part of a day. Having flexibility, again that doesn’t work for every job, but it works for a lot of jobs. Having technological opportunities, they’re increasingly common workplace practices and this might sound optimistic, but there is some beginning evidence that we’re going to be facing a tighter labor market as unemployment declines and specifically for certain occupations that are increasingly in demand. Employers are going to be seeking out employees.

SF: This is what’s happening out in Silicon Valley. Kathleen, I know you were researching that. Jerry, as the Founding President of the Work and Family Researchers Network, what are these researchers doing?

JJ: The Work and Family Researchers Network brings academics and policy-makers and corporate HR practitioners together to discuss a very wide range of issues. We don’t only talk about sick leave policy and family leave policy but also about stress, eldercare, childcare, sleep, workplace productivity, and workplace flexibility. We have over 1,000 members from 40 countries around the world and we’re going to be convening again in June in Washington, D.C. Anyone who’s interested in learning more about our organization, we’re at workfamily.sas.upenn.edu. We have a website and we’d love to see some of your listeners join us at the conference.

SF: Kathleen, I understand you’re doing some work on changes in the technology world. What is it that you’re discovering or pursuing in that work?

KG: Let me follow up to the question about what you can do in your lives. I’ve been doing research in the Silicon Valley area and the New York metropolitan area, especially among people who are in technology and new economy jobs. The first thing I would say to everyone out there is you are not alone. The momentum is growing and I think we’re almost at a tipping point where the majority of people are wanting and pushing for the same thing, and don’t be fearful to speak up because you’re part of a much larger movement of people and the more we express these needs, the more they will be acceptable and legitimate. The second thing is we’re also in the midst of an enormous change in our economic fortunes and the nature of work. Increasingly, work for everyone, men and women alike, especially in these growing sectors of the labor market, is not so much about joining a labor organization and moving up the ladder and proving your loyalty, it’s really about managing your own career and integrating that with your other values and family life and private life. Therefore, it’s on employers to pay attention to that and it means that while uncertainty or change is always scary, it also provides enormous opportunities to build the kinds of lives we want to build. To think about it, but be willing to take the risks that matter to you to build the life you want, I think the more that happens the more that we will not only have support for the social policies we need but also for the workplace changes that employers are going to have to make in order to keep up with this new labor force.

SF: And to be competitive in the labor market. We’ve been saying this for years in the world of organizational psychology and sociology, but it really is happening now. If you come to the Wharton campus and you listen to the recruiting pitches, students are asking these questions and very much upfront, and companies are saying come to work at our company, have a whole life, have meaningful work, have a positive social impact, all the things that new entrants are claiming as rights. The companies that are going to be able to attract and retain those people are going to have to be able to adjust, and they are or at least saying that they’re trying to. Whether they are actually is really the rub, but it’s a long, slow process.

KG: Assuming we’re able to make these changes, let’s try to make them for everyone, not just those people that have the skills that are so desirable, but for people up and down the economic ladder who have less control over their work. We can institutionalize these changes, and everyone will have the power to create the lives they want for themselves.

Men and the Gender Revolution at Work and Home

Contributor: Jacob Adler

Work and Life is a radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by Wharton. Every Tuesday at 7 pm EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community, and the private self (mind, body, and spirit).

Richard Reeves, a senior fellow in Economic Studies at the Brookings Institution, co-director of the Center on Children and Families, and editor of the Social Mobility Memos blog. Prior to Brookings, he was director of strategy to the UK’s Deputy Prime Minister.   Some of his other previous roles include director of Demos, the London-based political think-tank; director of futures at the Work Foundation; and principal policy advisor to the Minister for Welfare Reform. He spoke with Stew Friedman about his New York Times piece Men’s Lib! about how men need to catch up with women in the gender revolution.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stewart Friedman: What inspired you to write, with your co-author Isabel Sawhill, Men’s Lib!

Richard Reeves: ReevesIt came out of a conversation that Sawhill and I had been having for many weeks and months, and something we had both been working on for years. It’s really about the integration of some of those social and economic issues that you talk about so much on this show. Very often we’ll see this social side of life – families, gender, men’s and women’s roles, and so on – as one half of the coin. And then we look at what’s happening in the labor market with unemployment and the economy. But, of course that’s not how we all live. In practice, the lines between those things blur, and the implications of the connection between work and life, for both men and women, have become much more important. What inspired us to write this particular piece was partly a positive feeling and partly a negative feeling. The positive feeling was that there’s an important message here about how men can do better if they adapt to the world as it’s changing.  At the same time there is a real men need to step up problem.  There are opportunities for men in the new post-feminine, post-industrial world. The fear is that unless that adaptation happens, we’ll fall back into a pining for a world that’s gone. Even in some of these policy debates now you get a sense that people are kind of wishing things could go back a bit. You hear discussions about marriage and breadwinner men. You can sense there are those who fell that if we can go back to the way things were, we’ll be okay. We need to think really hard now about what it means to be a man and a working father as well as what it means to be a working mother.

SF: Those definitions are in flux now, aren’t they?

RR: Right, and it’s been true for women for quite some time. Part of the thesis of our article is that there have been really quite profound changes in women’s lives and in the range of options that have been available to women, but we are very careful not to say that the work of feminism is done. It may be that there are more women graduating colleges now than men in the US, but it’s still true that women earn less than men and that there are few women in boardrooms. But there hasn’t been an equivalent change in men’s lives in the last 40 years; we have seen an unbalanced gender revolution, a half of a gender revolution. For us to proceed now, most of the action is going to be on the side of men changing their roles and as we say in the piece, to become more like women in the way that women have become more like men.  They’re educated, they’re in the role of breadwinners, now we need men to do more on the home front, to think of themselves as working fathers as well as just fathers, and not to define a man and a father in that narrow breadwinning way, which is outdated anyway. It doesn’t work economically, even if we wanted it to.

SF: It’s just no longer the norm.  At Wharton we’ve studied the changes in attitudes and values of men and women with respect to work and family over the past 25 years.  I published a book a couple of years ago called Baby Bust: New Choices for Men and Women in Work and Family, and one of the main observations from that study comparing the Class of 1992 with the Class of 2012, is how very different both men and women feel about their roles, particularly in the domestic sphere, where there’s much more convergence now around the idea of there being a true 50-50 life that’s possible, an egalitarian world.  You write about that in your article about the move to greater egalitarianism.  Shared responsibility is necessary at home, if women are going to advance in the workplace.

RR: It’s a hard truth, but you can only have equality at work if you have equality at home. Otherwise you can only get one half of the workforce, where the other is at a disadvantage if they’re still expected to do most of the work on the home front.

SF: Which is how it’s been.

RR: I think you raise a good point that it’s a necessary part of completing the long journey towards gender equality. I guess the other thing we try to add to it is an economic agenda and analysis, too.   The economy that made the market that supported the old model just isn’t there anymore either. In effect, two things have happened. One, is there’s been the rise of women’s rights and feminism and a long and slow recognition of the need for gender equality.  Two, what’s happened is the economy has changed in such a way that particularly relatively modestly educated men can no longer earn a breadwinner wage in a manufacturing sector.  So you’ve seen both these social and economic changes that have hit men.  I think it’s important that we are sensitive to the fact that that’s a difficult change for a lot of men. It’s easy for men with high levels of education, like us and many of your listeners, to make those kinds of transitions. It’s maybe harder for men with less power in the labor market and less education. The evolution of more egalitarian attitudes towards what Michael Young called the symmetrical family has actually been the greatest among those with more education, and those with much more modest education have more traditional views.

SF: And that’s holding those men back from taking the initiative to transform their economic agency, their capacity to contribute in the labor market by moving into more of the H.E.A.L. jobs, the acronym that you use to describe health, education, administration and literacy.  They are remaining in the model of traditional breadwinner type of role.

RR: We look at which areas of the economy are growing and producing jobs, and we deliberately contrast the emphasis on STEM jobs and STEM skills, which is pretty well-known –science, technology, engineering, and math.  There’s been a big push to get girls involved and to get women into those, which is great and actually successful in some places. But what we call HEAL jobs, as a kind of contrast, in health, education, administration and literacy…

SF: Did you make up that acronym?

RR: Yeah.

SF: It’s excellent, because it not only stands for the major categories that you need to represent, which is about providing human service, the symbolic connotation – healing, caring – is also wonderful. Well done, Richard.

RR: It’s interesting the way you have seen more women moving into legal professions, dentists, even civil engineering has gone to 16% women when it was 3%, pharmacists now 48% women. You haven’t seen the same movement for men. Men are 22% of kindergarten and pre-kindergarten teachers, and that’s the same as it was in 1980. There’s been very little increase in the number of men in education. Pre-K is a growth area; early-years education is a growth area. 2% of those working in that area are men and it was 2% 35 years ago.

SF: Why is that? Is that because of the low wage rate or the stigma associated with doing work that’s traditionally associated with women?

RR: That’s a great question, and I don’t honestly know the answer. I suspect that they are wrapped up with each other because of the historic sexism in the labor market.  Women-dominated jobs did tend to be lower-paid in part because they were women-dominated. Their wages were seen as less-important, so the history of the gendered nature of some of these jobs is still visible in some of the wages. But even for elementary school teachers and nursing, there are fewer than one-in-ten male nurses. That has increased a little, but my point is that in some areas of education and health, the caring professions, from relatively low-paying jobs to middle-paying jobs, these are in the middle class, those jobs are being created in this service sector. But they are female-dominated. What you’re seeing, for whatever reason, is that men’s reluctance or inability to reorient themselves towards those jobs puts them at a disadvantage.  These sort of outdated views about what constitutes a men’s job, the person that that is hurting is men.

SF: So there are a couple different paths to progress here and I’d like you to try to address both, and you do in your article, to some degree. One is social policy and the other is what individual men and women can do to try and transcend, in order to move past traditional signals as to what is “appropriate” for one or the other gender.

RR: In terms of policy, using policy pretty broadly here, from public policy at national, state, local level through to corporate policy, the policies of different institutions ought to start with the do no harm principle. By that I mean don’t build in assumptions about gender and about men’s and women’s roles into your policies. Don’t have an asymmetric assumption about time off to care for kids.

SF: Let’s just define that for our listeners. Asymmetric being…

RR: If you can take more time off if you’re a mom than if you’re a dad upon becoming a parent or if the default is to call mom rather than dad.

SF: So that’s why we prefer the term parental leave to maternity leave or maternity and paternity, refer to parents.

RR: As a slight aside, it’s interesting t how often even when it’s formally called parental leave it very often immediately gets relabeled maternity leave by people who almost can’t stop themselves.  If there are going to be things like parental leave and family leave, just make sure that they’re going to be instituted in such a way that they’re equally available to mothers and fathers. Let’s not presume at the outset that this is going to be something that is for women, because that both adds to the inequality that you referred to a moment ago but also hampers men’s ability to reform. But there’s also stuff to do on the cultural and individual side.

SF: On the policy side, if we could just stay on that for one moment longer, part of your article gives a brief comparison a cross-national comparison of policies that really do create significant social and cultural change, especially the examples of Sweden and Germany. Tell our listeners, briefly, about that.

RR: In countries that have a national scheme of parental leave, which the US does not at the moment (it’s at the state level in certain states), sometimes the design of those actually makes part of a leave available only to men. So in a sense it’s use it or lose it, they’re actually not transferrable from the father to the mother.

SF: What’s been the impact of that kind of imperative from the government?

RR: Quite significant. People do respond to incentives. What you see is a significant increase in number of fathers who take that leave who then continue to be more involved in their kids’ lives. We know pretty well that fathers who are involved early in their kids’ lives were more involved later. In fact, some of the studies, the one in Quebec that I mentioned found a more egalitarian division of labor that lasted as far as the study went, which was three years after the taking of the leave. It did seem to recalibrate the family model.

SF: So people don’t revert to the traditional model of splitting caregiving and breadwinning along gender lines.  Mark Zuckerberg’s example: Now that his daughter’s arrived, he’s taking two months off. That sends a strong signal, doesn’t it?

RR: It does, and there is evidence as well from human resources literature that even in divisions of companies where the boss or senior figure takes paternity leave, the men who then subsequently become fathers are much more likely to as well. That is really a quite important cultural issue. I used to work in the UK on the Liberal Democrat side of the coalition government, but I was very proud that David Cameron, when he became Prime Minister, took paternity leave. These things do send strong signals.  When you’re running a company or a business, to send that signal is pretty important. People believe their eyes, not their ears.

SF: It does send the message that it’s not only okay, but that it’s a good thing to do.  That was a part of Zuckerberg’s announcement with which I was a little disappointed. He said that he’d be taking two months off because it’s good for his kid and for his family. He ought to have included that it’s good for his business as well.

RR: That’s right. He came across as a big policy wonk in that statement, as much as I admire him for doing what he did. What will happen is businesses will worry about some of these changes but the truth is, as Zuckerberg established, businesses worry about family leave, but businesses and capitalism are infinitely flexible and adaptable. They absolutely will adapt to men doing the same thing, too, and that will bring greater equality in terms of wages and promotion opportunities.

SF: Which makes it a more egalitarian world for us all. We’re seeing more and more examples everyday. Could you address briefly what you would advise people, men especially, to help them overcome the cultural and psychological barriers that might hold them back from entering sectors of the economy where they could really gain, create value, and start to be a part of this social movement to change the roles of men in society?

RR: I’d start with a three-word admonition — just do it.  I think that taking the step is always the most difficult. Talk to the women in your life about what they want from you, what they hope for and expect. I think that men will be pleasantly surprised to find that it will be good for them and good for their relationships to move into those places. I’m proud to say that I’m a working father.  And use the power that you have as a man, as a father, and as a worker, use that power not only for your own benefit by taking opportunities but also to create a world in which some of our daughters grow up to see both men and women as broad and flexible in the things that they can do. Take the idea of what it is to be a man and turn it on its head. There’s a way to do that that’s actually hugely empowering for men. This is not a loss. It doesn’t have to be a loss. Let’s just see this as something we can be proud of and feel like more rounded as individuals and as men, be better partners and fathers, better workers, if we’re able to take those leaps. You have just got to do it.

About the Author

Jacob Adler , W’18,  is a sophomore at Wharton and a contributor at The Daily Pennsylvanian, numberFire, and Fake Teams.

Managing Boundaries on Paternity Leave From Vine– Jason Toff

Contributor: Jacob Adler

Work and Life is a radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by Wharton. Every Tuesday at 7 pm EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community, and the private self (mind, body, and spirit).

Wharton Grad ‘08 Jason Toff was a Product Manager at YouTube and Product Marketing Manager at Google and is now the General Manager at Vine, a part of Twitter. Jason and his wife just had their first child. Jason took a highly visible paternity leave.  He spoke with Stew Friedman about his experiences, at work and at home, as a new father, and about the Millennial experience in general, at work and the rest of life.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: In the run-up to your wife’s delivery of your first child, you were pretty public about taking an extended paternity leave and not only because you wanted to, for yourself and your family, but you wanted to set an example. What went into your thinking?

Jason Toff: jason toffThere were two major things that went into my decision to take the extended leave. The first one was just thinking about prioritization across life. A lot of people talk about family being most important, but if that’s truly the case then, at least for me, it was clear that I was going to take time off to spend with my son and with my wife during this really important time. This was the only first child we were ever going to have, so I wanted to spend time with them. The other factor is, as you alluded to, what message is this going to send to my team, a team of about 50 people in New York. Many of them have children, many of them are thinking about children, and I could tell them as much as I want about how much they’re able to take leave, but really they’re going to look at my actions to get a look at what’s appropriate and acceptable for them.

SF: What was the message you wanted to convey?

JT: Twitter has a great paternity and maternity policy, 10 weeks for fathers and 20 weeks for mothers, and the message I want to send is: family is valued and your relationship with your significant other and your children is important and is something Twitter and Vine respect and want you to value as well. So the message is: the policy is not just for show, it’s totally acceptable and normal.  Luckily for me, I was not the first dad to take leave at Twitter. There were many before me who did the same.  But it was important for me, for my team, to send that message to them.

SF: So that path had been traveled, and probably some lessons learned along the way.   Were those conveyed to you? Did people tell you about tips for how to manage this transition period, being away, and how to prepare and ensure that your team was going to thrive during the time you weren’t there?

JT: There had been a new moms group and they recently created a new dads group a few weeks before I took my leave. I met with a number of other dads at Twitter. Some had taken leave at Twitter, others had at other companies. It was interesting.  People had different approaches. Some said, “Once a week, I check in for a few hours.”   Others said that they disconnected completely. Some passed along tips about travel. Twitter is headquartered in San Francisco and it’s important to travel there occasionally, which is obviously more difficult with a child. We exchanged tips about which flights to take in the late evenings, in the mornings to maximize time with our children.

SF: Before we leave that topic, what specifically are the best practices for travel?

JT: One thing I heard a lot was that children will go to sleep pretty early, and if you take the red eye at night and come back the next day, you can actually see your children two days in a row and not miss too much of them. Basically, people like to take shorter trips more frequently when they have children, and that’s what I’ve done. I still make trips out to San Francisco as frequently as possible but do so briefly.

SF: Are you back from your leave?

JT: That’s right. Twitter gives you 10 weeks in total, and you can split those up within the course of a year or so.  I took five weeks immediately once my son was born, and I’ll take another five weeks at the end of this year.

SF: So during those five weeks following your son’s birth were you 100% disconnected? 90%, 80%?

JT: I did a couple of things: I decided that I would check in once a week on Fridays with a few of my direct reports, 30 minutes.   And then sit in on our weekly all-hands.   And throughout the week I would read emails, occasionally reply to those emails. In hindsight, I probably would have done it a little differently. I’m happy to talk more about that, but I say I was like 70-80% disconnected.

SF: What would you do differently? What did you learn?

JT: What I learned was that being 30% connected was, in many ways, worse than being 0% connected. I would send emails without having full context of what was happening.  It turned out that that it would have been useful for me to stay in the loop on some things, but this, actually, was destructive to some coworkers. Some of my team’s feedback afterwards was, and this might be surprising, “I wish you disconnected even more.”  In hindsight I can totally appreciate that feedback.

SF: Why would that be surprising? If you’re popping in without the full context and offering a slice of the picture, causing all kinds of confusion, I can see that it would be better to not have you involved at all.

JT: That’s fair. I think some of the concerns for some of my reports were, What’s going to happen with X, Y, Z while you’re gone?”   So the first response might be that if he’s available for questions that’s better than nothing, but in fact, it was not.

SF:  That five weeks is coming up sometime later this year. What are you going to do differently

JT: My plan was to disconnect; not do the weekly check-ins but really trust my leads. The goal is to be 100% disconnected. Obviously, if there’s some catastrophic event I will be available and I want to be available to my team.   But my goal is not to do the weekly check-in, not to check email, but actually disconnect this time.

SF: What was the reaction of the people on your team, and of your peers, men and women?

JT: Pretty uneventful, overall. To be perfectly honest with you, I think at this point there is a standard within tech, certainly within Google and Twitter, that it’s perfectly acceptable and normal for men and women to take extended leave after childbirth. That was true across the team, across men and women, older generations and younger generations.

SF: You’re signaling, as we talked about at the top of our conversation, to your people, people around you, that this is normal and what we do, and you should do it, too. You reinforce that message, but it sounds like that message really didn’t need a lot of reinforcing. Do I have that right?

JT: I think that’s right. There were a few dads before me on the Vine team who took some leave. I think I took more than they did. I think maybe people say, Oh wow, there are 10 weeks. I should only take seven or eight.”  I tried to reinforce that this is not just a pretend policy to attract talent but a true policy because Twitter values your relationship not only with your children but your significant others.

SF: There have been some studies that show that men who take leave are stigmatized. They’re seen as not fully-committed, quote-on-quote feminine, as they don’t compare to those who are traditional model of the ideal worker, 24/7, 365, wholly committed. So you didn’t experience any of that and you don’t think that’s part of the culture of the company you are a part of?

JT: I don’t think so. I think if you ran this study with younger generations or tech, you at least would see a different result. I can’t say for sure, I can’t read the minds of everyone on my team, but the main feedback I heard was not that I wasn’t committed but was that I should disconnect even more next time.

SF: That’s so interesting, that the cleaner break would have been better, probably for you, too on the home side.

JT: Absolutely. It’s difficult when you are trained to carry this device around in your pocket, which buzzes whenever you get an email.   It takes a particular type of un-training in order to actually focus on what matters, your child in front of you.

SF: How did you do that? What kind of un-training did you concoct or what emerged as you had to learn how to ignore that thing?

JT: One of the tactical things I did, which sounds small but was actually pretty effective, was there’s a setting on your phone for the mail app that says,  Don’t show that red number badge that says how many new emails you have.”  I turned that off for all of my new emails and then every time I looked at my phone, I wouldn’t see the number of emails that were mounting. I could check in when I had a free moment but I didn’t have a constant urge to make that number go to zero.

SF: Jason, I forgot to ask you at the top. What is Vine and what are you doing there in terms of the next year or so, what’s your primary goal with the next phase of Vine’s growth?

JT: The short of it is that Vine is a video entertainment network. We have over 200 million people every month watching Vines. Vines exist in our mobile apps.    They exist across the web. You’ve probably have seen Vines embedded on sites across the Internet. We are trying to build the best entertainment platform.  We see tremendous Vines come onto our platform every day from people who are filing whatever is happening around them, to Vine stars.   There’s a growing number of people who have become celebrities within Vine. Our goal for the immediate future, or even long future, is to be the best entertainment platform.

SF: Within the six-second timeframe that Vines now live within?

JT:  We’re not religious about any one aspect of Vine; no one at Vine would tell you that they work on a six-second square looping video, for instance. But we believe there’s a lot of value in this short format that we invented and we’ve seen amazing response from our users.

SF: Thank you for that explanation. It’s an amazing product and I’d like to now return to what we were just speaking about before that, which is what you learned to do to maintain your physical and psychological presence in the same place, which was at home with your new baby. What else, aside from your shutting off the red button that says you have 975 unread mails.   What else did you do?

JT: Another important thing was just empowering people at work to take over responsibilities that I previously had and being very explicit about those.    And setting up an out-of-office message to direct people to one of those individuals.   Also reminding myself on a daily basis of this great opportunity I had.  I had so much time with my first-born in his first weeks of life, those were the major things.

SF: You reminded yourself, how did you do that? Did you wake up and think, “Ah, I get to spend a day with my son today?”  What exactly did you do to keep your mind focused, because you are, as you said, trained. You have this habitual interest in connecting via your smartphone, or whatever device, to the people at work and beyond. That’s a tough habit to unlearn. We’ve been talking a lot about that on this show. What else did you do to hold that boundary?

JT: Honestly, it was pretty hard for me, being so connected. The way I experienced it typically was I’d find myself looking at my phone, getting an email, starting to stress out about something I didn’t have too much context on but enough to be stressed out about.  I’d need to stop myself and talk to myself for a moment and say, “What am I doing here, put this away, prioritize my wife and son.” Truthfully, my wife was a big contributor in getting me to stop.

SF: How did she do that?

JT: My wife has a talent to be very frank with me, and was very frank about my being here. I can’t say I was perfect at it but that was certainly a help.

SF: You need that. You need the social environment that’s going to hold you accountable to what you believe in. What you say is important because these habits are incredibly powerful and the draw is so strong, so I appreciate your candor in that. Having your significant other, your wife, reminding you about what was important, that was really helpful.

JT: Absolutely, enormously helpful.   And honestly just witnessing all that goes into childbirth, leading up to childbirth, and in the weeks after, I had an enormous amount of respect for my wife before,  but after seeing just the physical trauma alone of childbirth, it’s such an insane thing to happen to a human body and something that we don’t talk that much about or that I hadn’t heard much about, I had so much respect for her that the least I could do was give her my attention and help her, especially those first few weeks.

SF:  It’s a profound transformation of the human body to carry and deliver a child, that’s for sure. So the least you could do was to get off the phone!

JT: Obviously, I have the easy job in that I need to help out, so that was a good reminder to myself.

SF: But you needed that reminder. So I’m wondering if that’s something that you can help other people to understand as a result of your experience, some tips for the people around you. Is that a part of the conversation at Vine and Twitter, sharing best practices and dealing with this really important and critical question that you have been so candidly describing here about maintaining that boundary and focus on the baby in front of you?

JT:  Absolutely. There’s a group chatroom at Vine, and soon after I returned, we started a dads chatroom and just in one-on-one conversations with people.   We talked about what worked and didn’t work. And truthfully, it depends on the person and situation. There are some people who might go insane if they completely disconnected or, depending, in some rare instances, their job function, it actually would be better for them to stay connected in some way.  But I certainly learned the lesson and would pass it on to anyone on my team or anyone – to disconnect as much as possible. There’s only one time in my life, in anyone’s life, that they will have their first child. Just truly appreciating those moments is … it’s hard to compare anything to that.

SF: It’s probably too soon to tell, but how do you think becoming a father has affected your thinking about your career?

JT: Funny enough, within a couple weeks of returning, I was actually promoted.   So early signs seem to suggest that it hasn’t had a negative effect on my career. Again, I may be lucky to be in the tech industry, where this is normal, but I really don’t think it had any negative impact on my career.

SF: I was thinking it would have had a positive effect, so I don’t know why you’d assume that I was thinking negative!

JT: If anything, it’s given me perspective and helped me understand that sometimes things at work seem like tragedies, life-and-death experiences, and sometimes they are, but for most of us it’s not, and having that added perspective has allowed me, I think, to do my job a little bit better.

SF: Can you say how?

JT: Previously I would get very stressed out, which is not good for anyone on my team, about small issues.  I think on the whole I am less likely to do so now with that added perspective.

To learn more about Jason Toff and Vine go to their website https://vine.co/ and follow on Twitter @Vine and @JasonToff.

About the Author

Jacob Adler , W’18,  is a sophomore at Wharton and a contributor at The Daily Pennsylvanian, numberFire, andFake Teams.

Dad Sues for Parental Leave & Changes Corporate Policy — Josh Levs

Work and Life is a radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by Wharton. Every Tuesday at 7 pm EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community, and the private self (mind, body, and spirit).

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with CNN reporter, Josh Levs. He is an investigative journalist who’s a 6-time Peabody award-winner with 2 Edward R. Murrow awards.  At the time of the birth of his third child he sued his employer, CNN/Time Warner, in order to obtain a paternity leave for biological fathers that matched their leaves for mothers and adoptive parents.  He has a new book, All In: How Our Work-First Culture Fails Dads, Families, and Businesses – And How We Can Fix It Together. It’s being hailed as the Lean In for men.

Below are excerpts from their conversation. Or listen to the audio:


Josh Levs: Josh LevsHey, Stew, thank you so much for having me.  It’s perfect timing.  I just got my two boys into the bath and my wife has taken over from here, the baby just went down in the night, and I walked into the office to talk to you.   This is what parents do now.  We try to do it all.

Stew Friedman: You were, and still are, a successful, award winning reporter for blue chip organizations  — Time-Warner,  CNN, and before that NPR.  When you and your wife had your third child, you sued Time Warner for paternity leave.  What was it that led you to that decision, what was the turning point for you?

JL: I was a journalist and in addition to covering major news, I was already a father, a columnist writing stories about fatherhood.  We were doing segments on the air and we were interviewing other dads and then, all of a sudden, the tables got turned and I was the dad in the news.  We determined that, for several reasons, I would be at home after the birth of our daughter, our third child, and Time Warner had an extremely unusual policy, but it’s also the type of policy that many places have.

They’d allow any person who had baby to take care of the baby when they came home unless that person impregnated the mother.   Had I put my child up for adoption and some other dad adopted her, he could get leave.

SF: What was the theory, behind that?

JL:  The way these policies are structured, we have to follow the money.  Time Warner, has a disability policy that provides women with ten paid weeks after they have a baby.  They were encouraging women to have their doctors sign a form saying that they needed ten paid weeks for physical recovery.  Their time off is paid entirely through the disability policy.

Then, Time Warner decided that there are some people in other situations, perhaps a gay couple or a couple that chooses to adopt, and they wanted to give ten paid weeks to them, too.  But when I went to them in advance and I said that the only group of people you are not allowing the option of ten paid weeks to be home after the birth of a child is a biological father and I’m sure this is an oversight.  I can’t imagine that anyone intended it. I went straight to Benefits but they wouldn’t give me an answer for a month.  Then my daughter was born in an emergency and they still wouldn’t give me an answer.  Then 11 days later I’m home, holding my four pound premie daughter, taking care of my sick wife, as well as my two boys. I emailed Benefits saying that I needed to know, am I going back to work now or am I getting leave?  That’s when they wrote me back and said no, they wouldn’t give it to me. It was clearly a discriminatory decision and so I filed with the equal employment opportunity commission.

SF: What changed for you when that decision came down, personally and in terms of your role as an advocate for social and policy change in our country?

JL:  It was a really interesting twist, I was going to be the guy in the news.   But I didn’t realize until the night when I announced on social media, on Tumblr, that I was taking this step, how many women and men it would galvanize.

As soon as I announced it – it was like I unleashed the flood gates and these group started supporting me — Maria Shriver, who is now a big supporter of the book, and mom blogs and dad blogs. So I became fascinated as a dad and as a journalist: what was it about my case that was galvanizing to so many women and men?  And I realized that we are all in this together, all of us, who wants real equality for our daughters and/or sons or a wife and/or husband.   We’re all up against these backward structures that are pushing women home and pushing men to stay at work.

To this day only 4.6% of CEOs in the S&P 500 are women.  Why is that?  We have these structures that don’t make any sense, are bad for business, bad for the economy, bad for all of us. I learned through this experience that we are all in this together, all those of us who want equality.

SF:  Have they changed other policies?

JL:  A year later they created a new policy; they revolutionized their policy, made it infinitely better. Dads now get six paid weeks, moms who given birth get more time than they used to.  They are now getting 12 weeks or 14 weeks, in some cases.  More and more businesses are discovering on their own that having policies that allow families to make their own decisions about who will do which role is better for business.

So you are seeing companies like Facebook and Google and Yahoo! but also not just in Silicon Valley, you have Bank of America, and Johnson & Johnson that just made an announcement.  More and more of these big businesses are discovering that when they offer these kinds of polices, it helps attract and retain employees and it makes them happier and more productive and it works for the bottom line.  That part is the good news.  The bad news is that most companies are not on that bandwagon, things are actually going in a negative direction.

SF: I can’t tell you, Josh, how heartwarming it is for me to hear this. I too have two sons and a daughter. The first one was born in 1987 and that was a transformative moment for me, personally and then professionally.  Since the late 80s I, and a bunch of other people, have been advocating for just the kinds of changes that you’re talking about here.   And to see the flowering of these ideas in so many places in our society, though we still a long way to go, to be able to see how much has changed since the mad men era, is phenomenal.  A lot has changed, especially for women, but now we’re seeing change for men. What do you think has shifted in the cultural consciousness that has allowed for and enabled people like you to come forward and to move the needle further?

JL: The positive part comes from worker empowerment.  It’s more and more workers who recognize that they have choices.  Silicon Valley has helped lead the way on this.  Workers in Silicon Valley can get another job, not everyone feels that way especially since the 2008 financial fiasco.  But culturally I think my generation grew up on Free To Be You And Me.  It never occurred to me that my sister or any of my female friends would be less capable leaders.

SF: You graduated college in ’94, do I have that right?  So, you’re a Gen Xer?

JL: Yes, I’m 43 now.  My generation has this spirit of Free to Be You And Me and then we got to the workplace and we had children and we discovered that the workplace never grew up.  There are a couple of examples in my book: One guy, his baby was born in an emergency, he took off two days from work and was expected to work on Monday.  His boss comes in and abuses him for having taken off two whole days.  That boss is a pregnant women.

There are a lot of women and men in leadership positions who have these backward ideas. There is another boss who told the worker he could not have the time he was legally entitled to for care giving because men are not supposed to do the care giving unless wives are “in the coma or dead.”   And that’s a quote.

I was on the radio and two people called in to say that the Mad Men era was one of the best eras in the history of the world and that we should go back to it; that the job of a man is to work and the job of the women is to stay home.  We still have a lot of people who think that.  That’s why we all have to be all in and pushing against that and bringing about this cultural understanding that true equality will never get anywhere as long as people hold on to those old notions.

SF:  I’ve been saying for decades now that social change on this front takes time, but there are things that we can do to spur and inspire change.   One of the important things is to have people who have a pulpit or a  microphone tell their story, which is what you have done so eloquently and so powerfully in this new book demonstrating that there are a lot of options that are available for people to assume roles in the society that fit  their unique situation.  I love this aspect of what you’re saying in your programmatic advocacy; that it’s individualized solutions for families that work for them. There is no one size fits all.  Telling your story is crucial.  How do you think people can do that in a way that really starts to affect the kinds of expectations that people have for men and women?

JL: I talk about ways that we can work for changes in the laws, and this is one of those huge misunderstandings in America.  Paid family leave is something that we need, a basic human need, when a child comes out of the womb, it should have a parent at home with it for a bunch of weeks who does not have to worry about putting food on the table for that time.

SF: Keyword being their parents, not necessarily a mother, it could be a mother or a father.

JL:  People here think, wait a second, you want to make a law saying that businesses have to pay people when they are not working.   No, that’s not what paid family leave is.   Paid family leave currently exists in California and New Jersey.   Businesses in those states now like it and so do the workers.   You create basically an insurance fund [that employees, not businesses, pay into. ]

And when people have a qualifying emergency not just for kids, but for taking care of an aging parent, you get paid out of that fund.  What that does is it gets people to stop dropping out of the workforce entirely which is what they are doing now.  Instead, they can take the paid time off and then come back to work.  So everybody comes out ahead, it helps the economy.

We have got to do something because this is not working and it’s too painful.   Families struggle, they’re having to rush back to work after the baby leaves the womb because they need the money.

SF: It’s something I’ve been writing about in the book that we did comparing Wharton students from your generation (1992) with the generation of people that just graduated (in 2012).   In the advocacy piece of that, we made a big point about the success of the experiments in California and New Jersey. The research that’s been done tracking what’s occurred in those states shows that businesses become supportive because there is better employee attraction and retention as a result of these policies, policies that don’t cost employers anything.

JL: Yeah, when people find this out, they start to support it.  A prominent conservative leader like Jim Daly, the Head of Focus on the family, is saying that now, looking back, he was embarrassed he was ever against the Family and Medical Leave Act, FMLA.

We have public schools and we have Medicare for children because we understand that caring for children is good for society and this is just another piece of that.  For several weeks at least a parent should be able to be with the newborn.  And not only a mom is capable of being the caregiver, men are just a capable.

SF: Yes, in some cases more so. And that really gets down to what people want to do, what roles they want to play.  The role of caregiver and breadwinner can be taken up by a man or woman.

JL: I know you have a lot of business leaders who listen and in the end it is just basic logic.  Sometimes, the best person for a job is a women. So why would you possibly want a policy that pushes women to stay at home and men to stay at work, if the woman is the better person for the job?  You talk about mind and spirit.  Work-life conflicts are, in part, attributed to these backward structures that we have that prevent us from having legitimate work/life integration.

And business leadership that is open to have great women and great men who happen to have children and also want to be great employees, those businesses are discovering that it’s a huge opportunity for them.

SF: Yes indeed.   And the demand is growing for the kinds of programs that we’ve been developing here for decades and now bringing to the world including in a MOOC that I teach on this very topic that has reached 140,000 people worldwide.  The demand for useful tools and ideas for change is huge; it is truly a new moment. What else can listeners do to create positive change for their business or, as an employee, to create greater freedom and the support needed to be the parent and worker they want to be. What other ideas do you have?

JL: There’s male privilege, female gate-keeping, and the bonus temptation.  An expert in the book spoke about male privilege.  He was, like you, one of the handful of men and women who are really pushing this thing forward.   He says that he believes that a lot of men talked a good game about equality, but when it came down to it, they weren’t ready to fight for it, because it’s easier to say sorry honey, you know I don’t have a choice, I have to work.

And then, there is female gate-keeping, which is the flip side of that.  Some women grew up taking care, grew up babysitting, and grew up believing that girls and women are better at taking care of kids.  When the husband takes the baby, they say, “no, no, you don’t do it like that, let me do it, let me do it.”   So these are time that we all, as men and women, need to look at ourselves and say, do I need change my own individual attitude in order to be ready to stand up for equality and to allow it to flourish and to set the right example for our children.   Then the bonus temptation describes what happens sometimes when men come back to work after paternity leave, they get fired or they get demoted.   They are literally punished for being caregivers.

SF: Did you experience that when you came back?

JL: I did not, and that’s part of the message.  My colleagues were openly supportive; hugging me and kissing me in the hallways.

SF: Really? So they weren’t saying, “hey, you’re busting the rate here, you are making us look bad” or, alternatively, “you are a slacker?”

JL: The opposite.  So many guys said to me, “I always hated the policy, but I didn’t know we had the right to change it” or “I was afraid to.”  Now, are there certain bosses, high up in the ranks who think of me as being unmanly or whatever?  It certainly hasn’t been said directly to me.  But because so many men unfortunately do face that stigma, they are not even taking what paid leave they get. But in countries where there is a public policy making six or eight weeks available for men, then men take it. Otherwise you look crazy not to take it.

SF: Even in Sweden it took years for that to become normal for men, but that was three decades ago.  Josh, we have to wrap up here. What’s the one thing you want to make sure our listeners take away?

JL: I want people to know that I went into this with a totally open mind.  I didn’t have position, I didn’t know what I was going to find out about policies. What I found is exciting because we’ve got a win, win, win, win here.  If we stand up for better policies, we make things better for women and for men and we make things better for business and the economy, and the cause of equality.  There isn’t a loser.

Thank you for the interview and also thank you so much for being a leader on this, you have really paved the way for people like me and I’m forever grateful.

For more information about Josh Levs’ new book, All In: How Our Work-First Culture Fails Dads, Families, and Businesses and How We Can Fix It Together visit his informative website, joshlevs.com and follow him on Twitter @JoshLevs.


How To Invest in Boys — Michael Thompson

Work and Life is a radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by Wharton. Every Tuesday at 7 pm EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community, and the private self (mind, body, and spirit).

On Work and Life Stew Friedman spoke with Michael Thompson, a consultant, author, and psychologist specializing in children and families.  He is the co-author of the New York Times best-selling book, Raising Cain: Protecting The Emotional Life of Boys as well as the author of Speaking of Boys: Answers to the Most-Asked Questions About Raising Sons, and It’s a Boy!: Understanding Your Son’s Development from Birth to EighteenThey spoke about how our hyper macho culture affects boys and ultimately all of us

Stew Friedman: There’s a great deal of focus on girl power, on women leaning in,  on not on using the word ‘bossy’ to describe women, so how did you come to focus is on boys?  Aren’t boys and men the dominant group?  Why do they need our help and special attention?

Michael Thompson: I wrote my doctoral dissertation on, anorexia nervosa — a disease of self-starvation that’s far and away a female disorder.  It’s the second most lethal disorder in psychiatry and it comes about because girls get obsessed with the idea of thinness and they starve themselves.

If you had told me 30 years ago that I was going to end up studying boys, I would have said that’s absurd.  But I began to consult to schools and the overwhelming number of referrals to a school psychologist are boys.  There are more depressed and anxious boys under the age of 10.  There are more boys with learning problems.  And, of course, there are far more disciplinary problems.  Two-thirds to three-quarters of school suspensions and expulsions are boys.  When you get into a school setting, the kids who give teachers trouble, and the kids who get into disciplinary trouble are boys, not girls.

Over my years of school consultation, I’ve seen girls, to a significant extent, thriving more than boys were.  In my lifetime, I’m 68 years old, the academic fortunes of girls and boys have flip flopped. When I graduated from high school in 1965, 58% of college graduates were young men. The pendulum has swung from one side to the other.  56% of graduate degrees now go to young women.  Girls outperform boys in school: in elementary school, middle schools, high school, college and graduate school.   Boys never catch up.

SF: What do you do to help them?

MT: I run workshops for teachers about the nature of boys.  What are the brain differences, between boys and girls?  What are acceptable behaviors that they are going to see in boys which will sometimes disrupt the classroom and which will make some teachers feel boys are the enemy of what they’re trying to do?

SF: Are teachers receptive to this?

MT: They’re really receptive because many teachers see that boys struggle more in school, and they want to help them.  They find that the boys can’t sit still.  I had a woman, I met at an International School in China.  She said she was the first woman teacher at a boy’s Catholic school in a very rough area of London.  She said, “Boys spend the first two years trying to freak me out and gross me out.”  She said that once she passed the test, she was in and stayed there for nine years nine month teaching boys.  She said, “The thing I learned is you can’t ask boys to sit for more than 20 minutes. You have to let them get up and move because by school age, three quarters of the boys in the classroom are more physically active than any girl.”

SF: You were one of the experts who appeared in the film, ‘The Mask You Live In.’ I recently facilitated a conversation about that film here at The Wharton School at the invitation of a group of men centered around the rugby team.  So these were super macho dudes.  They call themselves “the 22’s” to represent how much less women are paid than men in our society.  They’re committed to try to close that gap.  We screened this film and had fantastic discussion about it, and you were one of the people who spoke so eloquently about the risks of hyper masculinity in our society.  One of the points you made, Michael, was that, when you look at the distribution of attributes comparing men and women, there are mostly overlapping.  Mostly men and women are alike in so many ways.  It’s only at the extremes that you see differences.

MT: Some people want to simplistically say, “Boys and girls are the same. Any differences are a result of social learning and training. We just leave them alone they’ll be very, very similar.”  Other people want to say, “Well, the boy brain and the girl brain, as if they were separate brains.”

The truth, as far as I’m concerned, is that the male and female brains are 85% overlapping.  For the most part, children need for love, and attention, and support, and guidance and challenge; they’re mainly the same.  That’s why co-ed schooling works.  If they had two separate brains, then we shouldn’t have the same schooling for both.  But on a number of dimensions, boys and girls, as a group, differ dramatically.

One is physicality; two is the way boys and girls use language; and the other is the standard behaviors which boys, I believe, are biologically wired for, which are dominancy.  A first grade boy may come up to another boy and start a friendship by saying, “I can run faster than you.”  Elementary teachers whose take is “Oh, that’s not nice. We have to fix that. Those boys lack empathy.  Those boys are mean.”

SF: But this is their way of connecting.

MT: Yes, that competitive invitation is often the way boys fall into friendship.

SF: Our show is about works and life and there are a lot of parents out there who worry about their sons.  It distracts them while they are at work and can cause them to fail to be able to pay attention to things that matter to them at work.  What advice do you have for parents of boys in our society to be able to be the kind of mother or father that they want to be and still be able to attend to the things that matter to them in other parts of their lives, such as work?

MT: Because a lot of mothers and fathers worry about their under achieving boys, their boys not living up to their potential, their boys not being organized,  I often ask the dad, “When did you become organized, to take the initiative, to do your homework on your own?”

SF: I was about 49, I think!  Most people would say that I wasn’t organized then either.

MT: Right.  Most of them at least marry somebody will help them organize. Most men answer, Freshman year in college.  Junior year in college. First year of graduate school.”  Then I ask women, When did you get to be an organized student in school?” And they say 4th and 5th grade, 3rd grade, kindergarten, 5th grade, 6th grade.” It’s very different.

Boys and girls, as a group, take to school differently.  Boys often think that they’re in it alone. There’s no team work.   Research has shown that boys work better in conditions of team work, competition, movement, and getting up and showing off. Boys say, “I don’t like to write.” Well, they don’t like to write in a 5th grade journal that they’re supposed to keep about their feelings.  They know it’s really a diary.  They want to write science fiction.  They want to write action.  There are a lot of elementary school teachers who think that they are doing a service as if they were doing violence prevention.  But there is no relationship between what you write in 5th grade and whether you turn out to be a violent person!

SF: The well-meaning redirection takes the boy away from what is natural to him.  So how can parents do to deal with the worries they have about their boys so that they can get their own work done?

MT: I try and get them to stop worrying. Moms worry constantly that their boys are too active, that they’re going to be trouble in school, they’re headed down a bad road.  What I’m telling moms is that if you love your son, if you have good teachers, he may get into trouble because he got up on the desk, he was standing on his chair, and he was telling something to friends across the room but you do not need to panic about that.  If your boy has things he loves, even if it’s sports and you think that that is not academic, if he shows perseverance and focus, and if he is a good member of a team, then all those abilities he is developing are going to serve him very well.

SF: What you tell dads who worry about their sons?  How do you help fathers to stay calm and assured about their son’s development?

MT: Many adult men believe that masculinity has to be won through a series of tests.  It’s a very common belief in men.  Women, somehow, believe they’re going to go from being girls to women without passing tests.  Boys and men devise tests for each other:  Are you truly masculine? Are you truly tough?  Are you truly strong?  Are you not scared?

Of course, most of us are scared on the inside.  When you’re a boy, you worry, “I’m not going to win the respect of other boys. Therefore I’m not going to be a respectable man.” There are a lot fathers who still have that fear for their son, and who think that their sons aren’t going to be tough enough, aren’t going to be strong enough.  The fathers, instead of actually talking to their boys, are constantly benchmarking them. They’re evaluating them.  I work in an all-boys private school outside Boston.  They tell me their fathers try to start a conversation that goes something like this: “How are things going in math?” That’s not a conversation. That’s a conversation killer. That means my father wants me to tell him entertaining stories of how I’m getting high grades in Math.  That’s’ every boy hears and starts to close down.

SF: What’s a better way to approach that?

MT: “Do you like Mr. Bailey better than Mr. Anderson?”  That’s a father who knows the name of his son’s two Math teacher, this years’ and last years.’  That’s a father asking his son a question that only one person can ever answer; his son. His son will know he’s being used as a consultant on his own life as a boy, and he will feel the respect of that.  Everybody likes being a consultant.  Don’t you, Stew?  I do.

SF: So to tap into what he knows distinctively, uniquely?

MT: Exactly.

SF: That’s great advice. What are some other questions that a parent could ask?  What other kinds of questions do you recommend that fathers ask their sons to have a real conversations that invest in and empower their sons?

MT: I think it’s helpful to ask boys about negative things.  Human beings, in general, like to complain.  I guess I believe that because I’m a psychologist and I have heard a lot of human beings complaining, and I complained a lot myself.  If you ask a boy to tell you something that he hates about his day, something that’s real and concrete.  Moms tend to ask, How are you?  How was your school day?” And boys respond, “Fine.” They say, Okay.” They don’t want to open up a long conversation in which their weaknesses might be exposed.  The hyper-masculinity has the effect of making boys want to hide their shame, their self-doubt, and their uncertainty.

Well, who doesn’t have shame, self-doubt and uncertainty?  Every human being does.  Boys are taught if you’re strong, if you’re a respectable boy, you don’t have it. They very often feel that their mothers are going after their inadequacy. That’s not all with the mothers intend. Mothers think they’re being empathic.  The boy thinks, “She’s trying to unravel me.” And they think the father is saying, “You have to live up to these marks. You have to win my respect. You have to pass this test.”  Boys tell me how important it is to hear about their father’s struggle.  I don’t mean eight paragraphs.  I just mean a father saying, “I struggle with that.”

SF: That’s beautiful advice, Michael.

To learn more Michael Thompson visit his web site www.michaelthompson-phd.com.

Join Work and Life next Tuesday at 7 pm on Sirius XM Channel 111.  Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.

Empowering Women By Engaging Men — Michael Kimmel

Work and Life is a radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by Wharton. Every Tuesday at 7 pm EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community, and the private self (mind, body, and spirit).

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with Michael Kimmel Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Gender Studies at Stony Brook University, where he is also the Executive Director of the Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities.  Kimmel is a leading authority on masculinity and gender, and author of numerous books on manhood including his most recent, Angry White Men. They explored the connection between gender and work.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: We’re talking today about the state of masculinity in America    and how this informs our understanding of the connection between gender, work and family. Most of us are familiar with the women’s rights movements and with feminism.  Michael, please tell us briefly what is the men’s rights movements and how did it come about?

Michael Kimmel: Michael KimmelThe men’s rights movement began in the 1970’s. At that time it was very much in favor of feminism and women’s rights. It basically made the argument, just as feminists had, that women were imprisoned by archaic roles and so too were men.  Men wanted to be “liberated” from those stereotypical roles just as women wanted to be. However, the men’s rights movement has since morphed into a very angry and volatile anti-feminist movement of which I have no part. In fact I’m probably the person they like least because I am a big believer in gender equality.

In fact, in my book, Angry White Men, I included a chapter about the men’s rights movement. I was on a TV show opposite these “men’s rights guys,” angry white men, who believed that they were the victims of reverse discrimination in the workplace. The TV show we were on was titled after a quote by one of these men who said “A black woman stole my job.” These guys all believed that they were victims. When it was my turn to speak I simply asked one question.

I said “I want to ask you about the word “My” where did you get the idea it was your job? Why isn’t the title “A black woman got the job?” Or “A black woman got a job.” Without confronting men’s sense of entitlement we won’t see why so many men resist gender equality. The men’s rights movement believes that gender equality is a zero sum game and if women win, then men are going to lose. Stew, you and I both know that the data on gender equality is overwhelmingly persuasive; the more gender equal our relationships the happier men are.

SF: And yet that there is perception among some men that it is zero sum game. Two questions: where does that entitlement come from and what can we do about it?

MK: There is a large number of people in America who have been dealt a bad hand. If you look at the data on family income in constant dollars, family income for a family of 4 in 1973 was about $38,000. If you keep it in constant dollars the average family income for a family of 4 today is about $38,000.

So, you have to ask yourself what’s different about a family of 4 in 1973 and a family of 4 today? And that is mom’s working. So the reality is that if the wage gap has closed at all over the past 40 years, it’s not because women’s wages have risen so much but because men’s wages have declined. Men are getting a bad deal. There are many men whose jobs are being outsourced or downsized.

You work for a company as a friend of mine did he worked for a company for 40 years. You invest in the company and its pension program and then one day as you are approaching retirement the CEO writes a letter saying “I’m really sorry but we can’t fund your retirement anymore” and it’s gone. So guys are getting a bad deal. They have the right to be angry but the question is “who are they angry at?” Do you think its feminist women who issue predatory loans. Do you think immigrants are responsible for climate change? Do you think LGBT people outsource your job?

Not in the least. So I think these guys are right to be angry but they are delivering their mail to the wrong address. Their analysis of the source of their problem is mistaken. The data on gender equality is very persuasive. The more gender equal our relationships, the happier that women are, the happier that children are, and the happier the men are.

SF: How do we break through to get the real story of the data that you’re describing to the American workers?

MK: You’ll probably accuse me of being Pollyanna-ish about this but I’m actually quite sanguine. I think that the hysteria that you get on Fox news is an indication that the reality of people’s lives is daily disconfirming what they hear on Fox news.

SF: What do you mean by that?

MK: Well, the reality is we are in fact happier the more gender equal our relations are. There are more cross sex friendships between women and men these days. Men are spending far more time as fathers and they are happier for it. So everyday I’m happier if I’m doing these sorts of things and if I watch Fox news I know that’s not me. So I think we are living in an everyday the refutation of what Fox News is telling us. And we are daily refuting the idea that men are from Mars and women are from Venus — which is probably the silliest book ever written.

SF: Why do you say that?

MK: What do we know about the work place? What do we know about the university? What’s the most successful educational reform of the entire 20th century? It’s co-education. Co-education means that you can sit in the same class, in the same lecture, read the same book, take the same test, be graded by the same criterion and nobody ever goes to the Dean of students and says “I’m a Martian and my professor is a Venusian” so shall we get a translator for extra credit. Nobody ever says that.  The reason nobody ever says that is because in every measurable attitude trait and behavior, women and men are far most similar than we are different.  That’s what we know from the social behavioral sciences.  So we’re not from Venus. We’re not from Mars. We’re from planet Earth and nowhere is this more clear than in the American college classroom and in the contemporary workplace.

SF: And yet there’s a simmering anger or not too simmering.

MK: Once upon a time every single corporate board was made up of all white men and now we have to share. Meritocracy sucks.

SF: Because you’re giving something up, or so it seems.

MK: Yes, you’re giving up the fact that you and only you get to occupy those positions. If you actually get to earn it, then you could lose it.

SF: How do we delve into that sense of entitlement so that the anger either dissipates or is directed to where it should go?

MK: In our daily lives, in our relationships with our children, our  partners, our friends we’re finding that that is sustaining and is fulfilling and therefore the words that we’re hearing [on Fox News], the rhetoric, the ideology that we’re hearing, increasingly rings hollow. We organized the world so that white men in America basically got all the benefits.  And now I would turn to white men and say “Wo how does that work out for you? Feeling great about your life?” No.

All of the power in the world doesn’t trickle down to individual men feeling really great about their lives whether you are in the top 1% or not. Let’s say the guy down the block has 2 Lamborghinis and I only have one! I think this is terrible and I want to get more. Or, if you are part of the rest of the world and you say “I’m making less money now.  It has to go further.  And I my wife is working.  We are trying to balance things. I know that I feel fulfilled when I spend time with my kids.  You’re thinking, “How could I put pressure on this government to provide the kinds of policies that I need to make my life work?”

SF: And we need changes in the workplace to create the kind of flexibility and support for men and women to fulfill the roles that are meaningful to them beyond the workplace.  What we know from our research as organizational psychologies is that when you do that when you give people flexibility and you value who they are outside of work, they bring more to work.  So, what about the workplace?

MK: I talk to CEO’s all the time and when I tell them that gender equality is a good thing they start to roll their eyes and say “Oh God.  This is going to be really expensive.  Gender equality is really expensive. How much is this going to cost me?” And I say “You have it completely backwards.” Gender inequality is really really expensive.

SF: How do you make that case to a CEO’s?

MK: It’s very easy. First of all, think of the labor cost of gender inequality:  higher turnover, lower productivity, lower levels of job satisfaction, higher rates of absenteeism, higher retraining costs. The costs are enormous.  But there’s good news. When a company announces a women’s ascent to the corporate board, stock prices tend to go up. Companies that are more gender equal tend to have higher valuation. They do better. They have higher levels of profitability. There’s phenomenal data on this by Catalyst and other organizations. So, to the CEO’s you don’t make a personal lifestyle case, you make a business case.

SF: So, this sense of entitlement you spoke of, it has gotten stronger perhaps more virulent in its expression.  What else can we be doing in our educational system or through the media to cut into that?

MK: We have to be sensitive to the fact that these changes in our workplace and in our lives have come really, really quickly. My father’s workplace looked very much like Don Drapers’ [in Mad Men.]  I grew up thinking my workplace would look like Don Draper’s.  But, of course, it looks nothing like that. And my son, who’s 16, looks at that world and thinks, “That’s insane! What’s going on there?”

SF: What’s so shocking to your son about the Draper world of Mad Men in the 60’s? What is it that shocks him?

MK: First of all, the men – the entirely white men — are the ones who have all the corner offices with the windows.  And the secretaries are in the middle and the men have their pick of them. The relations of between women and men, the wrestling over the past 6 years of the characters to allow women to enter this world and to achieve in this world, he finds it completely anachronistic.

When we were young there was this riddle that we spent hours trying to figure out.  Everyone knows this the riddle: A man and his son are driving along the freeway and they are in a terrible accident and the father is killed. The son is brought to the emergency room of the hospital where the emergency room doctor takes one look at the son and said I can’t treat him that’s my son. How is this possible? People of my age. I’m a baby boomer were flummoxed by it.

We couldn’t figure out. My son who’s 16 has a bunch of his friends over watching a soccer match.     I used the riddle to them. And they all looked at me like, “that’s his mom, of course!”  Except for my son, who said, “Or dad it could be he has two dads.”  It doesn’t perplex them at all anymore. Think about the sea change.

SF: It’s true.. Just last week I led a conversation among Wharton men and women about the film “The Mask You Live In” – in which you appeared as one of the experts. This was a group brought together by the Wharton women in business — MBA students – and a new group of Wharton men called “the 22’s.”  They called themselves “the 22’s” to represent how much less women are paid than men in our society. Their goal is to close that gap. Most of these guys are in the rugby club.   So these are some seriously macho guys. The room was overflowing with people who wanted to be a part of this discussion.  There’s clearly a lot that needs to be worked through.  As you do your work, not only in the classroom but in organizations, how do you go about helping to raise consciousness about the kinds of things that you’re talking about here and moving us into a world that has less animosity and more support for egalitarian or a 50-50 world that we really all ultimately want to live in? What do you do?

MK: Great question. I think that part of this is to recognize that that since these changes have come about so fast you can’t simply dismiss people’s anxiety or dismiss people’s perceptions.

SF: Right. It has to be accepted.

MK: Absolutely. Every therapist, every psychologist tells you that you can’t tell someone their feelings are wrong. The reality is their feelings are real and you have to attend to them.  You can’t just say “your feelings are wrong, get over it.” That’s not going to produce the kind of changes that you’re looking for.

SF: It will likely create more resistance.

MK: Exactly. So, we need to acknowledge the fear as a result of these changes. At the same time we have to begin to move off the idea that it was women who did this.  That’s part of challenging those notions of entitlement at the same time as we’re trying to work through them.

SF: You have a book, if I have this right, about “Bro” culture, Guyland.

MK:  Guyland is really a book about what kinds of pressures young men are under to prove their masculinity and especially to prove their masculinity to other guys. It’s really a book about college age men. There is something happening that’s new in our culture, a new stage of development between adulthood and adolescent.  It’s now taking us a full decade longer to accomplish the markers of adulthood than it once did.  The average age of marriage in 1950 was about 20.4 and today is about 28.3 so it’s really taking us almost the full decade longer to do all of those things.

SF: So Guyland maps that change, the extended adolescence, and its impact on current society in the workplace.

MK: Right. It’s about what guys are being asked to do on college campuses in order to prove their masculinity to other guys. We want parents and young people to be aware of these issues so we can figure out ways to help young men navigate this world more effectively.  Every day there’s another article about sexual assault on college campuses.  These are the things that men are being asked to do in the name of proving their masculinity.

SF: What have you found to be the most effective means for changing that culture?

MK: The way I try to engage with those guys is not by trying to tell them that they have to be different but rather that what we really need them to do is to live up to their own ideal of masculinity.  The idea is to foster a conversation about what it means to be a man.

I think we have an idea about what it means to be a real man which is stoic and never crying, never showing your feelings and winning at all costs. But I think if you ask most men what does it mean to be a good man — at you funeral you want it to be said of you ‘he was a good man’ —  they have very different models.  They would say things like being a good provider, being responsible, having integrity, doing the right things, standing up for the little guys.

SF: Serving others.

MK: I basically want to foster a conversation between the two ideas of masculinity that we have in our heads that currently vie for dominance.  I want young guys, guys like my son, to know that some times in the name of the brotherhood they’re going to be asked to be a real man and betray their sense of what it is to be a good man.  I want us to foster that conversation so that it costs them. So they can’t look at themselves in the mirror and say “you’re a good man” if they haven’t done the right thing.

SF: So it really begins with a self-definition of what does it mean for me to be the man that I want to be.

MK: That’s right. So, if we are to guide young men my feeling is that if we propose to them that this model of masculinity that they’ve embraced is toxic and therefore they have to change, then it you’ll get nowhere.  What we can do is say “it’s not my idea of masculinity it’s yours.” I believe that you need to live up to your own ideas. When I am asked to work with a fraternity on a campus that has been singled out by the administration as particularly problematic, prone to sexual assault, then I say to these guys: “I don’t want you to fold up. I don’t want you to go out of business.” What I want you to do is I want you to bring your charter. I want you to show me what you say you are.  If you look at the charter of any fraternity it says ‘We’re men of honor. We are gentlemen. We believe in service.’ So, I’m saying I want you to live up to your own codes.

SF: Michael, I want to make sure the listeners get your thoughts about paternity leave in America. What do you see as the important challenges to make paternity leave less stigmatized and more available to men who want to take advantage of it.

MK: This is a really big question because the United States is one of the only four countries in the world that offers no paid parental leave to anyone, male or female.  The other three are Lesotho, Swaziland, and Papua New Guinea. We really have an enormous gap here.  Paternity leave needs to be part of a much larger conversation about changing workplace policies. Men want this. Men want to be involved with their children and when they are given the opportunity to have paid parental leave, they take it. You don’t have to look much further than the Scandinavian countries.  In Iceland, for example, over around 96% of men take paid parental leave.

So obviously, men want this because we do want to be around our kids. Parental leave for both women and men is a vital workplace reform that we all desperately need.  Men need to step up and say that we want this because we think of parental leave in this country as a woman issue and it’s not a woman’s issue. It’s a parent’s issue. Men are identifying as parents.  We all know that women don’t get parental leave unless men support it. There has never been a reform that women wanted that didn’t need men’s support. So, this is the complete win-win.

SF: What’s the one thing you want our listeners to do to advance the cause of men and women as equals in our society?

MK: The model of our center, The Center for the Study of Men and Masculinity, and the work that I do in general, can be summed up in one sentence: We cannot fully empower women and girls without also engaging men and boys and when we do we find out that gender equality is a good thing for men as well as for women.

To learn more Michael Kimmel visit his web site www.michaelkimmel.com.

Join Work and Life next Tuesday at 7 pm on Sirius XM Channel 111.  Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.




Involved Dads Are Happy Employees — Jamie Ladge

Contributor: Andrea Yeh

Work and Life is a radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by Wharton. Every Tuesday at 7 pm EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community, and the private self (mind, body, and spirit).

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with Jamie Ladge, Associate Professor of Management and Organizational Development at the D’Amore-McKim School of Business at Northeastern University, which is affiliated with the Boston College Center for Work and Family.  She discussed her research on how fathers who are more involved at home have a more positive work life, which ultimately benefits their organizations.

The following are edited excerpts from their conversation.

Stew Friedman: Historically, there’s been lots of research on how work affects family life.  There’s been so much written on hours worked and the impact on family.  What inspired you to study how men’s new family roles affect aspects of their work?

Jamie Ladge: Jamie LadgeI started out focusing on women’s issues and focusing on mothers when I was a doctoral student at Boston College.  I spent years focused on issues surrounding pregnancy and the workplace and the re-entry to work after becoming a mother.  The funny story is that I got sick of people asking, What about the dad?  At every conference that I went to and every time I was at a cocktail party talking about my research, everybody wanted to know what the dad’s experience was, so we set out to determine whether their story was different from the mother’s.  Initially, we set out to explore new fathers — the experience of becoming a father — from an identity perspective and what the effects were on them personally and professionally.

SF: So you’ve been examining men’s changing role and the impact of caregiving and parenting on their more gender stereotypical role of breadwinning.  At the outset, what were you expecting to find?

JL: Frankly, I think we were expecting that not much had changed.  When I was studying moms, it seemed that nothing had changed.  Gender norms and values seemed so entrenched and deep in the heart of cultures within organizations and societies and even in our own values and beliefs. I didn’t think there was going to be much of a difference.  I thought men would still think of themselves as the breadwinners.  Based on the descriptions our participants gave, it was largely true that expectations around the breadwinning model still existed within their organizations, but the surprise was that we saw that men really desire to be more involved.  When we talked to them, they seemed to espouse a more fathering, nurturing self or identify with being a more involved father.  It seemed that these deeply entrenched gender roles prevented them from being who they hoped or wanted to be.

I think a large part of the problem is the ideal worker versus the ideal father phenomenon, and it seems to be that most of the men were caught between wanting to be a little of both.  But there were some really nice benefits experienced in becoming a father.  One individual talked about the self-discovery benefit that he developed as a result of becoming a father and really being able to think about what it meant to be a father in the context of his life as a whole.  He just felt like he was learning so much about himself through the eyes of becoming a father, caring for an infant, and thinking about prioritizing his life and family role.

SF: How did that affect his work life?

JL: He talked about feeling a lot more satisfied because he had the opportunity to be who he truly wanted to be.  Not all the men were as articulate as that, but a lot of them talked about this benefit, even feeling good in the workplace that they were able to talk about being a father and share some of these stories with their coworkers. You also see that new dads tend to get high fives for being more involved, or at least being perceived as more involved.  Certainly for those men who tried to embrace fatherhood, I think they felt a real benefit.

SF: What other benefits did you observe, in addition to the immediate social recognition and the sense of clarity of what’s important?

JL: Well, some of them may have been seen as benefits, but in some ways, they might be a little self-deprecating.  In one of the studies I conducted, an older first-time father tended to feel as though people looked at him a little more seriously now that he was a father.  I think for everyone that becomes a parent, it starts to allow you to feel like a whole person where you’re able to build on many selves, not just work, and these are men who have mostly lived for work, by and large.

SF: Did you observe benefits for the business that were economic outcomes or other outcomes that were of direct interest to the business?

JL: The benefit we found to organizations was that the more hours men spent with their children during the workday when they normally would be working, the more satisfied they were with their jobs, the less conflict they experienced, the more enriched they felt in terms of their work and family domains, and the less likely they wanted to or intended to change their jobs—those were all the positive things.  There was only one negative effect on men’s “career identity,” which refers to how much you define yourself by your work role.  This finding probably isn’t surprising given that since you’re spending more time on one domain, you’re taking away from another.

SF: Why is weaker career identity a bad thing?

JL: Well, it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.  When we looked at it more deeply, we found that when men felt their managers were supportive, there was actually a positive effect on career identity.  So men’s weaker career identity could be offset by perceived support of a manager.

It is important that organizations understand that it’s not a deficit for their employees to have lives outside of work.  This and other studies have shown that there are both individual and organizational benefits to providing some level of support for these individuals, both men and women.

The stigma of the working parent still exists.  We found a little bit of the stigma in our research, and I have also observed the stigma just in my own experiences.  I have three children of my own.  About a month or so ago, I was at an after-school activity where I was picking up my children, and I overheard these two men—clearly present, clearly involved fathers—who were picking up their children around 4:00 to 4:30 in the afternoon.  They seemed to know each other from a business context.  One of them asked, “Do you have that presentation that so-and-so presented?” Then the other said, “Oh no, I don’t have that—the guy’s on paternity leave.  Our paternity leave is ridiculous—he’s been on one forever.”  Then the other guy concurred and said, “We have a very generous policy too, and it’s just not fair.”  I found the situation to be ironic.  It illustrated that it’s fine to be a little involved—they obviously left work early to pick up their children from an after-school activity—but when it’s too extreme, like a paternity leave, it’s different.

SF: Interesting.  So what does that portend about how the role of fathers as caregivers is evolving in our society and in our business lives?

JL: It might just mean that we’re getting closer.  A little bit’s okay, and we just need to get that moving and get that further along and not make assumptions about men or women when they do have to take on leaves or meet their work-life challenges.  We should recognize that there is no one-size-fits-all approach, and we have to recognize that people all have different needs for different reasons.  We also found that in comparison to a lot of the research I’ve done on mothers—where mothers usually negotiate with their supervisors when they need flexibility or want time off special arrangement—the men in our study tended to do the things that aren’t seen as much.  The stigma is not as bad for working fathers when they are doing it behind the scenes, but, like I said, the people who are more extreme that take the form of paternity leave still seem out of the ordinary.

SF: Because they’re exposed, right?  You can’t be stealth if you’re out for four months.  Small doses are now more socially acceptable and even supported by businesses that you are working with or have studied.  How do you advise managers who are trying to support their employees who are young father?

JL: I think it’s just the recognition that everyone has different needs and that the overarching work-life policies only go so far.  We need to understand why these managers might be devaluing individuals’ work-life needs, so maybe part of that is working with managers to figure out different strategies and find examples that show the positive benefit to organizations.

SF: Do you have an example or story of one of the subjects in your study that comes to mind as a particularly good exemplar of this idea that investing in the father role brings business benefits?

JL: The husband of one of my co-authors on the study works for a very large investment company in the Boston area.  Our study was cited in The Wall Street Journal and that article was distributed to the entire organization to highlight the fact that we need to value the father’s role.  Of course, he was very proud that his wife was one of the authors of the study.  They have a very balanced work-life situation, maybe a little bit because of her research, but also because of how they have negotiated their own work and life and family needs.  I thought it was a really good example of an organization concerned about these issues.  Many organizations, even those that are largely male-dominated, are interested in really thinking about this issue and pursuing it further.  Perhaps another thing we can do for managers or for organizations is to provide this kind of evidence through the research.

SF: So one thing to focus on would be to educate managers on the research that you and others have done through stories of success.  What can individual fathers and their spouses do to reap the benefits of fatherhood at work?

JL: I think the stealth nature is a great approach. Maybe women should take advantage of that approach as well.  I think men should ask for what they need. They shouldn’t be afraid that they’ll be penalized for it.   But they do have to be in a work culture that supports that, so obviously it works both ways.  From the spouse viewpoint, preparation is a good thing.  While you can never prepare fully for what’s going to come your way, I think it is important to negotiate with your spouse when you’re thinking about extending your family.  Think about what the impact is going to be, and recognize that there are compromises associated with that.  Lastly, I think we, men and women, need to practice what we preach.  Men need to support other men and help each other out.  Regarding those men who I saw picking up their kids early, for example, they were demonstrating that they were involved fathers, yet they were espousing something that speaks otherwise, which is not going to help move things along.  We need to support each other and get out of our own way.

To learn more about Professor Jamie Ladge and her research on working fathers, follow her on Twitter @jladge, and read her article, “Updating the Organization Man: An Examination of Involved Fathering in the Workplace,” in Academy of Management Perspectives.

Join Work and Life next Tuesday at 7 pm on Sirius XM Channel 111.  Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.

About the Author

Andrea Yeh Andrea Yehis an undergraduate junior majoring in Operations and Information Management and in International Relations.

Pioneers in New Roles for Men and Women — Cathy and Jeremy Schlosberg

Contributor: Andrea Yeh

Work and Life is a radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by Wharton. Every Tuesday at 7 pm EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community, and the private self (mind, body, and spirit).

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with Cathy and Jeremy Schlosberg, work/life pioneers of the “role-reversal” family.  Jeremy was a stay-at-home dad and a freelance writer and editor.  Meanwhile, Cathy was the family’s primary breadwinner and a high-level executive.  She is the Vice President of Marketing and Channel Growth in Education at Aramark.  Together, Jeremy and Cathy have three children, ages 20, 24, and 27.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: We’ve had guests talk about changes in the roles of men and women in society, including the rise of stay-at-home dads and the trend toward many more women serving as the primary breadwinners in their families.  You two, however, started as pioneers in this movement more than 20 years ago in the mid-’90s.  How did this start for you?  Was it always your plan to work out your family relationships like this, or did it happen by accident?  Jeremy, could you give us the history?

Jeremy Schlosberg: I think it falls somewhere in between those two poles.   I don’t think it was completely an accident, but I also don’t think we sat down and had a big written plan.  I think it just naturally evolved.  I was a freelance writer, so I was working from the home anyway.  Cathy already had a trajectory of having a corporate job, and I vaguely remember that we said at one point that it seems like it would make sense if I stayed home and watched the kids or the new baby.

Cathy Schlosberg: Cathy SchlosbergThat’s right.  Ever since I got out of college in 1980, I have been working in a corporate setting pretty much all the way through.  In 1987 when our first son was born, we both determined that Jeremy was temperamentally suited to work from the house, and I was temperamentally suited to be in a corporation, so we evolved into it.  We had some daycare help, but it was only four hours per day for four days a week at the time when our oldest was three months old, and I had gone back to work.

SF: So Dan’s arrival meant you had support in terms of childcare?

JS:  Yes, we figured out a minimal amount of time that I could feel like I was able to get my writing done uninterrupted.  The joke was that I would work two 9-to-1 shifts: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. when he was in daycare and 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. when everyone was asleep.  I could get 8 hours that way, and it kind of worked.  I think I was also temperamentally suited to the role.   I was naturally nurturing and felt comfortable in that role emotionally.  It was awkward logistically at the time because in 1987 you didn’t see dads pushing strollers around the neighborhood or carrying kids on their backs, so it took a while to get over the feeling that I was only doing parenting. I felt self-conscious about it at the beginning.

CS: When your kids are young, you want to be together with other families with kids of the same age, so when Jeremy would be around during the week, he would pretty much be doing playdates with other kids along with their mothers.

JS: One of the things that gave me a foothold was that in our original neighborhood where our first son was born, there were oftentimes other dads in the playgroup.  I think that one week in particular, four out of five parent caregivers were dads.  There were some people living a little bit of the alternative lifestyle along with us.  That wasn’t common at all at the time, and, most of the time, people would think that I was babysitting when I was with a small child.  But in that playgroup, everyone was warm and welcoming, and it felt more like family.  It felt like a grounding place where I could feel less unusual.

SF: On this unusual day where there were four out of five fathers there, did you guys talk about what it was like?  Do you recall that day?

JS: There was often one other father because there were a few freelancers in the mix and others running their own businesses.  We probably commented on how there were four dads there, but I don’t think we got into a big session about what it was like.

SF: There was a time when you must have had to decide that it was okay and that you were going to be doing this.  What was the conversation like that led to your family resolving that this was a good way for you to be?

CS: Somewhere along the way we realized that this was just what we were going to do.  I was the primary breadwinner, and, as a result of that, we were both able to enjoy the careers that we wanted—Jeremy as a writer, and me in a professional setting.  We were getting some care and feeding from our careers while at the same time being able to do that juggling act that we all know is challenging in a dual-career household, regardless of what the situation is—balancing those quadrants of your life, which are work, your children, your marriage, and yourself.   After figuring all of that out, we just evolved into a place where it seemed like this was working okay.  We also had a good division of other labor in the household.  Jeremy always cooked.  I always did the laundry and most of the finances, except the checkbook.  It seemed to evolve into a place where—without a lot of conversation, without a lot of debate, and without a lot of argument—we both felt like we were doing okay.

JS:  Yeah, it never was really much of an issue.  It just seemed to be working.

CS: Prior to coming on today, we did end up asking our three children what their take on this was.

SF: So tell us; what did they say?

JS: They all pretty much had the same view.  It didn’t strike them as that unusual because by the time they got to a certain age, there wasn’t really a traditional model.  They didn’t feel like there was a “normal” that they were diverging from because everyone has something different going on in their house.  They realized that it was different, but it was really a non-issue for them.

SF: But you experienced something very different in the world outside, right?

JS: My biggest problems were in the earliest days when the kids were little.  By the time everyone was in elementary school and getting into middle school, I was pretty adapted.  There would always be situations where I was the only dad, but it stopped being an issue for me.

SF: But your kids didn’t experience that?  That’s what is so discordant here.  They didn’t feel that it was strange, yet you were feeling it, and Cathy, you probably were too.

CS: Right.  There were times when I would say to Jeremy, “Wow, wouldn’t it have been cool to have felt like I had the choice to stay at home?”   But it never really was a choice, and in the end it really seemed to work well for us.  I think it felt very natural for our kids because it felt very natural for Jeremy and me.  There were really no points of argument.  One of the things I tend to have a lot of strong opinions about was regarding how we raise our kids, but since Jeremy was taking care of the household, I essentially said to myself I was going to cede primary decision-making to him.  Where we had difficulties, we were going to talk about it, but I was not there, so I decided that I was going to let him run his show.

JS: It first started being something that was even being considered when there would be a movie like Mr. Mom.  You would see this ridiculous dad who was so clueless from start to finish—and yet, that had nothing to do with my experience.  It’s not really rocket science to do some of this stuff.   You have to be paying attention and be sensitive, but it wasn’t like the cliché that Cathy would go to work, and she’d come home to a mess.  As Cathy was saying, it felt like the household was working in a fairly ordinary way.  Maybe that’s what the kids ultimately felt.

SF: What else did you hear from your sons about what it was like for them?

JS: For the two older ones, it was even more in their distant past, so they really said that it seemed like a non-issue.  Our youngest did have some memories of when it first started to occur to him that it was somewhat different.  He did say that early on he might have felt uncomfortable talking about it because he didn’t want to seem different, but he mentioned that since he got into high school, he really took it more as a point of pride.

SF: So he wasn’t embarrassed or ashamed that his parents were different, but rather he saw this as a source of pride.  What was he proud of?

CS: I think it might have been pride in the unique situation and having come through being a part of that.  I used to worry since we raised our kids in a different way.  I would wonder: Are our kids going to be fine?  Are they going to be normal at the end of this?  Are they going to be able to make their way on their own?  What are their attributes going to be?

I have since talked to a lot of young women that I mentored in their careers.  When women now are facing the decision of whether they should work, stay home, or work part-time, I, having been all the way through this, am able to say that I took only three months off with three pregnancies and basically worked my entire career.  I have three kids (20, 24, and 27), and, if you have a supportive family situation, that model is very doable.

SF: What do you say when they say, “Well yeah, you had your husband?”

CS: I would say that ultimately every couple and person needs to make their own decision.  I think they have to weigh the pros and the cons.   I can only speak from my own experience, but I know that the secret to my ability to have peace of mind in my career and work was the fact that Jeremy was there and that he wanted to be there.

SF: So maybe it was luck.  Maybe it was that you chose each other wisely or that you had conversations about this as it was evolving in terms of what was working and what adjustments you needed to make.  What was it like for you at work back then, Cathy?

CS: It’s really interesting that you bring that up.  I think that back in the day you would say to your management that you were coming back right after having the baby and literally they didn’t believe you.  In fact, I didn’t tell my office that I was pregnant with my first son until I was five-and-a-half months pregnant.  I kept it to myself for that amount of time because the environment was such that you might get put on a different track.

SF: The slow track.  So it was in your professional interest to keep it secret?

CS: That was my perception.  It may not have been the reality, and, in fact, it didn’t turn out to be the reality in my career once I showed back up after I had children and demonstrated that it wasn’t interfering with my ability to do my job with excellence.  I found that the companies I have worked with throughout the course of my career have been highly supportive of family.  The balance issue is not just a female issue though—it’s everybody’s issue.

SF: Were there particular issues that you had to face because you were in an unusual family structure the given the political and cultural environment.

CS: I don’t think so.  I think once I demonstrated that when I was at work I was focused on work, the companies I worked for were very supportive.  It was no different than if I was the husband at work.  I had the same situation at home, so it was accepted.  I find that now many different women who have raised children and have two-career families had to have very good support systems at home to reach senior levels in an organization.

SF: Yes, of course that’s necessary, however you structure that.  So you didn’t face any stigma of having a stay-at-home dad as your partner back then?

CS: No, I don’t think so, but when we would go to the holiday party for the company, there might be some joking around about that.  Do you have any memories of that, Jeremy?

JS: My memories are just vaguely not liking to go to these gatherings.  The concept of the stay-at-home dad wasn’t even a phrase back then.  I would talk about my writing, and it was only when my kids were almost in college that I realized that this is what I do.  At the same time, I started getting some more positive feedback on my professional work, so I was able to embrace that uniqueness three-quarters of the way through my stint as a stay-at-home dad. If I had gone into these things with more confidence, I’m sure I would have been fine.

SF: Reflecting back on this experience, what advice do you have for young people when they’re facing questions like these? Cathy, reflecting on your personal experience, what’s the big idea in terms of lessons learned that people can use now?

CS: I feel that I’ve been extremely fortunate to have had Jeremy.  It’s really a gift that he’s given to me, and, Jeremy, hopefully you feel that raising the kids and being the primary caregiver was a gift to yourself as well ultimately.   What I would say is that when you have children, you have to forge a new approach to how you’re going to manage that within the context of your relationship and your career.  And my situation would not be everybody’s situation.  We always said to one another that we didn’t want to have our children with other folks for 40 to 50 hours a week.  So when I was home, I was fully present, and when I was not, Jeremy had them at home most of the time.  My advice is just to know that a number of different situations can work if you’re both committed.

SF: Committed to whatever it is that you decide to do together?

CS: That’s right.  There are many different scenarios, but it should be a discussion between a couple regarding how you want to do this.  I think it’s important to have that conversation and to continue to check in about how it’s going throughout the course.

SF: Jeremy, how about you?  What’s the upshot in terms of your wisdom now with a little speckle of gray in your hair?

JS: Now I don’t feel that people need as much advice.   The networking and camaraderie and even the community of stay-at-home dads seem to be much more present—things which I certainly did not have at the time.  I think that the retrospective advice speaking to myself would have really been to just embrace it.  Most of the time I was pretty good at this, but it’s really true the whole childhood goes by really fast.  So when you’re in it, be in it—don’t be elsewhere with your mind and elsewhere with your intentions because it’s a precious time.

I look back and mostly feel okay with having been present, but I wasn’t as embracing of the role as I could have been to give myself more comfort.  I didn’t grow into it as quickly, and I wasn’t able to own it as early on as I might have.  I don’t think it’s as much of an issue for people now because it all had to do with feeling that it was a little too unusual. It was only when I had done it for about fifteen years that I realized that the writing really was only a part-time job.  I always thought that it was my full-time job, but it really wasn’t.

SF: But you still felt like you had to cover?

JS: Yeah, that’s an important point.  There was that pressure to be productive in the eyes of the world.  Now I don’t think it’s a problem as much.

SF: We are in world where there is greater freedom and in part thanks to pioneers and great role models like you.

Join Work and Life next Tuesday at 7 pm on Sirius XM Channel 111.  Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.

About the Author

Andrea Yeh Andrea Yehis an undergraduate junior majoring in Operations and Information Management and in International Relations.



Wharton Women Talk About Work and Life

Contributor: Morgan Motzel

Work and Life is a radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by Wharton. Every Tuesday at 7 pm EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community, and the private self (mind, body, and spirit).

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with current Wharton MBA students Zinnia Horne and Abby Holmes. Zinnia completed her undergraduate education at Stanford and came to Wharton to pursue her MBA, after working at Google in California. She is a leader in the Wharton Graduate Association. Abby worked in consulting at Deloitte before coming to Wharton. She is a married student with a one-and-a-half year old daughter. Stew spoke with both women about how the next generation of business leaders are thinking about what matters most to them and how they intend to integrate the different parts of their lives upon graduation.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: Zinnia, you work with the Wharton Grad Association which must give you a perspective on just how many students are involved in clubs at Wharton and what types of clubs have high enrollment and high engagement. When employers — who look like me, old, gray-haired people — look at young people coming up, what do they see? Do they see people who are self-interested, lazy, entitled, and distracted with technology? Or do they see people who are ambitious, committed, and eager to make a difference in this world? Or something in between? How do you see that?

Zinnia Horne: Zinnia HorneI think employers see students who are fresh and who bring new ideas. I think that’s really what they look to us for. We almost all have work experience, have taken two years out of school, and have really been inundated with a number of different ways to think about things. When employers are looking to the clubs to see who the rising stars are, I think they are looking for the people who are trying out new things and who are involved in a variety of different activities, so that they can get that new fresh perspective, and not only fresh, but also dynamic and a perspective that has a lot of variety.

SF: So if I were to ask the typical employer who comes to campus, “how might you characterize the MBAs in terms of their values and their attitudes?” what do you think they would tell me?

ZH: That’s a great question. While I can’t generalize across the entire Wharton population, I would say that people here want to achieve. We came here for a reason. That said, I’m definitely seeing more and more of a trend among students wanting to make an impact. Here, there are students going into different industries — from consulting to finance all the way to social impact — and they’re all thinking about ways they can make a difference in the world, and, even more so, what they can start in order to make a difference. So I’d say it’s a mix of thinking about making money for yourself, but also thinking about how you can see your impact on the community.

SF: On the community… what do you mean by that exactly.

ZH: Everyone defines their community differently. It could be a local community, it could mean pushing different ideas in terms of corporate social responsibility within a company. I think the spectrum is broad, from anyone starting their own business that does good, or working with a non-profit that does good, to going to huge corporations that may need a couple of fresh ideas and new perspectives to push the forefront of doing good for the world.

SF: That’s certainly a theme that we’ve seen evolving over the more than three decades that I’ve been here at the Wharton School. There’s much greater interest in having a positive social impact. In the study we did last year, now part of a book that I published through Wharton Digital Press called Baby Bust: New Choices for Men and Women in Work and Family, we compared the Class of 1992 graduating seniors with the Class of 2012 — same place, same school, same age, but twenty years later. One of the major trends we observed was a much greater interest, particularly among young women, in having a positive social impact, and your experience is certainly consistent with that study.

Abby, you’re a mom. How many moms are there in your class of 800 second-year MBA students?

Abby Holmes: Abby HolmesI can count them on one hand, so not that many.

SF: That certainly gives you a unique perspective. Your husband, if I have it right, is a teacher in Baltimore, and your daughter is a year-and-a-half, so you can’t be slacking very much to be managing all of that in your life! The perspective one often hears is that older people look at Millennials and think they’re obsessed with technology and really just interested in their own careers. How do you see it as a student-mom here in our school?

AH: I think Millennials are actually making a change in that a lot of people are more focused—especially women I would say—on having that balance between a family and a career. We are all trying to achieve in terms of a successful career and having that major impact, but I think we’re hearing more and more, both from employers trying to emphasize this during recruiting but also from students asking for this, that we want to be aware of a way to balance a career and a family. Being able to do that here at school is a challenge and being able to do that in the real world is also a challenge, but I think it’s definitely a hot topic among students and employers lately.

SF: How do you talk about this with a prospective employer? Especially in your personal story right now, when you can’t deny the fact that you have a child. Is that a liability for you, or an asset, or neither in your employment search right now?

AH: At times I’m worried it’s a liability. I want to be cognizant because I’m not trying to withhold that information, but at the same time I do hesitate to be as forthcoming because I guess I am worried that it is going to have a negative impact on the results.

SF: You think it could be held against you? Like, “how committed could she be really if she’s got a little girl at home?” is what they might be thinking.

AH: Yes, and obviously children do take away some of your time, so that’s less time that you could potentially commit to a company compared to a student who doesn’t have that type of commitment. It’s definitely in the back of my mind at most times, but I do try to be pretty open about my family situation and that I do have a child during the recruiting process.

SF: I wonder if there’s a way in which the assets that you develop as a mother—the skills that you have to cultivate, particularly with respect to managing time and boundaries well—if those can be presented as part of your repertoire of skills that you bring. Has that come up at all? Has that occurred to you or does it seem unrealistic?

AH: I mean I think it’s completely true, I just don’t know whether I would publicize it in that way. When I approach an interview, I’m thinking about being able to express skills that I’ve gained either through work or school. I don’t know whether I would voluntarily bring those skills up. I agree they’re very applicable, but…

SF: It be useful for you to do that. If I’m a prospective employer, and I’m a benign progressive person trying to change my organization to make it more hospitable to different kinds of people in all different kinds of lifestyle situations, I’m going to want to know who you are as a human being and what kind of skills you bring. If you have assets which you developed in another part of your life that are going to help me in my business and also help me demonstrate that this is a kind of place where anyone who is committed can thrive, then I’d like to know how you bring that.

What do you think about what I just said? Easy for me to say at 60 years old and my kids are in their twenties, so I don’t really have to worry about it in the same way.

AH: I guess I just don’t know if employers look at it in terms of those strengths outweighing what they might think is a liability. So I understand that it is a strength, and they do want to know and understand, but I’m still not sure.

SF: You and I both agree that this is a potential strength for you, Abby. Zinnia, can you weigh in on this?

ZH: Definitely. I do think it could be a strength from the management perspective. I definitely hear Abby’s concerns though: there are several strengths that she’s been developing as a mother, but how does that weigh against the potential needs of the organization in terms of her time? Questions might arise around after she leaves work—is she really leaving work at work? Depending on the employer that may not be as acceptable of a practice.

SF: Depending on the employer, I think that’s a very important caveat in that statement. Let’s talk a little bit more about that. I know students have been talking a lot more about this issue because it’s been the subject of a lot of conversations that I’ve been a part of here. How do those conversations go with a potential employer? Are you thinking in terms of choosing employers on the basis of whether or not they are indeed embracing the whole person? Is that something that is part of your calculus?

ZH: Definitely, given some of my future life goals. I was very privileged to work at Google when I left college, so I think that gave me a certain skewed perceptive regarding what certain employers are willing to allow in terms of flexibility in work schedules. Google is skewed fairly extremely in that way, based on my experience. Google would allow you to work from home if you needed to, to come in late or leave early if you had an appointment, etc. So even though I do not have a child, I could see that being a really helpful policy for a new mother or new parent. The flexibility around scheduling and your employers understanding that you can do the work if you have a computer and an internet connection is key. And you can do work for the most part with tech companies anywhere. That’s why I think Google, and increasingly other businesses, are becoming more flexible around their employees spending time in the office, and the perceived amount of work that they’re contributing.

SF: Are you going back to Google? Would you like to?

ZH: I’m definitely open to it. I think that later in life Google would be a great place to raise a family. They have wonderful policies for parents, so it’s definitely not a bad place to work.

SF: So is that eventually part of your plan to have children of your own?

ZH: That is something I’m still figuring out. It’s still on the table, but it’s not necessarily something I’m certain I want to do.

I mean having children is a bit terrifying to me personally. When I think about my future and what I want, I get concerned about the time and dedication you have to give to a child in order to raise it correctly.

SF: Zinnia’s smiling at Abby now with admiration…

ZH: It is admiration. I don’t know how so many women do it! But clearly there are a lot of them that do.

SF: It is a scary proposition. And indeed, another thing we found in the study that I called Baby Bust was that many people in your generation, both women and men, are choosing to opt out of becoming parents because of what you just described. What do you think about that Abby?

AH: I think it’s definitely something you need to consider. Careers are certainly challenging in terms of your time, and you have to dedicate a lot to them. I think a lot of people—if they want to take on the responsibility of starting a family—know that it’s a huge time commitment. I don’t think people want to have to give in one way or the other, so if they don’t feel like they can do both really effectively, they might make that decision to hold off on one side.

SF: You decided not to hold off and how are you feeling about that now that your one-and-a-half year old is being taken care of by somebody else, right? I don’t see her crawling around the studio here

AH: Her grandmother, my mother, is taking care of her right now. That helps a huge amount. She’s actually from Baltimore where I’m from. When I need help during the week she’ll come up with me to Philadelphia. We have quite the arrangement. It’s kind of a long story, but my sister is an opera singer, and she works a lot of part-time jobs, so she usually watches my daughter when I’m in class. When she’s not available, my mom will travel with me up here during the week. I usually commute weekly.

SF: So you’re not here on the weekends? What about the whole MBA party scene? Is that not a big part of your life?

AH: Not a big part. Being a mother has forced prioritizing what I wanted to get out of my experience here.

SF: You’ve missed out on some of the social aspects of life here on the MBA campus. What’s been the upshot of that for you?

AH: I think it was actually good because a lot of students when they first arrive have an issue of trying to figure out where exactly they want to spend their time. They end up doing too much and getting stretched too thin.  I was forced to prioritize from the beginning. I didn’t waste too much time doing things that weren’t quite as valuable.

SF: So Zinnia, what do you think about that?

ZH: I’m a little envious of Abby and that she’s been able to focus like that.

SF: There’s a lot of research about focus that shows this to be true. A recent Federal Reserve Bank study actually showed that working moms are better at managing their time than other women. Abby, you’re shaking your head…

AH: It’s a necessity I think. You’re forced to.

SF: And Zinnia you said you’re kind of envious of the laser-like focus that a working mom has to have.

ZH: Definitely. As a student here you might have your plan and what you’re intending to focus on for that week or that semester or even the entire experience, but then other things always pop up. I think if I were in Abby’s position it would be a lot easier to say no to certain things, whereas I definitely feel pressure—it’s internal pressure in most cases—to always say yes and do those things and get the “most” out of this experience. Whereas I think in Abby’s case she’s definitely getting the most out of her experience in her own way.

SF: Abby you don’t experience FOMO? Fear of missing out? Which is ubiquitous on this campus, is it not?

AH: I think I did during the first semester. I felt like I was missing out on something—I wasn’t going to all the parties or doing every single Happy Hour—but I think I did start to find groups of people in my areas of interest, and I gained that social side in a different way. I think I got over that FOMO by the second semester, which was good.

SF: The more I hear the both of you speak about it, it seems pretty clear to me, Abby, that there are assets that you have as a working mom that you might want to consider how to frame in conversations. The evidence is on your side. Something that could help to create change in this world would be presenting that idea and perhaps shifting the perceptions of employers.

Let’s get back to our discussion of employers. How do you know which are the good companies to work for? What are you looking for? You mentioned Google, Zinnia, their extreme flexibility. Indeed, the investment banks I know are talking about, “Wow, we’re losing all of our top talent to Google—we need to do something.” Aside from Google though, how do you and your classmates think and talk about where you want to work?

ZH: One thing we certainly consider is what employers are saying and what they are touting when they come to campus. Is it their flexible work lifestyles, or is it daycare programs on campus to help working parents, what is it? Part of it is what they’re saying, but you have to look at what they’re doing because it could be different.

SF: Ah, so there might be a lot of rhetoric that might not match the reality? Do you tend to look skeptically at those pictures of daycare centers when companies pop them up on the screen?

ZH: In certain industries, maybe. I plan on going back into the tech industry, and I would give those companies a little bit more benefit of the doubt, in terms of what level of flexibility they’ll allow for their employees. But I think you also have to look at what they’re doing. What are employees actually taking advantage of? You could have ten programs for working parents, but if the employees aren’t taking advantage of them, that says a lot, too.

SF: How do you find these things out?

ZH: You have to talk to people. You have to ask, “Okay, on Fridays if I needed to leave early to go to an appointment, what would your manager’s reaction be?

SF: “Oh, we don’t want to hire her because she’s obviously not committed,” they might be thinking then. You’re not afraid of that? In doing your due diligence on companies, you don’t think you’re giving away an ambivalent commitment by asking questions like that?

ZH: I think it depends on the industry and the company. You have to be an active listener before you ask those questions. It’s definitely not the first thing you walk in saying, “When can I take off?”

SF: What’s your perspective on that Abby, in terms of how you find the right fit and what kinds of information are available to you as you’re scanning the employment market?

AH: I think the most valuable information, like you said Zinnia, is going to be through your personal networks. I find that I’m generally not getting that kind of information coming from the recruiting team, or trusting it if I am, but when I go through the alumni network or personal networks and try to get a real perspective to see, for example, if there are women there who have families and are able to manage it, then that says something. I think that’s where you’re going to get the most honest perspective about what is still tough about doing it at a given organization and what do they have that helps you. I think networks are the biggest resource in terms of finding that kind of information.

SF: So what’s going to be necessary to create meaningful change in today’s business world in which you both want to become leaders? What do you think is the most pressing issue that the business sector faces in terms of becoming the place where you, your friends, and your future children, would want to contribute?

ZH:  I think part of it is just openness. This relates to the points Abby and I just made about trying to get information to assess whether or not an organization is open to certain levels of flexibility. For meaningful change there has to be a shift in openness on the topic of work-life integration If we shift to a more open culture where people feel comfortable talking about these things, both from a top-down and a bottom-up perspective, and across industries, that could really drive meaningful change. I think it’s starting to happen over the past several years, but it still needs to be more open.

SF: Let’s say the recruiting department of IBM is listening to this show right now, what would you tell them?

ZH: I would say put the people in the organization who are doing a “good” job of managing their work and their life on your recruiting committees and put them talking to students, just to let them know that there is a shift in culture.

SF: And it’s important to see the good and the bad, right? I would want to know, “What are you wrestling with? What’s hard about trying to create meaningful change in the culture of your organization, and how are you dealing with that? Abby, what do you see as the great challenge facing companies trying to adapt to a new world order?

AH: I agree that a lot of it is having openness and transparency, but I also think that flexibility is essential. We are seeing much less traditional work models moving forward—women working, men staying at home, and vice versa Having that flexibility to be able to make it work for someone in your company, no matter what their situation, will be important. It’s first the openness and the conversation as to how to handle that possibility, but then also enacting that. I think there is a lot of talk about flexibility—especially in the more traditional industries such as investment banking or consulting. How are they really making things flexible for people? And how can they continue to exhibit that moving forward from the top down?

Join Work and Life next Tuesday at 7 pm on Sirius XM Channel 111.  Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.

About the Author

Morgan Motzel Morgan Motzelis an undergraduate senior in the Huntsman Program in International Studies and Business at Penn focusing on Management and Latin America.

How Men Feel About Flex — Jennifer Owens

Contributor: Morgan Motzel

Work and Life is a radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by The Wharton School. Every Tuesday at 7:00 PM EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community and the private self (mind, body and spirit).

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with Jennifer Owens, Editorial Director of Working Mother magazine and Director of the Working Mother Research Institute, about new findings on working fathers and their need for flex at work.

Stew Friedman: Today, on the first ever National Flex Day, I am pleased to welcome Jennifer Owens, Editorial Director at Working Mother, where they just released today a report on men and flexible work scheduling.

Jennifer, you just completed this study, with Ernst & Young, on working dads – give us the big findings. What are the headlines that people need to know?

Jennifer Owens: Jennifer OwensIt’s been very surprising to find that men are stressed too. They have the same work-life issues. They’re coming at them differently than women because they’re a little more confident about using flex, but they are using it. They say that they feel comfortable using flex, and they’re using flex to help with their family life.

SF: What was most surprising in the study findings?

JO: What’s so surprising is how strong men are about flex. I totally admit it – I think I have a gender bias from being an editor of Working Mother magazine, where we see everything through the “working mother lens”…

SF: Are you going to be changing the name of the magazine to Working Fathers and Mothers? Is that what’s coming?

JO: We’ve always cared a lot about the men in our lives, and the single dads – just men in general – but no. When we fix it for working moms, we can talk about the name change.

SF: You were saying that the big surprise was the intense feeling about the need for flexibility? Or how much men are using it? What was it that really sprung out at you?

JO: We talked to 1,000 men. Three-quarters of the men said they have access to workplace flexibility, and 42% say they’re comfortable with using the flexible support available at their work.

SF: So they don’t feel stigmatized, which we know is a big issue?

JO: It is a big thing, but the study says no. When we’re looking at it from a work-from-home lens, the version of flex that men like is a maximum of two days home per week.  Any more than that and they start to feel like they’re disconnected from the workplace. The interesting thing is that these results mirror everything that women tell us. I think that’s the most surprising thing – a finding that boy, you’re just like us.

SF: That’s interesting. So the dynamics of what makes flex work are very similar for men and women, is that what you’re concluding from this study?

JO:  I am. The rise of dual-income families, the rise in hands-on male parenting hours, the rise in the amount of time men are spending on housekeeping – all of these mean that the rise of work-life stress for men is happening as well. At Working Mother, we are big proponents that flex is the only way – especially for a dual-income family and even a single parent family – for men to be the best parents and the best employees that they can be.

SF: What kind of recommendations flow from this study in terms of what organizations and what working fathers – and working men more generally – should focus on? What are the key priorities for businesses and for working men?

JO: In organizations, I think we have to realize the other half of the coin. Much of the way we talk about work-life comes from a working mother perspective, and then we broaden it to think about people going for advanced degrees or having a specific passion or maybe someone with a chronic illness in their life. We need to think about the men, ask them what they need and include them in the conversation. They’re our work-life allies. This isn’t just a working mother issue, it’s an everybody issue, and while we say that, and we’ve felt that for some time, we can truly see it now.

SF: That’s certainly one of the things we found in a study comparing the Class of 1992 to the Class of 2012 at Wharton which I published last year in a book called Baby Bust: New Choices for Men and Women in Work and Family. We see that among today’s graduates – the people who are now in their twenties – that the men are anticipating conflict between work and life because they want to be more engaged at work, and yet they expect that their spouses are also going to be working full-time. It’s clear that young men and, as in your study, even men across different age groups, are in need of the same kind of flexibility that women have been fighting for for years now.

JO: Definitely. The millennial men are much more involved at home and say that it is a valuable part of their lives to be hands-on parents. We also see men from the Boomer Generation wondering if any of them are ever going to be able to retire—‘how are we using flexibility as we’re thinking towards retirement?’ Flex works at all levels, but it’s interesting that the same questions that the women are having, the men are having too.

SF: What specifically do you recommend for men who are seeking to create more flexibility in their work and in their lives?

JO: I think you need to ask for it. One good way to do this is through a pilot program, which is what we always recommended to the women. Sometimes, if it seems like an open request, it can frighten your manager into thinking you’ll never come back in the office. I think a, “Hey let me try this for 30 days or 60 days, and after that, we can check to see how it’s doing,” often works much better. But you do need to ask for it. Other studies have found that men are actually more apt to get approval for their flex requests than women are.

SF: So it might be easier for men to ask, but you just do have to ask and be unafraid. The important point you mentioned which I want to underscore is the idea of setting it up as a temporary experiment. That tends to reduce resistance and make it easier for people in the organization to get on board.

JO: Exactly. First you must prove it can work.

Jennifer Owens is the Editorial Director of Working Mother magazine and the Director of the Working Mother Research Institute. She is an award-winning journalist who has been featured in outlets such as The New York Times, CNN, Fox Business News, and USA Today. For more information on her work, visit the Working Mother online at www.workingmother.com, or follow her on Twitter @working_mother.

Join Work and Life next Tuesday at 7 pm on Sirius XM Channel 111.  Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.

About the Author

Morgan MotzelMorgan Motzel is an undergraduate senior in the Huntsman Program in International Studies and Business at Penn focusing on Management and Latin America