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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.

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.




The Leaking Pipeline in Architecture — Rosa Sheng

Contributor: Sathvik Ramanan

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 Rosa Sheng, an American Institute of Architects Senior Associate at Bohlin Cywinski Jackson. She is also the chair of San Francisco’s The Missing 32% Project, a committee to help make the field of architecture more hospitable for female architects. Stew spoke with her about The Missing 32% Project and what inspired her to take action.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: So Rosa, as a very successful architect, why was it important for you to start The Missing 32%?

Rosa Sheng: rosa shengI was contemplating leaving architecture feeling that I had reached the glass ceiling. And up until that point, I had felt pretty invincible—that I could do anything, that there wasn’t really anything in my way. I was one of the lucky ones, but then, when I was starting to have kids, I felt the burden of trying to balance it all. The economic downturn and concerns about being able to get projects and being able to achieve a leadership position were on my mind. I found mentors that said, “You know you’ll overcome it. Don’t worry about it. Why don’t you go outside and share your experiences? I think that’ll give you some insight.” So I started looking into some of The Missing 32% symposiums before I got involved.

SF: Could you explain what The Missing 32% is?

RS: It is a project started by the AIA (American Institute of Architects) San Francisco, and it was fueled by the striking gender difference that only 18% of the architectural licensed AIA members were female.  The statistic generally is that when you graduate from architecture school, the number is nearly 50-50.  So that drops all the way from 50% to 18% by the time one is a licensed member of the AIA. It was such a shocking thing that the AIA San Francisco decided to work on back in 2011.

SF: So 50 minus 18 is 32.

RS: Yes, the magic number.

SF: So you went out and just started talking about your experience.

RS: I told the story of being taken seriously. I was lucky enough to work with Steve Jobs doing some of the glass retail stores that you see. As I was having my first child, I decided that I would “retire from the retail store projects, and do others projects.” He was disappointed, but he asked me to go to dinner with him and the team when it was time for the Fifth Avenue Cube opening in New York City. I was torn because I had my family with me—I had my newborn child and my husband—so I declined.

SF: You declined dinner with Steve jobs!

RS: Yes, because I wasn’t going to go to dinner by myself, without my family, who had come all the way to New York with me. So I explained the situation, and he actually surprised me. He came back to me again during the day and said, “Ok, I got a spot for your husband, but you’ll have to get a babysitter for your kid.” And again, I was torn. He was trying so hard to get me to the table, and I was declining. I held onto my beliefs that I wasn’t going to leave my child behind, and he came back a third time and said, “Ok you drive a hard bargain. The kid can come.” I was again just amazed that somebody believed so much in the value of my services and loyalty over the years that he would stick to his guns and keep asking. I expected that he would just say, “Ok, too bad. You can’t come.”

SF: I guess he not only respected you but also respected the fact that you were holding onto something that was really important to you.

RS: That’s right.  It was a huge lesson for standing up for what you believe to be important, which, for me, was family.

SF: So how did that fail you previously in terms of hitting the glass ceiling?

RS: I think it was two-fold. First, I think it was the economy. I think also it was the lack of new projects. More people plus fewer projects equals a competitive environment. There was tension with who was going to be the leader/project manager and who was going to be promoted within the firm. These are issues that we touched upon in a survey that we issued in early 2014 of trying to compare not only pay equity, but also who’s advancing to leadership roles in firms, and what are the hurdles that lead to people, namely women, not advancing into these positions.

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.

To learn more about Rosa Sheng, check out her feature in Architect Magazine. Go to The Missing 32% Project website and follow on Twitter @miss32percent and @rosasheng.

About the Author

Sathvik Ramanan Sathvik Ramananis an undergraduate freshman in the Vagelos Program in the Life Sciences and Management at the University of Pennsylvania.

Choose to Matter! — Julie Foudy on Work and Life

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 Julie Foudy, former Captain of the US Women’s Olympic Soccer Team, current reporter and analyst at ESPN/ABC, and founder of the Sports Leadership Academy for girls.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: You are one of the six people I profile in Leading the Life You Want: Skills for Integrating Work and Life. You especially exemplify the important skills of knowing what matters, helping others, and challenging the status quo.  You chose, for instance, to compete in an international soccer tournament over your high school graduation.  You were the first athlete to go overseas to inspect a factory before accepting an all-important and lucrative endorsement.  How did you come to understand what was important to you, what mattered most, and how did you have the courage to act on your core values?

Julie Foudy: Julie Foudy I think probably my parents helped. I was the fourth of four kids and maybe it was a consequence of being the fourth or maybe they were just hands-off, in a positive way, to the point of not coming to soccer game when I was little. I was not ever dependent on their praise. Everything I did I did it because I wanted to. I was innately competitive.

So, when I chose to go to Italy with U.S. National Team instead of my high school graduation, there was so much drama – girls saying, “How could you?”  But that’s how I won my spot on the team. I asked my parents. Now, today, parents would say, “Go!” Today parents want “success.” My parents said, “What do you want to do?”

SF: How does knowing what’s important play out in your philosophy for your Leadership Academy?

JF: We say “choose to matter.” I’m a big believer that there’s not a box that’s checked off when you’re born that says you’re a leader.  Leaders come in different shapes and sizes, including those who are not most vocal or confident. Girls, instead of raising hands, they defer. It’s the norm even with the popular and confident girls. We emphasize that you choose your attitude. “Success isn’t a matter of chance, it’s a matter of choice” was an epiphany for me. We help empower girls to make decisions which strengthens them because they know we trust them.

SF: So this cuts against cultural values that girls grow up with and they have to be taught, even the athletes.

JF: Yes, we teach them that it’s OK to voice opinion, to raise a hand. It’s a transformational experience that it’s OK to be different.  Parents comment, “My kid is totally different.”  They go home with a service project in their home community. Everyone can lead. It’s personal, not positional. So, some give time once a year at local nonprofit, or once a week at senior center, most do soccer clinics for kids with disabilities. So they have to create a team to support their idea, they need mentors to learn from, and they have to work with their parents. This quiet, awkward kid…and then the school takes it on, and then the community. It’s transformational.  We ask, “If I had a magic wand, what would I change?” End bullying, clean the local park.

SF: Everybody has something they are passionate about.

JF: Yes, and that helps develop confidence. We say, “I am the change.” Empowering young women.

SF: When you were playing and you learned that the women on the soccer tour were getting a raw deal and you began your new role as an advocate for women in sports.  How can people develop the courage to challenge the norm?

JF: The Women’s Sports Foundation, founded by Billie Jean King, is where I first learned about all this. Title IX one of the most profound civil rights laws: Back then, only one in 27 girls was playing sports and now one in three are playing!  Title IX is an education amendment meant to help women get into universities and colleges. But in the fine print it says that any institution that receives federal funding has to provide equal educational and sports opportunities.

SF: So, what’s the most important piece of advice you have for challenging the status quo, for standing up for what matters most?

JF: I was told, “If everyone likes you, then you’re not doing the right thing.”  And the other piece of advice is to smile through it. You’ve got to laugh.

Julie Foudy, former Captain of the US Women’s Olympic Soccer Team, current reporter and analyst at ESPN/ABC, and founder of The Julie Foudy Sports Leadership Academy for girls.

Join Work and Life next Tuesday at 7:00 pm on Sirius XM Channel 111.  Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.


Combat the Tightrope Effect with Gender Judo and a Posse — Joan Williams

Contributor: Alice Liu

Work and Life is a two-hour 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 from 7 pm to 9 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).

Stew Friedman spoke with Joan Williams, Hastings Foundation Chair and Director of the Center for Work Life Law at the University of California (Hastings). Williams has played a central role in reshaping the debate on women’s advancement for the past quarter-century. Her newest book, What Works for Women at Work: Four Patterns Working Women Need to Know, discusses the strategies that women can utilize to combat pervasive gender biases in the workplace.

The following are edited excerpts of Friedman’s conversation with Williams.

Stew Friedman: Let’s talk about the four patterns that every woman should know about and how to navigate through them.

Joan Williams: Joan WilliamsOne pattern of gender bias that really plays into work-family conflict is that women often feel that they have to prove themselves over and over again, providing much more evidence of competence than their male colleagues in order to be perceived as equally competent. Women’s successes are more likely to be attributed to luck rather than skill. In our interviews, we heard women over and over again feeling that men were judged on potential while women were judged strictly on performance. Because of this, women often feel that they literally have to work harder than men in order to be seen as equally competent, especially since women’s mistakes tend to be noticed more and remembered longer.

If people are going to tend to notice and remember your mistakes while at the same time overlooking your successes, then you have to be in a position to jog their memory. A very effective way for women to self-promote is what we call the posse where you form a group of men as well as women and you celebrate each other’s accomplishments. The reason the posse is such a good strategy is because of the gender bias called the tightrope, which stems from the fact that all high paying jobs are traditionally seen as requiring masculine qualities, while women are expected to be feminine. So women in these jobs often find themselves walking a tightrope between being seen as too masculine – respected but not liked – and being seen as too feminine – liked but not respected.

SF: How does the posse help you become both liked and respected?

JW: The posse is part of a series of strategies I call gender judo. You’re using a feminine stereotype – in this case it’s the stereotype of the selfless woman – but you’re using it not to hold you back but rather to propel you forward. The posse is gender judo in the sense that you’re doing something that’s considered masculine – promoting yourself – in what’s seen as a suitably feminine way by engaging with others. Because after all, what’s more appropriate for the feminine stereotype than to be celebrating the successes of someone else?

Another gender judo strategy stems from the common phrase, “women don’t get ahead because they don’t ask.” It’s true that women are less likely than men to negotiate for themselves. There’s been a lot of talk about how women should just step up and ask, but the studies show that when women do ask they tend to be seen as less likeable and people are less likely to hire them.

The solution is not to not ask. In What Works for Women at Work, we provide very specific guidance on how a woman can ask and negotiate for herself.  What’s missing here? For example, you could say, “My supervisor said it was really important to negotiate the salary.” So the request is on behalf of another. Another example: when Sheryl Sandberg joined Facebook she negotiated for her salary and later said, “I really needed to set an example for the group.” Again, she was acting for others not just for herself.

Brian, a caller: What are the steps that need to happen to make the inequalities in the workplace better for women?

JW: I think that we need to do something very concrete, something that people haven’t done. For example, we can redesign performance evaluations to interrupt implicit bias. If we know that men tend to be judged on potential and women on achievement, then we need to redesign performance evaluations so that everybody is first asked about the potential of the candidate and then the performance of the candidate. This will hopefully make that kind of bias go away.

SF: What else can organizations do?

JW: This is ultimately part of a larger intellectual project. When I wrote What Works for Women at Work, I really wrote it in response to the fact that I’ve been working on the issue of women’s advancement for 20 years. When I started, 15% of law firm partners were women, and today as we speak, still only 15% of law firm partners are women. I’m not saying that there hasn’t been any change, but women’s advancement leveled off in the mid-1990s.

That’s why I thought, “Organizations should change. Organizations aren’t changing.” I decided then to write a book that shows female leaders not what should work for women at work but what does work for women at work, because these patterns of bias are unfortunately very pervasive. What Works for Women at Work shows women how to navigate organizations as they exist – deeply shaped by gender bias. The next step is to redesign business systems so that organizations really do begin to change, and that’s what I’m turning my attention to now.

Williams discusses the ways in which gender judo can help women navigate and overcome the biases in the workplace. Have you ever used gender judo? What were your experiences? Join us in the comments below with your thoughts.

To learn more about Williams’s work, follow her on Twitter @JoanCWilliams and on her Huffington Post blog.

Tune in to Work and Life next Tuesday, April 29 at 7:00 to 9:00 PM EDT on Sirius XM Channel 111 for conversations with Prasad Setty, Google’s Vice President of People Analytics, and Anne-Marie Slaughter, President and CEO of New America Foundation and author of the widely popular article, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” in The Atlantic.Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.

About the Author

Alice LiuAlice Liu is an undergraduate senior studying Management at The Wharton School and English (Creative Writing) at the College of Arts & Sciences. 

Wharton Women on Hopes for a 50/50 World

Contributor: Alice Liu

Work and Life is a two-hour 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 from 7 to 9 PM EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community and the private self.

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with current Wharton MBA students about how young women are experiencing and thinking about their careers, families and future lives.  In the first segment, Friedman chatted with Nohemie Sanon (WG ’15) and Pamela Freed (WG ’14) about how they perceive the current role of women in business schools and in the workplace as well as what they hope to see change in the future.

Following are edited excerpts of Sanon and Freed’s conversation with Friedman.

Stew Friedman: What prompted you to come to the Wharton School?

Nohemie Sanon:Nohemie Sanon For me it was about career progression. I was at a certain level in my career where I was ready to make the next move, and I wanted to make sure that I had the best education possible to help me get to that next level.

Pamela Freed: I knew that I wanted to go to business school ever since I was an undergraduate. My father had gone to business school and seeing how much it helped his career really influenced me. After three years of working at JP Morgan after college, I started to feel like my career was going well, but I knew that business school would help accelerate it.

Pamela FreedSF: Who are the important people – the key sponsors or mentors – who have influenced you and helped you get here?

NS: The key influencers would definitely be my mom, my family, and also mentors at work, such as my boss and other colleagues who really wanted to push me to make sure that I attained that next level.

PF: My parents definitely had a big influence. In particular, I think that my mom had probably a bigger influence on me than anyone else. She had a long career working in media, and growing up, I watched her passion for her work and how it gave her drive. That was really inspirational for me, and I always knew that my career would be something that would be very important in my life.

SF: What was the most surprising thing to you when you got here. 

NS: I was struck by the ratio of men to women. The class of 2015 has about 42% women, and I was excited to find that number so surprisingly high. As you walk through the halls of this school you don’t feel like it’s 42%, you actually feel like it’s 50/50.

PF: I think I was surprised by how much I learned outside of the classroom. One of the most rewarding things for me has been the extracurricular opportunities. I’ve been fortunate to serve as co-president of Wharton Women in Business this year, and I’ve learned far more from that than any class I’ve taken. As Nohemie mentioned, Wharton has 42% women, which is more than any other top business program, so the women’s community here is very strong.

SF: How has that particular experience shaped your thinking about the future?

NS: I think it’s not only very inspiring, but it also gives me hope that more women will eventually rise to the top of the ladder in a variety of industries. It’s a big signal to me that it’s possible for women to achieve that level.

PF: At Wharton, there’s definitely a sense that women are equal to men. You see just as many women participating in class as men. Women are receiving academic honors at the same rate as men and are going on to as good careers as the men here are. We’re equals while we’re at Wharton, I’ll be interested to see what happens when we leave Wharton, and how my male and female peers perceive their treatment in the workplace.

SF: The ratio of women at the top of organizations is not nearly the same as it is at the entry level. What do you see happening within companies today that is really going to make a difference in changing this gender inequality?

PF: I hope that companies will be able to implement more policies to help women find ways to stay, particularly after they have families. At Bain & Company for example, they have very flexible work policies – flextime and sabbaticals – for women who have had children, and they claim that 80% of women who are partners have taken advantage of some of these flex policies. If over time companies are able to roll out more flexible policies and make it the norm to take advantage of these programs, then hopefully more women will be inspired to stay.

SF: And are you optimistic or pessimistic about that?

PF: I’m definitely optimistic. I see senior female role models that I can aspire to be like someday.

SF: That’s so important to have people you can look up to and say, “Yes, she did it. Therefore, I can do it too.” Nohemie, was this an important consideration when you thought about your summer plans?

NS: Yes. Throughout the time that I was recruiting I’ve met all different kinds of women who made it a point to tell me about the infrastructure set up to support working mothers – for example, a facility where you can bring your child in the morning and then see them at lunchtime. It’s also incumbent on us as women throughout our careers to lean in and open ourselves to opportunities as they reveal themselves to us, especially after we have our children and raise them. Very often we tend to not accept and not be willing to step into available new roles.

SF: Why do you think that is? Why do you think women hold back from opportunities to advance their careers?

NS: Maybe, because of fear of not being able to provide for their family in the way that they want to. You want to be there for your family not only financially, but also emotionally, and you may hold back from opportunities because you’re afraid that you’ll miss important things like your children’s recitals.

SF: Is it different for men and women at Wharton? Do you travel in different worlds?

PF: I don’t really think it’s that different for men and women here. I think that Wharton is a very equal place and if anything I think that women may have an advantage here, because we do have Wharton Women in Business and all that it provides. All 700+ women at Wharton are automatically members. We do many things – we bring thought leaders to campus, we have workshops to help women with negotiations and communication, we have connections with alumnae, we have an annual conference with more than 400 attendees, and we even have social events such as golf workshops to make sure that women will be able to keep up with men in the workplace. Men are invited to many of these things but generally you see more women taking advantage of these offerings so I think that’s something that makes the women’s community very strong.

SF: As you dream about your future, what’s the most important change that you want to see happen in the world over the next 15-20 years?

PF: Something that Debora Spar, the president of Barnard College, talked about at a recent Wharton Women in Business event is the expectation that women place on themselves for perfection – a perfect career, a perfect family, a perfect life. I hope that in the future women will feel s less pressure to do everything perfectly.

SF: How might men help with this goal?

PF: I think Sheryl Sandberg and Anne-Marie Slaughter both emphasize the importance of partners and making sure that each partner is sharing the housework and sharing in child raising, for example. It’s important that both partners are part of the conversation about how each can each integrate work and life.

SF: What about you, Nohemie? What do you wish to see change in the next 15-20 years?

NS: I would agree with Pam, and I would also add that I wish to see a world where women allow themselves to be more involved in their careers if they so choose and also more involved at home if they so choose.

SF: What’s the one thing we could be doing at this school to make that happen faster?

NS: I think that women as a community could encourage other women to take a bigger role in their careers and/or at home.

PF: I would love to see more men joining these conversations, attending more Wharton Women in Business events, and talking about integrating work and life and how men can help women get ahead.

Visit the Forum tomorrow for the second segment of Stew’s conversation with current Wharton MBA students, Kristina Milyuchikhina (WG ’14) and Meaghan Casey (WG ’15), about what it’s like to start a family while in business school and the importance of choosing a partner who not only shares parenting care, but also shares your values and ambitions.

Join Work and Life next Tuesday, February 25 at 7 PM on Sirius XM Channel 111 for conversations with Deika Morrison (W ’94, WG ’08) and Jerry Jacobs, Professor of Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania,about work and life in different labor markets. Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.

About the Author

Alice LiuAlice Liu is an undergraduate senior studying Management at The Wharton School and English (Creative Writing) at the College of Arts & Sciences. 

The Path to Shared Care — Jessica DeGroot on Work and Life

Contributor: Kate Mesrobian

Jessica DeGrootJessica DeGroot founded ThirdPath Institute in 1999 to encourage employees at all stages in their lives to follow a “third path” – one that allows success at work while creating time and energy for their lives outside of work, as opposed to an exclusive focus on one or the other.

On his radio show, Work and Life (on Sirius XM’s Business Radio Powered by The Wharton School), Stew Friedman spoke with Jessica DeGroot about the overwhelming priority work receives and why we need a cultural shift in our approach to work and the rest of life. DeGroot offers practical solutions for individuals and couples to improve life outside work.

Following are edited excerpts of DeGroot’s conversation with Friedman.

Stew Friedman: What was the origin of ThirdPath Institute?

Jessica DeGroot: When I first came to Wharton as an MBA, I thought about what might be a logical solution to creating healthy families. Healthy relationships are good for an organization and for business. If you have an employee who is in healthy, satisfying relationship, they are more focused and ready to work each day. I wanted to equip families with tools for how do work differently. “Shared care” is about two people sharing in the care of a family. Some families figure out how both parents can care for the family.  – For example, both parents working, so that the dad isn’t the sole provider. Planning where the couple is headed and considering how they want to think about care together is important.

SF: We don’t have to choose between career and family aspirations. But so many people still struggle to make a shared care model work.  

JD: Yes, and right now, we are talking about professional families, where the mom and dad both work in professional jobs, and the biggest worry is that if they don’t follow the normal path, their choices will have a negative impact on their career trajectory and they will not be able to earn as much. We call that the “work first” model, where you have to have your work come first.What we’ve been able to do over the past six years is have leaders show that there is a different model out there in which male and female leaders have not followed the work first model and been able to gain leadership positions and make all parts of their life accessible.

SF: What would you say is most essential to making that model real?

JD: The couple needs clarity about their priorities and to watch each other’s back. They need simple solutions and a back up plan, what we call a Plan B, for situations that arise.

SF: What do you mean by Plan B?

JD: Starting your own job outside of the corporate world, writing for a year.  There are a lot of other alternatives nowadays if your current circumstances are not aligning with your priorities. One example is a mom who created a flex-year solution. She really wanted time with her kids, and summers were a big opportunity. So she went to a 20-hour per month schedule in the summer. Before the summers, she trained people to manage the time she was away. She was such an incredible mentor that her mentees were plucked away and put into other assignments because of their increased skill levels.  

SF: I talked earlier about the New York Times magazine cover story “Does a More Equal Marriage Mean Less Sex?” What’s your take on the connection between romance and the 50-50 model?

JD: I have done a lot of reflection on why we use shared care.  If both members of a married couple have a full time job, both have given most of their energy to work. The rest of their energy is reserved for family, children, bills, but probably not for sex. One in five couples are considered a sexless couple, meaning that they have sex 10 or fewer times per year. We are all just overwhelmed, and we need to take action today. This is bigger than the trend of egalitarian couples – as a society, we are overwhelmed, and we are disproportionally giving energy and time to work and not to the other things we care about. One unique thing about shared care couples is that we tell them to be more intentional about their time.

SF: So an important part of the solution is to be mindful and intentional with time?

JD: My husband and I go to Miami once a year, just the two of us. We prioritize this time. We not only prioritize sharing household responsibilities, but also what’s important to us. Personally, my priorities are about having a passionate marriage and having fun.

SF: What are some of the things you’ve learned about staying true to those priorities?

JD: We have learned what we call “21st century skills.” We learned how to turn our cell phones off, to take a vacation and “turn off” work by setting boundaries. There’s a pattern for learning better skills to cope with our crazy, overwhelming world.

SF: What are the important things for listeners to be mindful of to create boundaries?

JD: Experiment with these thoughts starting today. Take that vacation and turn off work for that whole week. If a family has kids, the primary focus is to develop this mindset to model these actions for your children, such as having dinner together and putting the cell phone away. This can be difficult with the slippery slope of letting work slide into our lives, but modeling the behavior is important. If my son tries to text during dinner, I will say “You know we don’t text during dinner,” and he knows that because we have been doing that for 15 years.Parents have to role model and show the value of prioritizing life and family themselves.

SF: Let’s talk about businesses and what organizations can do to enable the full immersion of both parents in both family and career life.

JD: Flexibility for everybody is key. Whether for caring for children or an aging parent, you want people to look for the right answer. I would tell companies to think of a solution for the triple win: effective for the employee getting work done, effective at meeting the firms’ own needs, and also good for their colleagues and clients.

SF: But there’s no one size fits all solution, and companies can make that mistake.

JD: You have to customize the flexibility to your business, and you have to have leaders who model what they believe in.  If you are in an organization and cannot leave, you can look inside the organization and find a more supportive manager to work normal hours, which means not working nights, still having dinner with the family, and not having to work on the weekend. If you set that boundary, you can improve your life quite a bit.  The first step is for couples to clarify their priorities, have a collaborative conversation, and become a resource to one another.

SF: Where do people find the time to step back and make change? Do you have to reach a point of stress where you need to make the change or can you be more proactive?

JD: The starting point is being able to step back and get off that gerbil wheel. Teenagers are actually more proactive with this. I can’t tell you how many times I see parents on their phones with their kids pulling on their sleeves, going, “Could you put the phone away?”

SF: It’s easy to ignore those signals to put the phone away and stop using technology when you have a client on the line.

JD:  I think of this as a muscle. These are families that want to change, but they absolutely make mistakes. People are developing this skill of how to set boundaries and turn off technology. Learn to see what it feels like to stop and turn of that cell phone and slowly develop that muscle.

SF: What have you learned in your work with families?

JD: I think professional families have a lot to learn from other families. Professional families put a lot of investment in their profession. I’ve learned from working class families, however, the importance of couples having their priorities pretty straight and making time for them. In many such families, they are willing to change jobs to have time for the things they care about. They demonstrate how to make work part of your life but not all of your life.  

SF: What would you want to say to current MBA students?

JD: Dream big.  It’s all possible. Keep track of what’s important. Don’t be afraid to experiment and learn from others who have experimented with different work/life style integrations with their partners.

Work and Life is a two-hour 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 from 7 pm to 9 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).  Join Stew next week, Tuesday February 25, at 7 PM conversations with Deika Morrison, co-founder and President of Do Good Jamaica, and with Jerry Jacobs, Professor of Sociology, University of Pennsylvania, and Founding President of the Work and Family Researchers Network.

About the Author

Kate Mesrobian is a sophomore in the Huntsman Program in Business and International Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. 


Wharton Students Discuss Baby Bust: New Choices for Men and Women in Work and Family

Contributor: Alice Liu

About Baby Bust: New Choices for Men and Women in Work and Family

Stew Friedman, director of The Wharton School’s Work/Life Integration Project, studied two Baby Bustgenerations of Wharton undergraduate students as they graduated: Gen Xers in 1992 and Millennials in 2012. The cross-generational study produced a stark discovery – the rate of graduates who plan to have children has decreased by nearly half over the past 20 years. Men and women have become more aligned in their attitudes about dual-career relationships, and, while their reasons for opting out of parenthood are quite different, they are doing so in equal proportions. In his new book, Baby Bust: New Choices for Men and Women in Work and Family, Friedman draws on this unique research to explain why so many young people are no longer certain they’ll become parents. He reveals good news and bad news: there is greater freedom of choice now, but new constraints are limiting people’s options.

Student Reactions to Baby Bust

At the Baby Bust: New Choices for Men and Women discussion events on November 5, 2013 and January 17, 2014, Wharton undergraduate and MBA students explored the compelling findings of the study and the actions that might emerge to help Millennials achieve greater harmony and less conflict in work and life across all stages of their lives and careers.

After approximately fifteen minutes of small group discussions, students reconvened to share the findings that surprised and affected them the most. All students were shocked by the overarching finding that only 42% of 2012 graduates definitely plan to have or adopt children, compared to the 78% of graduates who indicated the same in 1992. However, students also articulated a variety of specific insights and concerns about how the definition of family is changing. Kashfia Ehsan (W ’16) was surprised that Wharton graduates who, by and large, had benefitted from robust parental care and support are choosing not to give back by becoming parents themselves. On the other hand, Federico Velarde (W ’14) and Katie Simon (W ’14) noted that while our personal upbringings affect what we believe is possible in our own futures, there are many structural challenges that create conflict between what we desire and the reality of what is possible. As an alternative to parenting, Briana Thompson (W ’15) resonated with the finding that Millennials are choosing to structure their “families” around their friends rather than starting to form their own nuclear families at the outset of their careers. However, despite the benefits of having a tight-knit “family” of friends in our twenties, Arjan Singh (W ’16) expressed concern that we are redefining family to the point where children won’t be part of the equation anymore. Thus, while students saw reflections of themselves in the results from the 2012 graduates, they were also disconcerted by how much the definition of family has shifted away from having children in the past 20 years.

After discussing the findings, students shared new actions and choices that might emerge after reading Baby Bust.  Many students said they feel that their energy and attention is devoted to academics and job-searching and that they neglect the other parts of their lives – family, community, and self. One suggestion was to encourage the practice of trying to consciously and deliberately integrate work and other parts of life starting at the undergraduate level by establishing small goals, such as finding a new café in another part of the city in which to study or going out to lunch with a new friend.  Stew Friedman added that these ideas aligned with the concept of “small wins” outlined in his Total Leadership: Be a Better Leader, Have a Richer Life curriculum, which focuses on integrating work with family, community, and self.

Morgan Motzel (W ’15) noted that the most important new action that she plans to take is to encourage her peers “to be enthusiastic about pursuing a wider range of career paths and lifestyles than those typically chosen by Wharton undergraduates.” In his article, “Why Do Harvard Kids Head to Wall Street?” James Kwak, Associate Professor at the University of Connecticut School of Law, argues that the reason so many elite university graduates head to typical career paths like consulting or investment banking is because these firms make the recruiting process straightforward and guarantee future opportunities. To combat the difficulties of reconciling these challenging career paths with other life priorities, many students inthe discussions believed that expanding the dominant mindset from consulting and finance to include work in the social impact and public sectors might be a beneficial adjustment. Hanna Seminario (W’ 16) noted that in order to pursue a more individualized path, she planned to utilize the Penn Alumni Network to learn more about positions in non-typical fields. More generally, Morgan suggested that undergraduates should broaden their imaginations and considerations when making early career choices in order to explore a wider range of possibilities to be in a better position to integrate work and life throughout the duration of their careers.

At the end of the November 5, 2013 discussion, Stew Friedman asked, “How do we get men to care?” Arjan, one of two men in a room of fifteen students, posited that the nature of “manliness” is changing. He believes that in order to engage more men in the discussion, we need to not only redefine family, but also redefine manliness. Visit the Forum next week for a guest post from Arjan about the role of men in the work/life integration conversation.

If you are interested in joining the discussion about challenges and choices in pursuing greater harmony between ones values and ones choices in work, family, and the rest of life, “like” the Wharton Work / Life Integration Project on Facebook and subscribe to the Forum.

About the Author

Alice LiuAlice Liu is an undergraduate senior studying Management at The Wharton School and English (Creative Writing) at the College of Arts & Sciences.

Getting to 50/50: The Life-Changing Journey

Contributors: Joanna Strober and Sharon Meers

We are two working moms who believe that everyone wins when men are full parents and women have full careers. When both parents pay the bills and care for kids, this life is possible—we know from experience. In our homes, we don’t assume that Mom is destined to be the “primary parent.” Our kids see Dad as equal to Mom because we set it up that way. True, we did 100 percent of the breast-feeding and sometimes only we can make the monster under the bed disappear. But Dad loves parenting as much as we do—and he’s good at it, too. There is also no “primary breadwinner” among us. Mom and Dad are both on the hook for the costs of raising kids, from groceries to braces, from housing to soccer cleats. The payoff? We enjoy rewarding careers and see that our families thrive—not despite our work but because of it.

“Don’t you really need to choose? Won’t I need to pick which comes first, my work or my family?” We hear this often from women in their twenties on campuses where we speak. (We rarely hear it from young men.) And even when young women are more hopeful, there’s a big disconnect between what they hear (you’re equal) and what they see. “These issues creep up on us without our being aware of them,” one twentysomething told us. “I think women my age believe the world has changed so much that we don’t need to worry. But then we look at the men in charge where we work and think, That is not what I want my life to look like and it’s clearly not feasible for me if I want to have kids.

We remember the angst we felt at their age, that somehow things would be tougher for us than they were for our guy friends. At times in each of our own careers, we shared the fear that we’d have to forfeit something big—a career or a husband.

“I’ll never find the right guy if I can’t ever leave the office,” Joanna, then a lawyer in her first 24/7 job, complained to her mother. At her second corporate law firm, still unmarried but curious about the future, Joanna went to a meeting on work/life balance. The discussion leader, the only female partner with children, started to cry. Not inspirational. Joanna had grown up with a mother who mostly stayed home. So the discouraging signs around her at work did not give Joanna much conviction that she would want to keep working after she had kids.

Sharon, a child of divorced parents, assumed she’d always earn her own living. No man Sharon dated could miss the point. She grilled boyfriends for double standards and gave them books such as The Women’s Room and The Feminine Mystique—which largely went unread. Working stock-market hours in San Francisco, Sharon was in the office close to 4 a.m.—and asleep by 9 p.m., making her an even more unusual date. As she was turning thirty-one, Sharon walked down the street after work one day with tears in her eyes. “No marriage is better than a bad one,” she thought, “but how did I end up alone?”

Then we met our husbands and learned this: The most important career decision you make is whom you marry. (And the deals you make with him.)

When Joanna got engaged, her fiancé, Jason, told her he wanted to start companies. To take the risks that entrepreneurship requires, Jason knew that sometimes he would be putting more money into his business than he’d be taking out. When Joanna wanted to quit her job, Jason did his share of child care while Joanna transitioned to a career she found more satisfying than the law. Jason not only wanted to be a good father, he also knew Joanna’s income bought him freedom to pursue his own career dreams.

“Women are more nurturing and should stay home with kids for a few years,” Sharon’s future husband, Steve, said on their first date. That evening did not end well. But Steve, an Iowan raised with the virtue of fairness, was curious (and a good sport). So he asked Sharon to put her thoughts on paper. “I want my husband to share every part of parenting with me 50/50. How do you feel about this?” Sharon wrote. Steve wasn’t sure but kept an open mind until he and Sharon found a vision they could share.

We’re not saying it’s easy. Living this way takes lots of discussion and often debate. No matter how fair-minded your spouse, if you’re anything like us, you’ll still find plenty to argue about. But hundreds of men and women in this book tell you in their own words why they make the effort: The 50/50 mind-set can help you live the life you want.

About the Authors

Sharon Meersjoanna stroberSharon Meers is the Head of Enterprise Strategy at Magento, which is part of eBay Inc.  Prior to joining eBay, Sharon was a Managing Director at Goldman Sachs.  Joanna Strober is the Founder and CEO of an online company to help fight and prevent childhood obesity.  Together they have written Getting to 50/50 — How Parents Can Have it All.