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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.

What Kind of Country Are We? Time for Paid Leave — Ellen Bravo

Contributor: Ali Ahmed

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).

Ellen Bravo, directs the Family Values @ Work Consortium, a network of broad coalitions working for policies such as paid sick days and family leave insurance.  The network has achieved unprecedented victories,  such as paid sick days in Connecticut and California; San Francisco; Washington, DC; Seattle; Portland; New York City; nine cities in New Jersey; family leave insurance in California, New Jersey and Rhode Island; and paid parental leave passed in Washington state, with more wins on the horizon.  Ellen is the author of Taking on the Big Boys, or Why Feminism is Good for Families, Business and the Nation and a passionate, relentless, fun and funny advocate for families and children.

Stew Friedman: Since we spoke last year there’s been considerable progress at the state and federal level. Can you give us an update what’s new in the world of advancing policies and initiatives in our nation that are helping working families?

Ellen Bravo: Ellen Bravo 2As of today, more than 10 million people in the United States newly have access to paid sick days because of the work of our coalitions and their partners. It’s amazing how many people have paid sick days for themselves, but they can’t use it for a sick child or parent. Or they can take sick days, but they get demerits when they use it. Or they have them, but they don’t get paid for day one, and so many people just don’t take that time at all.  There are three states now that have family and medical leave insurance programs. And guess what? By the end of 2016, there may be three more. D.C. is the best place to have a baby, be sick, have parents. What a great way to summarize what it means to have access for paid leave.

SF: What are those three states?

EB: D.C., Connecticut, and New York all could win family medical insurance over the next year. There’s a number more where campaigns are growing: Massachusetts, Oregon, and a bunch of other places. Here’s what’s really exciting to us: our network formed because we knew that it was these boots on the ground that helped build the critical masses needed to get the national standard that we all need. We’re very proud of that. We’ve really helped create a network that looks at these local coalitions, deeply rooted in their own city or county or state, and helps them share their lessons, share their successes, and see themselves as part of a national movement by linking them all together.

SF: This also creates momentum, right? Because people see that it’s possible. That motivates others to get involved.

EB: I can’t tell you how important that is. We just wrote a booklet called “Why I Became an Activist.” It is profiles of twelve people telling how they became engaged in one of these campaigns, and what it has meant to their lives.  Another important part of life is people realizing that change is possible if we do it together;  what I couldn’t do on my own, we can do together. And it breaks through that disenfranchisement that so many people feel.  That sense of, “Who listens to me? Who cares about me if I don’t have money?” And it’s really showing people that there are solutions. That what happened to them wasn’t just one bad boss or one bad company. It’s something about the whole system. We can fix that by having these basic and common sense policies. It’s so exciting to see that.   Everyday I meet those people who’ve change their own lives and those of so many others.

SF: Is that part of your daily life, is meeting with people who are just getting involved in this, let’s call it a social movement?

EB: It’s one of my favorite things to do. I was invited to speak at the 20th anniversary of one of our anchor groups in Massachusetts called “Coalition for Social Justices, Fall River, Massachusetts”. It’s a $30 plate dinner. People there are ages 18 to 85 and very multi-racial. And someone gets up from New Bedford and says, “We talked 4,692 people. 4,062 of them became members of our coalition, and we went out in teams on election day. This is for the ballot initiative for sick time and we said go ‘vote yourself some sick time.’” It’s this very grass roots effort. They took a report one time when they went canvasing and there were people waiting on the porch saying, “I heard you were coming today. I had to tell you. This is my life. I’ve never had a paid sick day. This is what it means to me.” And just what you were saying talking about disharmony. What could be worse than you’re kid is sick and you have to decide do I lose my pay for the day to be with this child? Who do I let down? My family or my employer and my family again, because we need to provide for them as well as to care for them.

SF: And it’s a choice that America should not have to make, according to our president and so many other legislators. But it’s hard to get it through at the national level. Before we get to that very big question about how we create a national policy that works. Speak to the business interest at play here because many of our listeners are business people, first and foremost. Many of them have families and have people working with and around them who are committed to their families and want to be able to be engaged and supportive of the needs of the people in their families. Why is this an issue that businesses should really get behind?

EB: So, for both businesses and family medical leave insurance, the great thing is that every one of our coalitions has business partners. And those business leaders join in. First of all, many of them already provide these policies because they think it’s the smart, as well as the right, thing to do.

SF: Smart from a business point of view?

EB: Yes. It doesn’t take much thinking to say not one of us is as good on day one as we are on day 366. Everybody needs to get up to speed on their jobs. And so business owners invest in those workers. Whatever the kind of job, it’s a loss when they leave. So, we don’t want to put people in a situation where we say “get out” if you’re going to do exactly what the doctor tells you to do or what a good parent should do or good child should do for their parent. And businesses don’t want to be in that situation. They want people to have harmony in their lives, but sometimes they can’t afford to do it themselves. That’s what the family medical leave insurance does. It creates a pool of small contributions that help make leave affordable. That’s a real boon to businesses. Paid sick days is a much smaller investment and what the business owners who are partners of ours tell us is, “Look, I already do this, but I want everyone to do it. Because you know what? Other people’s staff, they are my customers.   And if they lose money because they are being a good parent or doing what the doctor said, they don’t come to my shop or store or whatever, that hurts me.”

SF: All those ripple effects that emanate from good policies that really support people so that they can stay in their jobs and be the kind of family member that they want and need to be. That benefits the whole ecology of our local economy.

EB: That’s exactly right. The great words are whole ecology. I commend you and the tremendous work you did to get a couple hundred of business professors who say, “yeah, this is smart business. Let’s do this. It’s time for our nation to do this.” You’ve done a tremendous service. I’ll tell you what one of my favorite things about the work we do is: there are people out there when we first started our network over a decade ago, the opposition tried to characterize it as workers versus business and they can’t do that anymore because we have so many business owners who said, “listen, those lobby groups don’t speak for me. I am the business community too. And I want this because it’s the best thing for our community and our nation. It’s good for me personally, but it’s also good for my community and that matters to me what kind of economy we have overall and what kind of nation we are overall.” And so, those divisions that people tried to legislate, we said you can’t do that anymore. We won’t let you. It’s identity theft. You can’t claim to be the business community when you speak against these modest little reforms like paid sick days or family medical leave insurance. You’re really speaking for giant corporate interests.

SF: And that’s an important issue.   Where is the resistance coming from and why? First, for our listeners, Ellen was referring to the fact that I helped author and was the lead signatory on a letter that came from 200 business schools’ faculty that we sent to every member of Congress in support of the Family Act, now before Congress. I have to tell you Ellen, it was so easy to do that, partly because of our partnership with Vicky Shabo with the National Partnership for Women and Families.  Also, once we sent it out to a couple of my business school colleagues, they sent it out to their colleagues and it spread rapidly because it’s a no-brainer for us to see how the current and future generations of business leaders want this and how we need it for our business and our society. So, back to where we were: where does the resistance come from?

EB:  Unfortunately, there are organized lobbies. Their job is to stand in the way of change. I think of them like the sheriffs in the doorway of schools when kids are trying to de-segregate. It’s a knee jerk reaction.  These lobbies are literally telling Congress, “Don’t tell us what to do. We don’t need any regulations.”  It’s the same thing got us in trouble with the housing bubble, the Exxon Mobil spill, and so on. Of course we need some common sense regulation and protection for people.  That’s what this is. The thing that amuses me is that you see that same arguments that were made before. I made this little quiz that says, “Who said this? Is it your local chamber of Congress? The National Federation of Independent Businesses?  The American Legislative Exchange Commission, or none of the above?” This is the quote: This law will destroy industry in the city and the state. It turns out it was from the head of the Real Estate Board in 1912 after the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire that killed 148 women and kids. And for the first time ever, the city of New York said we might need some regulation. And you know what the regulations were?  Let’s have a fire escape, let’s have inspections, and let’s prevent employers from locking their workers in while they do their jobs. That’s all it was. Certain people said that will destroy industries. The same thing was said when we ended child labor and when we established minimum wage.  It’s unfortunate because it makes business owners look small-minded and narrow-minded. It’s a disservice because so many of the leaders in our coalition are business owners who have always been doing this and who see that it is a best business practice for them to be speaking out in support of a public policy to establish a voice for everyone.

SF:  Especially when the research on the impact of those public policies has shown that they support business goals such as the retention of great people. People are more likely to stay if they have this kind of support.

EB: It’s really mindset.  They view workers as inherently lazy and they need to be punished, or they view them as assets, the greatest assets actually. And if you invest in them, and take into account that they are whole people that need to integrate all the parts of their life, just as you said Stew, then your business will do better. Also, you’ll be contributing to a much better society.

SF:  It’s not just an economic imperative; it’s a moral imperative.  And there’s an accumulating body of research that demonstrates this. So, at the national level, when are we going to see real change? What do you think it’s going to take? The democrats are debating tonight for the first time. [Tuesday October 13, 2015.]

EB: I think it’s going to take just what we’re doing, continuing this growing number of wins. You see if you go to our website, the timeline of wins. You’ll see this growth in the number of wins each year. And there’ll be a bunch more in 2015, and then another bunch in 2016. And we need to do the same thing with family medical leave insurance. Get a critical mass of states over the next five years. That’s our goal. And I think that when we do that, we’re going to see changes in who governs and what they stand for. We’re already seeing that voters across the political spectrum and across every demographic really care about these things. They’re paying much more attention to where candidates stand on it. The more people see that this is good politics as well as good policies, that’s what it will take. But what you said is also true. If everyone adds to the growing body of evidence. Productivity goes up, morale goes up, retention goes up, and that’s just what we want. These are in sync, and it’s a disservice to say we have to decide – do we treat people well or do we do well in our businesses. Of course we do better when we all do better.

SF:  What can listeners do to learn more, and much more importantly spread their understanding of the stories of success that really do cut into these outmoded ways of thinking, which pit workers and their families against the interest of businesses, when in fact they are in sync, can be, should be, and must be. What can listeners do?

EB:  The easiest thing is just go to our website — familyvaluesatwork.org — and say I want to get involved and tell us a little about yourself.  If you’re in a state where we are, we’ll connect you to that coalition. There are local people who know the conditions and they know the kind of policies that will work best. And they want your help. And you can really help make the difference. If you’re in a state where there isn’t yet a campaign going on, you can help us speak out for these national policies. And you may also be able to help create something in that state. The exciting thing is that there are people everywhere that want to do this. Everywhere I go people say what can we do to get this started. And your listeners can absolutely be a vital part of making that happen. But also, you can support our work.

SF: Otherwise to provide support for this growing movement of people throughout our great country, to help us really start to get close to on par with the rest of the developed world,  because we are so woefully and tragically behind in terms virtually all of our competitors in the world economy, what are the options?

EB: Have I told you my favorite country? It’s Iceland. They have policy “3-3-3” that next year is going to be “5-5-2”. And what that means is each parent can take 3 months of paid leave and the couple can share the other 3 months. And next year it will be five, five, and two months they can share. And guess what’s happened? Most men take that leave, and after a year and a half 70% of the men that take that leave are sharing childrearing. This is a great thing for families, great thing for our workforce. I love it that Susan Wojcicki, who is the CEO at YouTube, wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal about how when Google, which is a parent company of YouTube, increased the amount of leave, their turnover rate among women was cut in half. She said “I’m a better person.” She has five kids. She’s taken five maternity leaves. She’s also unapologetic about it. But she said, “I’m a better leader by having taken that time. I am more in sync with our customers and what they need.” And that’s a good thing. It’s not a favor to women; it’s a better way to do it. That’s what’s really great.

SF: It’s not just about women, as we know. In our 20 year longitudinal study of Wharton grads, we found that young men especially are as eager, more so than women, to have policies, both corporate and social, that support them as fathers, as sons, as brothers to be able to provide support for the family and the people that depend on them.

EB: Absolutely. And in our pamphlet, a number of those activists became active as new dads wanting paid family leave for everybody. One of the things they say is, “We’re tired of dads being treated like a spare part. These are our kids. We want to be just as involved in their lives. And we don’t want to be punished for being responsible fathers.” The great thing about these policies is that they are strengthening families and helping so many men to be exactly what they want: be good fathers, sons, and husbands, and brothers, as you point out. We’re delighted to see that.

SF: Not only is it better for them as fathers, but it helps their children and it enables women to lean in at work if dads are leaning in at home. So, it truly is a win all the way around. We just got another couple of minutes here, Ellen. What’s the most important thing for our listeners to know about the work that you’re doing and how they can be a part of it at a personal level?

EB: The most important thing for them to know is that peoples’ lives are being transformed. If you read the language in the booklet, they talk about it “being an honor to do this.” And, “I suddenly felt I found my voice. I realized the power that we have to make change happen.” There are so many people who want to do exactly that, but they don’t know what they can do alone as individual.  By becoming part of these coalitions we amalgamate our power, and that’s what’s enabling us to make change. Elected officials say, “Look at these business owners speaking up. When the lobbyist comes and tells me business says X, I’m going to say no they don’t. I just sat and talked to them in my office, or I got a call, or I got a letter.” So, sharing your stories, why you do this, and why you support it.   Sharing how these policies help you to invest in and retain the people that work for you, and how it made your company a success. That’s the best thing we can do. We so appreciate the work that you’re doing already and I hope that you’ll add to the strength that we’re building up in the field. And that will get us the national policies that we need.

SF: It’s going to take time. It’s going to take effort from a lot of people, but it really doesn’t take all that much. And it doesn’t cost business. The policies that I’m aware of, they are neutral in terms of the revenue implications for most business owners.

EB: I remember the guy who was the CEO at Stride Rite, and who had an intergenerational care center, so there were little kids and there were seniors. And they did activities together. They made bread. They told stories. But there were also activities they did separately. Somebody said, “Are you an idiot? Why are you wasting money on that?” He said, “Have you seen the faces of our employees when they get off the elevator and they see a parade of the little kids and the seniors going through the hall. Even if it isn’t their kids or their seniors?   You think that doesn’t last, that smile, when they go back to work?” He says, “Who’s the idiot?”  And I’ve always remembered him saying that. I think that’s so true. I mean, Stew, I meet people all the time who tell me stories of having to kiss their dying son or husband or mother every day at the hospital and then go to work knowing that this was the day, and she might die forever. And they can’t help it because it’s the only way they can pay the bills. Or think about the nearly one in four mothers who go back to work within two weeks of giving birth. What kind of country are we?

To learn more about The Family Values at Work  Consortium visit their website and follow them on Twitter, @FmlyValuesWork

About The Author

Ali Ahmed is an undergraduate senior majoring in Biological Basis of Behavior and minoring in Cinema Studies.

The Achievement Gap & What We Can Do About It — Jane Waldfogel

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).

Jane Waldfogel is a Professor at the Columbia University School of Social Work and a visiting professor at the London School of Economics. She has written extensively on the impact of public policies on poverty, inequality, and child and family well-being.  Her books include: Too Many Children Left Behind: The U.S. Achievement Gap in Comparative Perspective; Britain’s War on PovertySteady Gains and Stalled Progress: Inequality and the Black-White Test Score GapWhat Children NeedSecuring the Future: Investing in Children from Birth to College; and The Future of Child Protection. She is also the author of over 100 articles and book chapters. Her current research includes studies of paid parental leave, improving the measurement of poverty, and inequality in school readiness and achievement.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stewart Friedman: Why should businesspeople care about early childhood education and about the achievement gap, and what’s the connection to work and working families?

Jane Waldfogel: Jane WaldfogelThere are two important connections for businesspeople. One immediate connection is that this is the workforce of the future.   The children we’re talking about, who have the achievement gap, are lagging behind their peers more so than children in other countries, are going to be their employees five, 10, 15 years from now.

SF: Before you get to the second reason, just define what we mean by achievement gap.

JW: In the work that I’m doing, I’m focusing on the gap between advantaged and disadvantaged children; children whose families have high levels of socio-economic resources and children whose families have low levels of resources. There are different ways of measuring that. I’m focusing on the difference between those whose parents have a college degree or more and those whose parents have a high school degree or sometimes less.  We think of those as being highly-educated and low-educated, but there’s a big group in the middle that has something beyond high school, some kind of college education but not a full college degree. The achievement gap is the gap in school readiness or the gap in school achievement between those whose parents have a college degree and those whose parents have high school or less.

SF: Thank you for that.  Yes, it’s about future employees and their readiness to contribute to society’s economic growth.    And the other important rationale for businesspeople to be mindful of your research?

JW:  The other reason for businesspeople to be aware of and concerned about it is they’re not independent of this, they’re parties to this. The way that our safety net works in the United States is that a lot of the safety net benefits that families rely on, especially when they’re working, come from their employers.    A lot of their employers offer some help with parental leave, sick leave, even help with child healthcare and eldercare.   But not all employers do.   And, unfortunately, there’s also a gap in the provision of those kinds of benefits.  The best-off employees who are most educated, have the most resources, are also the most likely to have employer benefits.  While the businesses that are employing low-income workers, low-educated workers, are the least likely to provide those benefits.

SF: What’s the implication of that for businesspeople listening to our show right now? Why is the increasing gap relevant to the small-business owner, for example?

JW: I think a small-business owner would be entitled to say, “Why is this my responsibility and why should I be paying for expensive benefits?  I think the small-business owner actually has a point there, and this is why we’re seeing in several states’ paid family leave benefits being provided through employee contribution into a public insurance fund.  This is the model in California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. It is a very innovative kind of model and one of the prime beneficiaries of these new benefits, it’s not parents, it’s small businesses, because small businesses would like to be able to give people some time off when they have a baby. These people are human beings, they’re decent employers, and in fact they have been giving people time off, this is not a new thing.

SF: The point that you’re making here is such a critical one, that these are employee-funded initiatives.

JW: These are 100% funded through employee contribution and the state pays a few pennies a week into these funds. And then how many children do these people have? They don’t have that many children.   So, on the one or two or three occasions that somebody has a child, then mothers and fathers, they both get some paid leave. It might be four weeks, it might be five weeks, it might be six weeks.  And it’s funded through this public insurance fund that’s funded by contributions from all the employees in the state.

SF: So it gets spread out and it’s administered by the Social Security Administration already in place to manage these funds.  The private sector can say, “It’s not really up to us.”  And to that you would say, You’re right. We need a national policy to support families and children, and that’s good for all of us, as the research has shown.”

JW: Yes.  These social insurance programs were set up to insure workers against the kind of eventualities that might strike any of us. Things like death, disability, unemployment, illness.  And virtually every advanced industrialized country has some form of paid maternity leave because it’s that kind of an event —  giving birth is that kind of an event. It’s an extraordinary event, it’s not a recurring, frequent event, so it’s the perfect thing for these kinds of social insurance funds to cover.

SF: One of the things that you’ve focused on in the great treatise that you’ve published, Too Many Children Left Behind: The U.S. Achievement Gap in Comparative Perspective, is how we fare compared to other nations. What were the big ideas in the insights that you drew from that comparative study?

JW: It’s probably no surprise to any of your listeners that children whose parents are more highly educated themselves are going to come to school more ready to learn than children whose parents are not highly educated. But it’s not obvious why that kind of a gap should differ across countries. If, in the United States children whose parents are less educated are coming into school a full standard deviation behind in their test scores than children whose parents are more highly educated, then we would expect to find similar gaps in other countries when we compare similar families, families with college education and families whose parents have just a high school degree or less.

SF: So the effect of parental education ought to be universal and not country-specific.

JW: Yes.  More educated parents are reading to their children, they’re buying books and toys, they have a computer, and they have a love of learning they’re passing it on to their children. There’s lots of reasons why you might expect the children of more educated parents to come to school more ready.  But in fact, the gap at school entry is twice as big in the United States as it is in Canada or Australia.  When we compare the United States to Canada, Australia, and the U.K., that gap is significantly larger in the United States than in the other countries. There must be something going on in the United States that’s peculiar.

SF: Something that exaggerates the achievement gap that’s caused by differences in parental education.

JW: Exactly. So partly it’s that when parents are low-educated in the United States, not only are they low-educated but they also have low levels of other resources. They’re younger, they’re less likely to be in stable families.  Some of it’s about family structure, but some of it is because they have lower incomes relative to the rest of the population than low-income families in other countries. And unfortunately, you then add in the government resources, and that just augments the differences across the countries.

SF: What do you mean?

JW:  It turns out that the reason that we have a much higher child poverty rate than Canada, the U.K., Australia, is not because of our demographic makeup or our labor market situation. When you look just at families’ market earnings, the child poverty rate is about the same across the four countries. Once you take into account government taxes and transfers, that’s where you see the big difference. In the U.K., in Canada, in Australia, those government programs are cutting child poverty in half.

SF: Our government tax policies exaggerate the achievement gap that kids experience as a result of whether or not their parents are college-educated.

JW:  It’s the government tax and transfer programs; what we call the safety net. Those programs are cutting child poverty in half in the other countries. That’s a really important element. And then there’s the whole work/life/family arena.  Virtually all advanced countries, all of our peers, now have universal preschool that covers children in the year or two before they start school. You can see how that would be tremendously equalizing if all the children were going to preschool before they’re going on to school.

SF: That’s going to cut into the achievement gap?

JW: Yes, and it’s going to be equalizing, whereas in the United States, because we don’t have universal preschool, we don’t have universal pre-kindergarten in most places, the kind of preschool or whether or not your child even gets preschool.  And then, the kind of preschool is going to be very dependent on family resources. At the top end, we have some of the best nursery schools in the world, and we know which families get to access those, and at the bottom end, we have families who if they’re lucky, maybe they’ll get a childcare voucher or they’ll get a spot in a subsidized childcare program, and then you’ll get the families in the middle who can’t afford the price of high-quality preschool, so they’re making do with family daycare or informal care, such as kids being with relatives. At some point, those kids are losing out compared to other kids who are having more educational programming.

SF:  This exaggerates the achievement gap which just grows over time.

JW: It does grow over time.  Although one of the surprising findings in the book was that if you had asked me before we started the book, I would have said probably about half of the achievement gap that we see in high school was already there at school entry, and the other half of it emerges as that gap widens during the school years. And that actually would have been wrong. We estimated this very carefully in the book and it turns out actually about two-thirds of the achievement gap, 60 or 70 percent, is already there at school entry. That’s a ‘wow!’

SF: So universal Pre-K and tax policies and transfers that enable kids to be better ready, when they start, that could solve most of the achievement gap problem that we see later in people’s lives and in their school careers?

JW: Exactly.   And if we’d at least give teachers a fighting chance. You can’t have kids coming in so unequally prepared at kindergarten. I mean, I can’t imagine what it would be like to be a kindergarten teacher facing that range of abilities. Either you’re going to teach to the children that are very ill-prepared, and then the better-prepared children are really missing out and everybody’s level is dragged down. If they’re going to teach the children who are well-prepared, those who are behind at the start are going to fall further behind.

SF: What can we do to help solve this problem, because it really is a tragic set of circumstances in a nation that prides itself on being the most resourceful in world history?

JW: I think it’s not rocket science. You start from birth: paid parental leave.  We all know it’s a good thing but it’s taken us a while to figure it out. We now have these three states that have programs in place, so we’re getting there. Look at all these companies that are implementing 16 weeks of paid parental leave; all the tech companies, the Navy, I think this is a sea change, I think we’re getting there. We also have a much better evidence base on parenting programs for parents of infants and toddlers than we’ve ever had before. The Nurse Family Partnership is the best known of them, but there are now several. This is an example of a very well-studied, well-evaluated parenting program that works with young first-time mothers starting prenatally and into the first year or two of life.  Nurses work with the mothers to help strengthen their parenting skills. So the children get better care before they start preschool because, honestly, we’ve been talking about universal preschool or Pre-K at age four, but that comes pretty late in the life of a child. There’s an earlier foundation of paid parental leave and then the evidence-based, high-quality parenting programs for parents who may not have received very good parenting themselves and especially young, first-time, disadvantaged moms.

SF: Does your comparative study help to propel interest by American lawmakers to take this issue more seriously?

JW: I think it should in two different respects. One, that wow factor of 60-70 percent of the achievement gap being there already at school entry, is such a smoking gun in terms of pointing to early childhood as the point of intervention. The second big wow is that achievement gap being so much larger in the United States than our nearest peers, Canada, the U.K., and Australia. There’s no reason we should have so much of a bigger gap than those other countries, and we know it’s happening in early childhood.

SF:  Not only should there not be that gap, but we should be leading. What can listeners do, a number of our listeners are going to be thinking, What can I do to try to make a change with respect to how children will be affected by policy?” What would you recommend?

JW: I think there’s a lot to be done at the local and state level. A lot of these programs are being funded and rolled out by the states.  These early home-visiting programs, these parenting programs, paid parental leave is happening at the state level, universal Pre-K is happening at the state level, so I think finding out what’s going on in my city or state and getting on board and supporting these things with funding and candidates who support these initiatives.  At the local level, finding out what are the good programs in my area and what do they need? Do they need some volunteers, some help? I know a lot of businesses are involved locally in having folks volunteer and help out, so find a strong program in your area and find out what they need.

SF: What has this research meant to you personally in terms of your sense of the impact that you’re having?

JW: I just feel very strongly committed to doing what we can to make the living situation of children in our country more equal, and raising the level for everybody, and it’s dawned on me that the school system is one really important place to make that happen. That’s really driven my interest in these achievement gaps, but it turns out that we have to start a lot earlier than the school system and so I think there’s an awful lot for all of us to do.

About the Author

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


Addressing Our Poverty of Imagination – Kathleen Christensen

Contributor: Shreya Zaveri

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 Dr. Kathleen Christensen, Program Director of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation’s Working Longer Program, and a pioneer in the field of the work-family research. Dr. Christensen has been involved in the planning of the 2014 White House Summit on working families as well as the 2010 White House Forum on workplace flexibility. She is also the author of several books including, most recently, Workplace Flexibility: Realigning 20th Century Jobs for a 21st Century Workforce.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: You are one of the pioneers in the field. Back in 1994, you did research on home-based work during the eighties, and you were recruited from your academic position to join the Sloan Foundation where you established and led what would become its Workplace and Working Families program. Tell us about some of the major changes in the field of work and life over the last few decades.

Kathleen Christensen: Kathleen ChristensenThe greatest change is that there is much greater involvement by the research and academic communities to understand what has happened to the American family. This has extended not only to the stages where children are born and reared until the time they leave home, but also looking at the later stages of life. We have begun to conceptualize work-life as spanning all the decades of one’s life, beyond the decades of productively working and managing caregiving responsibilities. There’s a much greater understanding of what’s going on in the family and how responsibilities can change as families age.

The key to the entire notion of work-life is the way work is organized in time and space; the demands of work in the global economy affect the adult worker as well as the other members of the family. What became clear in the research that the Sloan Foundation funded in the mid-1990s is that there was a structural misalignment between work organization in time and space and in the needs of an increasingly diverse workforce.

SF: Can you explain where the structural misalignment was seen?

KC: The workplace as we know it is an artifact of history. Henry Ford was seen as a genius in the early 1900s when he decided to cut the workweek to 40 hours and which was put into law in the 1930s with the Standard Labor Act. That was really the last time that there were any structural changes in the hours of work and in worker protections as to when and how they work. By the late 1990s, the workplace was still a legacy design of a time when most of the workers were male breadwinners. In the 20s and 30s, there was the notion of the family wage. Women were not to work, and the husbands and fathers were to earn enough to support the family. Working full-time all-year-round made sense for the male breadwinner then, but by the late 1990s it was a different situation. The workforce was increasingly mixed, but the workplace had kept the same structure. The notion of someone taking a leave was seen as deviant. We did not have laws allowing for short- or long-term leave. It could be done at the privilege of the employer, but there wasn’t a structure in place for it. As a result, the research showed a great deal of fallout for the family. The long hours made it difficult to schedule time with the family for school events, for example. There was a need for a structural change in order to meet the needs of a more diverse workforce—for men and women across ages.

SF: What has been the biggest impact of the various centers the Sloan Foundation has sponsored over the last few decades in terms of generating new and useful change in the structure of the workplace?

KC: First, it really built the case that we had a very different workforce. We saw that working mothers compared to mothers not in the workforce were losing almost a night’s worth of sleep per week. We saw that men who retired abruptly in their late sixties or early seventies had much greater health problems. If a man went at age seventy from full-time work to full-time retirement, his odds of greater illness and mortality were increased compared to men who were able to phase into retirement. It would seem that the loss of identity plays a major role in that, but it’s difficult to prove causality. We were able to understand and document some of the costs that were being experienced by employees and families because people were working longer. We launched a campaign in the early 2000s to increase voluntary employer adoption of workplace flexibility. I would say one of the major legacies of our efforts was to put workplace flexibility in the front and center of public consciousness—to make it a legitimate area of discussion within the workplace and to make it a topic of conversation in Washington so that in policy circles there was recognition of the needs of American families for greater flexibility in the workplace.

SF: What’s your assessment—how far have we come and how far do we still have to go?

KC: We had two goals at the launch of our campaign in 2002. The first was to make flexibility a compelling national issue, and the second was to make it a standard feature in the workplace. Great strides were made for the first. One would be hard pressed to look at the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Harvard Business Review, or even academic journals and not see the workplace flexibility issue in one form or another. It’s a public topic now. But it’s still not the standard in workplaces. If you asked how much control a given employee has for when, where, and how they work, you would see major holes. Virtually every large corporation has flexibility on their books and maintain that they value it. Some really walk the talk and make flexibility a core feature of their work. We may even see pockets within a firm where employees are able to negotiate with their supervisors, but that flexibility may not be widespread throughout the firm. We also see many other organizations of different sizes that are in favor of workplace flexibility, but just don’t know how to implement it.

SF: Do you think it’s a matter of education then, and not just economics?

KC: I think the phrase ‘We don’t know how to do it’ covers a multitude of issues. It can mean ‘we don’t really care’ as well as ‘we don’t understand.’ Unfortunately, in many organizations, supervisors and employees see each other as a problem with when it concerns flexibility. Supervisors think employees are too entitled and that flexibility is not a right, whereas employees think that managers simply don’t understand. There are a number of ongoing efforts that make it clear that workplace flexibility can be a win-win—for example, the Society of Human Resource Management does a good job of articulating this. Anyone who’s seen the incredible results in organizations that really understand the power of flexibility has seen that the outcomes really prove themselves. But particularly in the last few years of tough economic times, organizations have hunkered down on new initiatives like these.

SF: They’ve retrenched, yes. I’ve seen some research that shows that the universal flexibility standards were scaled back in the wake of the Great Recession.

KC: If you talk to any of the leading companies, they recognize that as the economy gets stronger and job creation, wages, and salaries increase, they have to keep their best and brightest. As the economy gets stronger, and they are unsatisfied with their workplaces, many employees start looking around.

SF: Do you predict then that we’ll see more investment in workplace flexibility going forward?

KC: My instinct is yes. There are four generations in the workplace now. Supervisors need to handle the needs of Gen-X, Gen-Y, Boomers, and some of the Great Generation too. My sense is that flexibility is a very low-cost way of recruiting and retaining a solid workforce as well as the simultaneous effects of reducing costs and increasing productivity and revenues.

SF: What’s the key to moving the needle on this lack of knowledge and this fear of letting go control of the how and when of work?

KC: We have to reframe the conversation about flexibility. We have to translate from a rigid to an agile, fluid workplace. The term ‘flexibility’ is not making it to the C-suites; it’s not a term that has a lot of business imperative to it, perhaps because work and life are still seen as a tradeoff game where the employer gives something up to provide for the employee’s family life. It’s also seen as a gendered issue. As the workforce ages, it will come to be seen less as a women’s issue (especially because older workers are wanting to keep working, but only part time), but I’m still seeing flexibility referred to as a women’s issue. It you look at the surveys, men have just as high of needs for flexibility as do women.

SF: I’m personally aware of that, but people in my audiences often say yeah right [laughs]. Our research at Wharton shows this sentiment that your mentioned—that young men, in particular, anticipate as much workplace conflict as young women.

KC: Recent research from Harvard says that by mid-career, people who don’t have flexibility begin to get worn down. Men’s careers come into more prominence as women’s careers take a backslide. So while flexibility is a good transitional term, I think now we need more business-oriented language to continue the conversation. I’m still working on that new language. People are as committed to work as they’ve ever been but are increasingly dissatisfied.

SF: It’s a ubiquitous cry—a sense of being overwhelmed and under-fulfilled. Tell us what the main objective of the Working Longer program is.

KC: Our objective is to build a research base that is understanding of the aging workforce in the US. People are increasingly working beyond retirement age. In the mid-1990s, the trend towards early retirement began reversing itself. College-educated workers, even more than high school graduates, are working beyond conventional retirement age. However, the demand side, the employers, have not recognized in the US as they have in, say, Germany, how to handle and harness the productivity of the aging workforce. The major priority here is graceful exits, which I think is misguided. I hope to ultimately see a greater understanding on the demand side about the contributions of an aging workforce and to inform a policy discussion on the matter. Our labor and employment laws were written 85 years ago; they need to be able to keep pace with an aging workforce.

SF: So what can listeners do?

KC: Have a conversation and start telling their stories. There’s oftentimes a poverty of imagination. People can’t envision working differently, but when they have the opportunity to think collectively and creatively, they realize there can be many ways to organize work. We’re just beginning to tap into that.

SF: Yes. It’s an age of experimentation and revolutionary change in our field.

To find out more about Dr. Christensen’s book, Workplace Flexibility: Realigning 20th Century Jobs for a 21st Century Workforce, and the Sloan Foundation, you can visit them online or follow her on Twitter @K_E_Christensen.


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

About the author

Shreya Zaveri Shreya Zaveriis a junior in the Wharton School studying Management and Marketing and OPIM with an International Relations minor. She also serves as a vice president for the Work-Life Integration Project Student Advisory Board.

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.


The Best Companies to Work for in 2014 — Carol Evans

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 Carol Evans, President of Working Mother Media about their just-released 2014 list of 100 Best Places to Work.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman:Working Mother just released list of Best Companies for 2014.  What makes a company a great Working Mother pick?

Carol Evans:  Caro lEvansWe ask 500 questions, and we get very detailed.

SF: Who has time to complete a survey like that?

CE:  Companies who care about working families including parental leave for both working parents, corporate culture, leadership, having women in middle level positions and top level positions, mentorship, support, and more.

SF: This is now a coveted position for corporations to be on this list.  It helps them compete in the labor market.

CE: It’s a big differentiator. Women look to the list for where to work. Men now want to know, too.

SF: So how can a corporation get to the top 10?

CE: Parental leave, childcare, excellence across the board on many, but not all, factors. A lot of these companies have been on the list for a long time.

SF: So the list covers all dimensions of work and life issues.  Will having good programs that support life beyond work get you on the list?

CE: If you have programs, but women aren’t advancing, then no, you will not accumulate the points you’d need to be on the list.  It’s not subjective. We want to know how many people have access to each policy and then how many actually use them.  And what about the culture; do people feel afraid to use programs designed to retain them?

SF: Policy and practice only go so far.  So cultural mores determine if they’re really being accessed.

CE: Companies have to market it to their employees. If people don’t use it, it becomes the norm not to use it.

SF: How do you ensure the data is valid and accurate?

CE: We fact check data.  And we put in magazine. That’s the best check and balance. If it’s not accurate your employees will call you on it. The companies don’t know what we’ll put in the magazine.

SF: Have you ever had situation where the company said one thing and employees said it wasn’t so?

CE: Yes, before but not now. We had a typo.  We wrote a 16 week not a 6 week leave policy.  Oh my gosh, we heard from everyone in the company!

SF: So, what happened?  Did it create pressure to increase the leave?

CE: Yes, they increased it!

SF: How does the list influence policy – apart from typos?

CE:  We launched in 1986 and we’ve seen tremendous change because of the list. First, the companies themselves benefit via the application process itself. The people writing the answers to our survey get to know what their organization even has to offer and how much it’s used – flex, childcare, going to the gym, mentoring program, ERG (employee resource group). Second, after publication they learn that they have 8 weeks of maternity leave, but their competitor has 12 weeks.  And they have to ask, as their employees do, why don’t we have that?  And then if all the top ten have X, let’s get up to that so we can be competitive. Relative to your competition or to the best. Knowledge is like gold; it’s a competitive advantage. It’s a great carrot. You give us your data. And we show aggregates. Finally, for the talent, that is for individual women, they find out from reading the magazine once a year what’s the latest and greatest in work/life. They learn ideas of what to ask for and this helps them to be brave enough to take advantage of the benefits.

SF: So it’s the knowledge that’s empowering.  In 30 years – what’s changed? What’s the big idea, the big shift? Has there been real progress?

CE: The pregnancy act was in 1978. That made it illegal to fire someone for being pregnant. Before 1978 it was perfectly acceptable to do so.  When we started the list only 30 companies were doing something. Now the offerings are much more sophisticated and culturally embedded, and they’re demanded by moms and dads and by millennials.

SF: Is technology a catalyst for some of the change you’re seeing especially for millennials?

CE: It’s a double-edged sword. Some companies are experimenting with new policies about not having the digital line crossed. For instance, Deloitte has digital free weekends to renew and refresh. On the list we uncover new things that companies are doing.  We codify the new stuff, put it in magazine, discuss it at the Work/Life Conference, tweet about it. Then next year we ask everyone else if theyr’e doing it.

SF: The list is a catalyst for change not a catalog of policies.

CE: Yes, so now we ask, Are you sponsoring, not mentoring? Do you have paid paternity leave.

SF: Working Mother is the name, so what about dads? Other demographics benefit from work/life practices. How has it spread and how does the list address these changes?

CE: Millennials demand it and that helps to get it across to CEOs. Women are like the icebreaker and behind you all the other boats get through. Women get these benefits, and then everybody benefits.


Carol Evans, is President of Working Mother Media, CEO of the National Association for Female Executives (NAFE) Diversity Best Practices (DBP), and author of This is How We Do It: The Working Mother’s Manifesto. For more information check out www.workingmother.com and follow Carol at @CarolEvansWM

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.

Real Family Values: Ellen Bravo 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 Ellen Bravo, Director of the Family Values @ Work Consortium about what individuals and employers can do to bring family values – paid sick days and family leave – to organizations to help working families.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: Last time I saw you was a week or so ago at the White House Summit for Working Families, where you had the honor of speaking directly after President Obama’s stirring speech.

Ellen Bravo: Ellen BravoI was so glad to be able to thank him and to bring the stories of the “experts” that we brought with us.  These are people who have found themselves fired because they wouldn’t let a special needs child stay home alone when the schools were closed because it was too cold or had their pay docked because they insisted on being with a kid with sickle cell anemia, or taking care of a dad who just had eye surgery. These are people who have taken that personal pain and hardship and are standing up together and trying to change policies so that what happened to them does not happen to them again and does not happen to others, either.

SF: Tell us about Family Values @ Work.  What do you do?

EB: Family Values @ Work is a network of coalitions in 21 states that work for policies like paid sick days, paid family leave, fairness for pregnant workers, fair schedules, policies that value families. It’s local groups that form broad and diverse local coalitions.  Restaurant owners and restaurant workers.  We have business partners, labor partners, people who care about kids and people who care about seniors, people who want to end poverty.  All of them come at this from the point of view that we know what works, when 40% of the population doesn’t earn a single paid sick day, when only 12% of workers get paid sick leave from their employers, we know that that’s bad for families. And it turns out it’s also bad for the economy and bad for businesses.  We are way behind the rest of the world. What we’re trying to do is modest, some might say meagre.  I think President Obama was shocked and horrified when he heard that we were one of only 3 countries in the world that don’t offer at least some form of paid leave.  Most employed women have to cobble together vacation days.  It’s a great joy to have a child, but it is not a vacation.

SF: You have been uniquely effective in advocating at the local, state and federal levels to help make our nation a more caring society. So what fuels your passion? How did you get into advocating for social change for families?

EB: My sons are in their 30s. I had two unpaid leaves. When the second one was born I hurt my back, the doctor said I needed to be flat on my back.  My husband could not take off.  We had no money.  I asked how I would do that with a toddler, too? He said, “Oh, just have your mother or your housekeeper take care of you.” We didn’t have a house much less a housekeeper and my mother worked full time. Then when the kids were 1 and 4 we moved to Milwaukee and one of us needed a job with health insurance.  So I took a job with the phone company which had health benefits and the person who hired me said, “You can’t be sick for five years” and she said, “I know you’re thinking how the hell am I going to do this.” I remember being surprised that she used that language because she was very prim and proper. She said, “Well you just have to.  We’re a public utility. We need you here every day.” And obviously what happened is that people came to work sick and they made each other sick and they stayed sick much longer.  And I thought this doesn’t make sense.  I was already an activist and I realized that I needed to actively address this issues; that family values cannot end at the workplace door. And I found the group 9 to 5 that was focused on low wage women and this was one of their key issues. We worked for and won family unpaid leave in Wisconsin and then in the nation. But we knew we needed to find a way to make it affordable.  We have to make sure that we don’t fire people for following doctor’s orders by staying home.

SF: And yet people still do live in fear of having to take time away from work to meet family responsibilities. But how did you win your first big victory?  Tell us about what you did in Wisconsin.  What did you have to do and what did you accomplish.

EB: The way we won was kids.  The governor had said he’s only sign a maternity leave bill and only a 30 day bill.  We knew we had to establish the principle of family leave; it’s not just new babies who need their parents and it’s not just mothers whom they need.  We put together a group of children each of whom had a reason why their family needed leave. One was a kid who’d had cancer when he was five; he was now nine and he remembered both his parents would be in the room with him when he got treatments.  One to hold him and one to tell him a story. He said the kid in the next bed didn’t have parents there during the day.  What he didn’t know then when he was five, but what he knew then was he was nine was that they would have lost their jobs and their health insurance if they had been with him.  There was a kid who had been adopted for the first time at the age of 12.  He was so happy to have a family but his new mom had to put the kids to bed at 8 PM because the adoption agency required that she be home during the day, but work wouldn’t give her leave so she had to work the nightshift. My younger son, he was seven at the time but when he was five he got hit by a car and had to stay overnight in the hospital for a concussion, which for him was two days.  But the idea that you would have to go through that without your parents there was unimaginable to him.

They all told their stories.  They met with the Secretary of Employment Relations for the State of Wisconsin. He didn’t know whether to laugh or cry because they were very moving, but cute, as well. He said, we’re so used to meeting with lobbyists we sometimes forget about the people are impacted by the bills we pass. The Secretary asked if anyone had any questions, my little son, the youngest in the room, asked why wouldn’t the Governor sign this bill. The Secretary said, I promise that he will sign some version of the bill.  So, we quickly had a press conference and made this announcement, the kids all told their stories again.  The headline read: Children Lobbyists Win Lawmaker Hearts. The Governor said, it’s because of the kids that I’m signing this.

SF: So is this the modus operandi, to bring the voices of children in?  Or are there other strategies to influence policy-makers?

EB: There are many ways. So, California had won paid family leave in 2002.  We knew that there were other places that could do it, but they needed resources. We went to funders asking for seed money to create a new model where we work to raise money, but we share it among many groups, especially those working at the local and grassroots level. And our funders really liked this idea. So we started with eight states and now we’re in 21.  People can go to our web site www.familyvaluesatwork.org .  You can sign up on our web site and we’ll find ways to help you get involved in one of those states.

SF: So, what’s the business case for family leave, paid leave?

EB:  We’ve collected a growing body of evidence that shows that these policies are really beneficial. The majority of businesses now support these policies they find that it’s a non-event.  It cuts down on turnover costs. Advertising, screening, and training new hires is one of a businesses biggest expense.

SF: What have the states that have enacted enacted paid leave learned about what works or what doesn’t?

EB: For example Herb Greenberg of Caliper in NJ says for him this is a no-brainer because it helps him attract and retain people. He’s talking about the NJ Family Leave Insurance Fund. In the three states that have it, it’s all employee-paid. So it’s a cost savings for the employer because they don’t have to pay the person’s salary while they’re out, and they get them back. And they do what they want to do which is to help that employee be a good family member.

Same thing with paid sick days. Makini Howell was one of the people who spoke at the White House Summit.  She’s a restaurant owner in Seattle, and she said, why wouldn’t small businesses do this? You attract and keep people and you don’t have someone coming to work and making other people sick, and it’s good in the community.  Her business increased since she became known as a leader in the fight for paid sick leave.

SF:  It’s good for her brand.

EB: Makini Howell also said, “I want to be the kind of employer that I’d want to work for.”

SF: What are the hurdles? What are the barriers to adopting these policies?

EB: The biggest hurdle is lobbyists who claim to speak for the business community when they often do a disservice to employers by making it seem as though they’re mean-spirited or have a knew-jerk reaction to simple regulations. Because of the role of money in politics, they sort of threaten politicians, we’ll say that you’re anti-business if you support this policy. So it’s made a lot of politicians nervous.  The good thing is our coalition has really helped to break the “identity theft” by having business owners speak their stories of success.  They say that they already provide this for their employees but they want there to be a floor, some minimum standard and that’s the reason for a public policy.  They also say to other business owners, your workers are my customers so if they don’t get a paycheck or if they lose their job because they were being a good parent or taking care of themselves it’s bad for the economy as a whole. This is what small business owners tell us all the time, sales is the number one problem.  They need people to have money in their pockets.  That’s why business owners are supporting higher minimum wage as well.


Ellen Bravo directs the Family Values @ Work Consortium, a network of broad coalitions working for—and winning—policies such as paid sick days and family leave insurance.  She’s the author of Taking on the Big Boys, or Why Feminism is Good for Families, Business and the Nation.  To learn more about her work go to the Family Values @ Work web site www.familyvaluesatwork.orgfollow them on Twitter @FmlyValuesWork.

Join Work and Life next on July 29 at 7:00 PM ET on Sirius XM Channel 111 for conversations with Gretchen Spreitzer and Kathie Lingle.  Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.

Caring is Our Most Important Work: Anne-Marie Slaughter

Contributor: Liz Stiverson

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 (mind, body and spirit).

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with Anne-Marie Slaughter – author of the ground-breaking 2012 Atlantic article “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” which sparked a national debate about the real pressures of having a career while also serving as a caregiver at home – about a traditional gender bias that underlies the American work-life conflict and the conversation we need to have in order to move forward.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: What has changed in your consciousness and perspective in the two years since you wrote your article for The Atlantic?

Anne-Marie Slaughter: Anne-Marie SlaughterA couple of things have changed. When I wrote that article, I started out with the same question Sheryl Sandberg asked, which was, why are there not enough women at the top? Over time, I became increasingly convinced that that question was actually only one part of a two-part question, and it was very important to consider the two parts together. The other part of the question is, why are there so many women at the bottom? Rather than seeing a divide between privileged, elite women and poor women, I came to see those two questions as part of the same issue. It became increasingly evident to me that, in fact, the answer to both of those questions is that as a society, we don’t value care and care-giving. We say we do, but in reality, people who take time out of their careers to give care pay a real price for it. If you take time out from other kinds of work to give care, your career will be penalized. That’s why we see a huge drop-off in women on the leadership track during their child-bearing years.  And if you are the sole care-giver and bread-winner, supporting your family and giving care at the same time, you are much more likely to be at the bottom.

SF: It also affects people in the labor market.  Childcare workers are among the lowest paid people in our country. I say the closer you are to a diaper – at the beginning or end of life – the less you are valued in society.

AMS: That’s absolutely another dimension of this. If you’re doing care-giving work as paid work, you are neither well-paid nor well-respected.

This really shook me up as a feminist. I realized that I had been raised as a feminist, proudly, to think that the work my father did was much more important than the work my mother did. I thought that the way I was going to be somebody in the world was not to do what my mother did – she was a stay-at-home mother and later a superb artist — but primarily defined herself as a wife and a mother. It was obvious to me that I should want to be a professional, because that was “more important” than care work. Realizing this, I had to say, “Wait a minute – that can’t be true.” If men and women are really equal, then the kinds of work we’ve traditionally done has to be equal, too. It can’t just be that we’re equal as long as we all act like men. Most women of my generation, whatever they say, do not think a stay-at-home mom does work that is as important as being the CEO of a think tank, for example. It’s uncomfortable to admit, but that’s just not what we were raised with. And this recognition of the equal value of different kinds of work is not just important for women – it’s vital for men as well. In the end, we are going to need an equal number of people in the workplace and in the home, supporting different kinds of work. If a woman is a CEO, she’s going to need someone at home who is what I call the lead parent, or the flexible caregiver, depending on who is being cared for. The only way to achieve that is to truly value care-giving, and to value it when men do it as well as when women do it.

SF: Yes, absolutely. What have you discovered and what are you advocating for so that we as a society can truly value care-giving?

AMS: The first thing we need is to break this conversation open. When I wrote my article, there were a lot of women thinking, “Everybody just says make it work, do it all, have it all; I’m supposed to be able to be at the top in my career and be a caregiver, but actually, this is really hard, and no one wants to admit it.” Well, we broke that conversation open. I think similarly, we really have to have a conversation that exposes looming biases. Few people will say openly, “Well no, of course care-giving is not as important as being a professor, or a lawyer, or a factory worker, or anything else,” but that’s what they think. Instead, we have to bring that out and look at it. Taking care of children is investing in the human capital of the next generation. There’s actually nothing more important that we do as a society, and if we do it badly, we pay for it economically, socially, criminally, and morally, in the sense of wasted lives and potential.

SF: And we’re not doing well compared to other developed nations.

AMS: Absolutely. And taking care of elders is an affirmation of our common humanity – a recognition that we will all be there someday. As well as making people’s lives longer and better, it’s a basic commitment to human dignity. Skilled care-giving requires education and experience, and we have to recognize that it’s something we should be valuing every bit as much as we value lending money or drawing up a will.

Anne-Marie Slaughter was the Director of Policy Planning for the U.S. State Department under Hilary Clinton, and is now the President and CEO of The New America Foundation, a non-profit, non-partisan public policy institute addressing the next generation of challenges facing the U.S. New America is actively working on issues of bread-winning and care-giving (their more gender-neutral term for family and workforce topics) including cross-generational engagement through technology and the future of higher education after college to enable lifelong learning from multiple sources. Learn more at New America’s website. For more from Slaughter, follow her on Twitter @SlaughterAM.

Join Work and Life next Tuesday, June 3 at 7 pm on Sirius XM Channel 111 for conversations with Shannon Schuyler, Principal and Corporate Responsibility leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Liza Mundy, author of The Richer Sex: How the New Majority of Female Breadwinners is Transforming Our Culture. Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.

About the Author:

Liz Stiverson Liz Stiversonreceived her MBA from The Wharton School in 2014.

Marriages Now More Fair and More Passionate — Stephanie Coontz

Contributor: Liz Stiverson

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 (mind, body and spirit).

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with Stephanie Coontz, the Director of Research at the Council on Contemporary Families, and the author of seven books on marriage, family life, and male-female relationships, including her most recent A Strange Stirring: The Feminine Mystique and American Women at the Dawn of the 1960s. Friedman and Coontz spoke about the evolution of men’s and women’s roles and their expectations for parenthood, and the way progress on those fronts also presents new challenges.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation and a few questions for the reader, at the end, which we invite you to respond to in the comments section below:

Stew Friedman: What do you think about the recent research which found that people in their sixties and seventies are frustrated that their children are not having children of their own, which is creating tension in families and increasing pressures on the workplace to create environments in which people can have children while working, if that’s something they want?

Stephanie Coontz: Stephanie CoontzI think that’s an interesting example of a well-documented trend in international studies.  At a certain point after women enter the workforce in large numbers, the national fertility rate tends to drop. Social conservatives in the United States have suggested that if as a society we don’t make childcare easily available, women will be forced from the workplace and go back to having babies, but evidence suggests that the opposite is actually true.  When you make it harder for women to combine work and family, women don’t start families. If you want, as a society, to have more kids, you need to make it easier for women to combine work and family. Countries like France and Sweden are doing better in terms of maintaining fertility because they have instituted such polices.

SF: In Baby Bust, our study comparing Gen Xers and Millennials at the time they graduated from college, 20 years apart, we found that one of the main reasons young people today are less likely to plan or adopt children of their own is that they feel pressure to be fully engaged on the domestic front. They anticipate a greater conflict between their work and family lives, and therefore think, “I don’t see how I can do it, so I’m not going to try.”

SC: I think there are tremendous pressures that are further amplified by growing income inequality in our society. Historically, people wanted their career to be a competence. They didn’t want a fortune – they wanted something that would allow them to competently live their lives. There’s been a hollowing-out of jobs that allow you to have a comfortable life and still be secure; parents and even potential parents feel as though they have to engage in a competitive race to get ahead in the workplace and in life, and if they have kids, they also put pressure on themselves to constantly enrich their kids to give them the same competitive edge. That becomes a very wearing process.

SF: So you’re saying economic pressures have an influence on how parents approach the joys and challenges of rearing their children? That they might feel, because of economic insecurity, an obligation to produce a child who is going to be able to thrive in a competitive marketplace?

SC: People in the the upper middle class – people who are educated and looking forward to professional or managerial careers – have new options and opportunities now. There’s been a hollowing-out of the wage structure, and the advantage of being educated and in a professional job is much greater than it used to be. Less educated, less skilled workers have experienced drastically falling real wages over the last 30 years. But we’re also seeing increasing inequality not just between groups but within groups – for example, college confers a great benefit if you go to the right college and if things work out for you, but you can go to college and still fall behind. I think that leads to a lot of pressure for students who feel as though, “It’s not like I can get into an organization with a clear job ladder and know there will always be a place for me. I’ve got to be the best or I might be nothing.” I think this is a particularly intense problem in America, where there is a lack of a social safety net. Since the early 20th century, America has boasted more opportunities for individuals to buy things for themselves, but fewer opportunities for individuals to rely on public investment in spaces like hospitals and playgrounds. That trend has been accelerated and exacerbated even more within the last few years – there’s a frantic sense that, “If I don’t do this myself, I won’t have it at all.” Countries that have broader investment in healthcare systems and other social safety nets may have parents who feel less likely to hit the jackpot for themselves or their kids, but also less scared of losing everything.

SF: What’s your take on how the media is shaping notions of what family life is, and what it should be?

SC: Many people mourn the way media has motivated a change in values, but I think changes in values are complicated. I’ve been known to mutter things like “the fall of the Roman empire” when I catch glimpses of reality television, but on the other hand, you have to step back and understand that there are some ways in which our values have really improved since the 1950’s and 1960’s. We’re far less tolerant of racism and much more accepting of same-sex couples and women’s personhood. Some of the changes are surprising and seem on the surface to be contradictory – for example, we’re much more tolerant of a range of pre-marital and non-marital sexual behaviors than ever before, but we’re much less tolerant of infidelity and non-consensual sex than ever before. Since the 1970’s we’ve seen a rise in pornography and the glorification of violence, but the rates of rape and sexual assault have declined a stunning 68% since we started keeping accurate records. I think that’s attributed to the changing relationship between men and women – the more egalitarian power dynamic. Some of the things Millennials do are ruder than I’m used to, but on the other hand, a Millennial would never say, “Oh, here comes a cripple,” which was very common in the 1950’s and 1960’s, when people’s attitudes toward Jews, women, homosexuals, the disabled, and many other minorities were much less tolerant. One of the things that fascinates me as a historian is the notion of trade-offs. Almost every historical gain opens new challenges and problems in its place. For example, in my research on marriage, I find that when it works, marriage has become fairer, more intimate, and more passionate – it delivers more benefits to all members of the family than ever before in history. But the things that have allowed it to do so – for example, the fact that it’s a choice for both parties because women have other options and can set ground rules as equal partners – also create more points at which it can become unsatisfactory and break down. I think we see this in almost every element of life; some of the cultural problems we look at today are the flip-side of some important cultural gains we wouldn’t want to give up.

Coontz sees a link between the government’s provision of social services and young people’s plans to have children.  The decline of the one-job-for-life model has meant the rise of the many-careers-in-a-life model – should government support it?  Were your decisions about whether and when to have children – or, if you haven’t yet made those decisions, will they be – motivated by the growing range of choices available to your generation or by fear of not being able to fully commit to family life? Join us in the comments section below with your thoughts and experiences.

Join Work and Life Tuesday, May 6 at 7 pm on Sirius XM Channel 111 for conversations with Peter McGraw, Dir. Of the Humor Research Lab at the Univ. of Colorado and author of The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny, and Cali Yost, CEO and Founder of Flex+Strategy Group. Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.

About the Author

Liz StiversonLiz Stiverson is a 2014 MBA candidate at The Wharton School.