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Finding Career Purpose in Tragedy’s Aftermath — Chris Marvin

Contributor: Andrea Yeh

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

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with Chris Marvin, WG’11, Managing Director of Got Your 6.  He previously served as a US Army officer and Blackhawk helicopter pilot and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal.  After returning from combat, he has worked as an advocate for other veterans, notably as the Director of the Fellowship Program of The Mission Continues. Marvin earned an MBA from Wharton, where he was a student in Friedman’s Total Leadership course.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: As a wounded veteran, what was your experience like when you came home?

Chris Marvin: ChrisMarvinI was wounded in a helicopter crash near the Afghan-Pakistan border in 2004.  I was a platoon leader for an army aviation unit.  I was 25 years old, I had 25 soldiers and officers under my command, I was in charge of $25 million of equipment, and to top it all of, I was also in the 25th infantry division.

I broke both of my arms and my foot, damaged my face, knees, hips and shoulders.  When I came home, I was really struck by a few different things.  First, there are a lot of people willing to help.  I was very lucky that I had family that was very supportive, and the medical system was helpful to me during my four-year recovery.  About a year after my crash, I was going to my mailbox, and I pulled out an envelope that was addressed to me from a nonprofit I had never heard of.  Inside was a $500 check.  At the time I didn’t need the money.  These people didn’t know me and didn’t know whether I needed it or not, but they sent it anyway because they had my address and they knew I was wounded.

SF: They were trying to be helpful.

CM:  Yes, but to me, it felt like they assumed I was in need of charity or pity, and I didn’t feel that I needed that. I had a lot to live for and a lot to get back to and wanted to be challenged to continue my service and leadership.  So, I gave the $500 to a local food bank because I knew that the community—wounded veterans or not—needed that money more than I did, and it set me on a path.  I found that little spark that resided in me to help people. And I used that to help others understand that veterans, wounded veterans especially, are not always in need of charity.  A lot of times we just want to be challenged to continue our service here at home and to be part of something greater than ourselves.  I spent a lot of time working with other veterans and on the national network to help veterans re-instill that sense of purpose in their lives.

SF: Why was it important for you personally to be able to help other wounded veterans?

CM: We have a group of people who have chosen to serve in the military over the past decade or so.  If you think about it, these are a few million people that have raised their hands and volunteered to fight the longest war in the history of America. They’re predisposed to service in some way and they’re taught leadership skills funded by our taxpayer dollars, so they’re tax-subsidized leaders, if you will.   And when we come back and are out of our uniform, we don’t stop feeling predisposed for service and trained to be leaders.  We want to continue to do that.  The problem is that oftentimes Americans don’t expect us to do that.  They thank us for our service and expect that we’re done.  But for me, I was 25 years old, and I had a lot ahead of me.  I wasn’t done with anything; I had barely started anything.  For me, it was important to rediscover a sense of purpose, and I did it in a few different ways.  A couple of years after I received that check I discovered a nonprofit that was challenging wounded veterans to do service in their communities.  That nonprofit was called The Mission Continues, and I got in on the ground floor and led their fellowship program for a few years before I came to Wharton.

SF: Tell us a little more about your role in leading the fellowship program at The Mission Continues, which was co-founded by Eric Greitens, who was one of the subjects of my recent book, Leading the Life You WantHe was one of the six people I profiled, and you’re the one who introduced me to him.

CM: He’s a great leader and a great mentor.  I was in recovery and living at home in Hawaii.  They were just getting started and didn’t have a lot of funds.  We were giving out fellowships for wounded veterans to engage in volunteer service in their own communities.  We were able to do this for a few dozen people while I was there.  Since I left, they’ve really blossomed financially, and they’ve given out thousands of these fellowships.  They’re the leader in what we now call the veterans empowerment movement, which refers to these groups of nonprofits that aren’t treating veterans as charity cases but are instead asking them to step up and become leaders in their civilian communities.

SF: What led you to Wharton?

CM: I was lucky that because I was wounded, I was then exposed to people from the military community who are operating at a very high level like Eric Greitens or others who had served in the military and were making the transition to bigger and brighter things.  I thought that maybe business school would be a good for me.  I look back on these things, and they all stem from one incident, one event in my life, which was being wounded in combat.  It took me a long time to realize it, but that helicopter crash was a pivotal event and I came to understand the idea that something so tragic could also be something so beneficial.

SF: In Leading the Life You Want, I describe how great leaders find creative ways to use their experience, sometimes traumatic, to benefit others.  What did it take for you to convert that terrible experience into a transformative event that propelled you to a better life in some way?

CM: I don’t think there was a moment when I decided that I was going to change.  I think that was always in my mind.  Whether it was conscious or not, it was hard for me to admit it out loud.  There was one fatality in that helicopter crash, and you don’t ever want to say that that was the best thing that ever happened to me because that day wasn’t a good day.  It wasn’t about that day or about where the helicopter ended up or about the individuals that were injured and the one that died.  It was about every day beyond that day.  I think that it was always innate in me—even as I lay in that hospital bed—either get busy living or get busy dying.  You either give up or you don’t, and I never had any intention to give up even when I was still trapped in that helicopter before they extracted me from that aircraft.  While we often say that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, I don’t believe that’s how society tends to look at returning wounded veterans.  They often assume that we’re in a really bad place, but maybe for most of us who have been wounded—depending on our injuries—it could be and probably should be one of the better things or best things that’s happened to us, at least from the perspective of a formative experience that’s full of growth.

SF: What exactly did you have to do to be able to convert that experience into something of value in your future?

CM: I think one of the major lessons is the idea that in one moment everything I had to wake up for in the morning was gone.  Then the only thing I had to wake up for was my physical therapy.  So I focused on that for a while until that was no longer something that I needed to focus on all day every day.  And then you try to focus on something else.  The discovery is finding that sense of purpose, and I had a lot of things fill in the blanks before I found The Mission Continues.  I used to be the guy who played really conventional sports in high school—golf, basketball, baseball, and track—and I ran track in college.  But after my injuries, I couldn’t do almost any of those.  The one thing that I can’t do very well now is run and jump, which is very ironic for a college triple jumper.  But I started surfing and doing yoga, which are low impact.  I also learned Hawaiian; it was part of my experience of being there and being in that culture.  I took up these things to fill that time gap and that purpose gap. There were many things that I found to fill my time, of which the Mission Continues was not the least of them, in working with other veterans to find their purpose.

SF: So tell us about how Got Your 6 works.  What do you do, and how does it help?

CM: Got Your 6 is the endeavor to change the narrative in America about the veteran.  So you heard me tell the story about the $500 check and how I didn’t want to be treated with pity or with charity.  We think that those narratives are too prevalent in our culture.   We’ve done some great surveys asking Americans what sort of cultural perceptions of veterans are typical, and it’s two things: broken heroes.  It takes a measure of cognitive dissonance to believe that someone is both broken and heroic at the same time.  For us, those things are fine—we’re not telling anyone that they’re doing anything wrong—but at Got Your 6 we try to normalize the portrayal of veterans.  We specifically focus on the entertainment industry.

We have relationships with the major studios, networks, and agencies in Hollywood where we’re able to work with their content creators.  We help inform them about the breadth of veteran experience that they could be incorporating into their shows and films.  We show them that they don’t have to very heavy-handed about it.  It doesn’t have to be a veteran show about a veteran character with a veteran storyline.  The best example is Modern Family.  Ed O’Neill’s character is a small business owner, a patriarch, and a loveable guy who mentions every once in a while that he was in the Navy.  So he’s a normalized veteran.  He’s a lot of things, and he happens to be a veteran.

SF: That cues the watching audience that there’s a normal guy who’s doing normal things who is also a veteran.  How does that help returning veterans?

CM: I think what our society has done over the past decade or so is to exceptionalize veterans, whether it’s positively or negatively.  Our society has a notion that veterans are different and separate from civilians, and when you exceptionalize, by nature, you’re segregating—you’re pushing them outside of societal norms.  Our society has the conception that how a veteran will react to societal norms is different from how a civilian would, but it’s just not true.  One of the biggest things we joke about is how veterans are people too.  They’re mothers and fathers and husbands and wives, and they’re living the rest of their lives—usually the majority of their lives—after their military service.

SF: But they have had a unique experience, right?  So in some ways, that does make them exceptional.

CM: Not everyone’s had helicopter crashes.  In fact, less than half of the people who served in the military since 9/11 even went to combat.  That’s important, but all of us did maybe two things that were very similar: we all wore a uniform at some point, and we all received tax-subsidized leadership training.  So you as taxpayers have invested in this cohort of people by given us this training.  There’s no reason why you shouldn’t ask for a bit of a return on that investment. That is what we’re trying to promote and what the data support as well.  A lot of the problems that we hear anecdotally about veterans aren’t supported by the general cohort’s data.  Take, for example, unemployment.  Veterans have been more employed than civilians for around 102 of the last 105 months.  When people try to narrow it down and say that that young veterans are unemployed at a higher rate than all other people, perhaps they are, but that’s usually because they’re young or they’re job switchers or they’re taking some time off.  Usually it’s not because they’re veterans.

SF: There are a couple things that are in the news that I want to make sure that I get your take on.  American Sniper had a huge box office this past weekendYou have seen it; in fact, I understand that you prescreened it.  What’s your take?

CM: I was lucky to prescreen it and attend the premiere in New York, which was fantastic.  We at Got Your 6 think that for the most part American Sniper got it right for veterans.  That means a couple of things.  Veterans are really nitpicky about the technical details. Nobody in Hollywood is going to get it perfect, but as far as films go, this one got a lot of the technical details right.  To the degree that it is showing the American public what it might be like to be in Iraq or Afghanistan, I think it did a great job of that.

I think that what is really revealing for American Sniper was that when Chris Kyle, the character that Bradley Cooper plays, runs into a little bit of difficulty, he’s able to solve the difficulty by helping other people.  I think that’s a storyline that’s not always going to be worthy of the big screen but that we see over and over again in the veteran community.  Veterans who might be struggling and looking for that sense of purpose can often find it if they start helping other people.  That’s the language that you speak as a veteran and as a military member.  That’s why you do this in the first place.

SF: Part of the struggle is that his commitment is so overwhelming that it creates real tension in his marriage.  What did you think about that portrayal of work-family conflict?

CM: It’s a really tough nut to crack when you talk about some of the difficulties that families deal with when they’re separated. The military causes these separations and, in the last decade, on a more frequent basis for many.  About 4.3 million people have been in the military, and about 2.5 went to Iraq and Afghanistan.  That’s a large group of people who fought the longest war in the history of America.  It was an all-volunteer force, so this isn’t something that’s forced upon them and their families, but it doesn’t make it any easier to have mom or dad gone for six, nine, or even twelve months.  I think American Sniper deals with that well and deals with some of the reconciliation at the end, and that’s really important as well.

SF: To see their struggle and how they had to work through that tension was very powerful.  It seemed realistic to me, though perhaps a little soft around the edges.  We didn’t really get into the guts of the difficulties, but you saw the tension and the psychological disengagement that he continued to suffer.  He was so focused on the war even when he was back at home, so much so that he couldn’t be a part of his family’s life and that was a real struggle for him and for his wife.

CM: American Sniper did a really good job to show his desire to be back with his unit when he was at home and his desire to be with his family when he was with his unit overseas. This guy was at the top of his profession—he was one of the greatest American snipers. He’s really great at that, but he also wants to be a really great dad and husband too.  You can’t do both of those things at the exact same time.  They are in a way mutually exclusive.

SF: But he finds a way, over the course of his life, to create a kind of harmony.

CM: I think over the course of his life, he does, but not within the deployments.  Clint Eastwood and the team did a great job of showing the back and forth.

SF: You were at the White House today.  Can you tell us what’s on the horizon for Got Your 6 and what work you’re doing with the federal government?

CM: The big thing we’re able to do, because we work with nonprofits and the entertainment industry at the same time, is that we can bring the subject matter experts—the people who are working with veterans at nonprofits—to the content creators in Hollywood to help create some more true, real-life scenarios.  I hope in the future American Sniper and other films like Lone Survivor that have done it really well won’t be the exception.  They’ll be the norm.  And I hope we’ll have a part in doing this as well.

SF: So we’ll be hearing more from you.  What’s the key message that you want our listeners to take away from what Got Your 6 is all about?

CM: We want people to believe that veterans make America stronger and that veterans make America stronger when they come back to your community, your church, your school, your neighborhood, and your workplace.  The training that they’ve gotten, the leadership experience they’ve received, and some of the struggles that they’ve endured have made them stronger.  Instead of broken, we like to say battle-tested.  And I’ll leave one call to action for your audience.  The next time you’re with a veteran, and you want to say thank you for your service, please go ahead and do it, but promise to ask a second question or make a second comment as well.  Dive deeper into the conversation.  Don’t walk away after thanking them because I’ll just speak for all veterans and say that’s the part that we actually don’t like.  We want the second question.  We want you to ask something else and show us that you care a little bit about what we’ve done beyond the “Thank you for your service.”

To learn more about Chris Marvin and Got Your Six, please visit www.gotyour6.org, or follow on Twitter @GotYour6 or @ChrisMMarvin.

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

About the Author

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

What’s Your Work Style? — Carson Tate

Contributor: Arjan Singh

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 Carson Tate, a nationally recognized expert in workplace productivity and founder of Working Simply, a management consultancy focused on bringing productivity with passion back to the workplace. She’s the author of Work Simply: Embracing the Power of Your Personal Productivity Style.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: What did you see in the world of human resources that inspired Working Simply?

Carson Tate: Carson TateFolks were working really long hours and would not take time off from work on the weekends. When looking at senior leaders in an organization, they seemed dead. It was as if their souls had left their bodies. Looking back at that, it was a sign of extreme burnout, fatigue, and overwork. As I sat there with my first position out of college — wanting to be successful and climb the corporate ladder — I looked at the senior leaders and realized ‘I don’t want that.’ There had to be a better way to serve, add value, and contribute to an organization without burning myself and my team out.  So how could I start to simplify and help folks be more productive without the expense of self?

SF: And you thought that the general idea was a way to help people feel more alive?

CT: Absolutely.

SF: How did you do that?

CT: I didn’t have the courage to leave corporate America and start my own business until many years later. It wasn’t until a colleague that I had been coaching on the side used a system that I had developed, shared it with her organization and had tremendous success with it, that I told myself that I had to take the leap of faith and go out and help as many people as I could.

SF: So how did this lead you to grow to scale and bring the idea of working simply to other people?

CT: I started working with more folks individually. I started doing corporate training events and writing blogs and articles.  I eventually researched the way we think and how that informs the way we structure our workflow.

SF: What is it that you help people change that allows them to work simply and be more productive and at the same time more passionate?

CT: The first step is to understand the way you think and process information, which is called your cognitive style. Your cognitive style informs the way you communicate, the way you structure your environment, the way you organize your calendar, and it even informs other choices you make such as the clothing you wear. So, the first step is to align your thinking to the productivity tools that you use.

SF: Could you give us an example?

CT: There are four different thinking styles. One of the most common styles is called prioritizer.  The prioritizer is very analytical, factual, and linear.  Prioritizers tend to be left-brain thinkers. When a prioritizer thinks about structuring workflow, it is more about the highest value task. They often time how long it will take them to do their work so they can get additional efficiencies.  They tend to be early adopters of technology so the latest app is a tool that might work really well for them. When they know the way they think, it allows them to filter all the methodologies, systems, and tools that exist and hone in on those that are going to add the greatest value for them and that are also going to be easiest for them to implement and stick with.

SF: That seems like a really simple idea – to know what you’re style preferences are and then choose the tools that fit best with the way you operate. What are the other three styles?

CT: Other than the prioritizer, there is the planner, who is very organized and sequential. They are natural project planners and are always looking for structure and process. They often manage their to-do list very well. Then there is the arranger — their thinking is more intuitive and they are more kinesthetic.  They do their best work with and through people.  The tools that they use really matter to them from a productivity perspective.  They want a certain type of pen, a certain type of folder.  And then the fourth style is the visualizer.  Their thinking is characterized by very big picture – they are very innovative, they are the risk-takers, they synthesize ideas very well and they excel at brainstorming.  In terms of productivity tools, a mind map would be very useful for them.  A mind map is a great way to brainstorm on paper and connect any ideas. One draws a circle, puts a central idea in it, and radiating out from that central idea are any thoughts and ideas that one might have. It helps connects different ideas.

SF: I can imagine if you are a planner and you are using a mind map, you’ll run into trouble.

CT: Exactly. Some of the tensions that exist on teams are nothing more than our thinking styles clashing. The planner wants to create structure and process and the visualizer does not want the structure because he or she feels restricted, so that creates inherent tension.

SF: After one figures out his or her cognitive style, then what?

CT: Once you know your style, you select the tools that are best for you. If I am a prioritizer or linear thinker, I should choose more linear tools.  For instance, the task function in Outlook would work great for me. If I am more right-brained, I might use a white-board or colored post-it notes. But I am not going to try and fit into a tool or methodology that counters the way I think.

SF: Is there something that comes next in the process?

CT: What’s next is clarifying the Why. What is the intrinsic motivation? Why do you want to tame your inbox, for example? Why do you want to have more time? What is driving this desire to simplify? If I cannot help my clients tap into that deeper desire, then sustaining the change will be very difficult. We have to be anchored.

SF: What’s the most important thing you want our audience to take away?

CT: It is up to you to customize your productivity and push back against this one-size-fits-all mentality that is so pervasive in our culture. I want the listeners and readers to learn to own the way they think and to understand their natural strengths and preferences and then learn how to align tools to those preferences. Finally, it is about understanding what is driving you and answering the question Why does this matter?

SF: What holds people back?

CT: They haven’t connected and owned the question Why? They are dealing with extrinsic motivation and what other people expect of them.

Join Work and Life next Tuesday at 7 pm on Sirius XM Channel 111.  Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.
To learn more about Carson and her work, visit here.

About the Author

Arjan Singh Arjan Singh (2014_02_10 08_00_04 UTC)is an undergraduate junior at the Wharton School.

Projects, Not Jobs: Jody Miller, Business Talent Group

Contributor: Sathvik Ramanan

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

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with Jody Miller, the Co-Founder and CEO of the Business Talent Group, which teams up the world’s best independent professionals to provide consulting and project-based support to companies. Jody previously served in senior roles in business, government, media and law, and was deputy to David Gergen under President Bill Clinton and White House fellow under George H. W. Bush as well as mover and shaker at Time-Life, Lehman Brothers, and Americast. Before founding BTG, Ms. Miller was a venture partner with Maveron, the Seattle-based venture capital firm, from 2000 to 2007. Stew spoke with Jody about project-based work and other disruptions in she made to the otherwise standard career path.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: After going into venture capital, how did you get to where you are today?

Jody Miller: 625_Jody MillerI enjoyed venture capital but it’s still very different to be an investor than to be someone who’s really driving a business. I missed that.  And, at the same time, I was being sought out to do consulting projects because I knew a lot about interactive television from my experience at Americast. I started building teams, finding other independent professionals—many of whom worked at major consulting firms—and started helping clients who were coming to me solve their problems with these independent professionals. Before I knew it, I was one of the largest outside contractors to the Corporation of Public Broadcasting, doing a series of five projects all with different teams constructed of independent professionals.  What they were saying to me was Boy, this is really interesting and unique. No one else is really doing this.

SF: What was interesting and unique to them?

JM: One was that no one else was offering them this blend of former consultants with former executives. Number two was that it was actually producing a better result for them than just going to a classic consulting model.

SF: You mean it was less expensive?

JM: No, that was the third. But the actual result was better because what they ended up having were people who had deep knowledge about whatever it was that they were doing. So for example, one of the first projects we did was on education, helping them with an online education company they’d invested in. We brought in someone that had actually led an online education company and paired them with a former consultant and that combination produced a really magical result for the client.

SF: So you’re able to access talent that’s very specifically relevant for the project.

JM: Exactly.

SF: And most of the people that you connected to project work are not in the work of sales and creating the business, but rather they do the implementation. Is that right?

JM: Our projects can be very significant and involved, but a lot of the folks in this market want to think about the project itself. They want to think about the problems. They don’t want to just be responsible for overseeing, which is what happens in a lot of consulting firms where you rise to the top and your job becomes selling business rather than rolling up your sleeves and actually doing the work.

SF: What kinds of effects are you seeing in the talent-side of the equation in terms of people’s lives and how people are changed by this form of employment?

JM: It’s really interesting. We survey our talent pretty frequently, and they always say the same thing about why they’re doing this. Surprisingly, it’s not flexibility—that isn’t even in the top two. Most importantly, they want to choose what they work on and who they work for. They don’t want to be forced to work with people they don’t like.

SF: Well that’s a kind of flexibility; it’s just not about time.

JM: That’s true, but it’s fascinating. Psychologically, it’s also really interesting. Let’s just say there’s a great project available but with somebody who’s really not someone’s cup of tea. It’s a different mindset if you know its only going to be for this project and then you’re out of there.

SF: You think, I can put up with this jerk for another two weeks because this is a really cool project, and I’m excited about it.

JM: Exactly. I’ll put up with this guy or this woman for a bit, and then I’m out of here. That’s very different than if you’re in a permanent situation where you’re thinking I just can’t do this anymore. It frees you up in a way that I think is very liberating for people. Obviously, it’s also nice to be able to decide when you take on projects. I have a hypothesis that when this model really does become ubiquitous, the rate for summer work will be significantly higher than the rate for work during the school year. A lot of people want more time in the summer, and I think the market doesn’t adjust for that today, but it will someday.

SF: Interesting! So what other tips can you give to people who want to be successful in this new labor market? What do you think are the keys? You mentioned having the stomach for some uncertainty and being able to present yourself in terms of the work that’s relevant to the task at hand. What else is there?

JM: Staying current. You’ve got to have a sense of where the world is going and how you fit into it. If you need to supplement your existing skills, you need to know what those things you need are and how to get them. It requires a constant ability to understand where your skills are and where the market’s needs are, and then you get the skills you need to supply what’s most in demand.

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

To learn more about Jody Miller and her company, visit her web site www.businesstalentgroup.com or follow her on twitter @jodygmiller

About the Author

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

Out for Business – Rena Fried and Vivian Chung

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

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with current Wharton MBA students Rena Fried and Vivian Chung, a same-sex couple getting married this year. Rena is the co-President of Wharton Women in Business, following her employment at Business Council for Peace where she provided business consulting and training to entrepreneurs in Afghanistan and Rwanda. Prior to Wharton, Vivian spent 6 years working in principal investing and investment banking at the Macquarie Group and Goldman Sachs in New York. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of the National Queer Asian and Pacific Islander Alliance. Stew spoke with both women about the challenges facing the LGBT community in bringing their authentic selves to the workplace.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: The issue of “being out for business” vs. “covering” at work is something the LGBT community has had to deal with for a long time, as I discussed with Kenji Yoshino and Christie Smith on a previous show. Norms are changing rapidly but there is a huge cost personally and in terms of productivity that comes with having to invest energy into figuring out how to navigate with a heavy mask on. Vivian, what did you see as the costs when you were “covering” or “closeted” at work in your career on Wall Street?

Vivian Chung: Rena Fried Vivian ChungI think the main cost was not letting people understand what I was concerned about, what my interests were, and what I cared about. I spend a ton of my time working for LGBT communities in the non-profit space, but when I have to hide and say, “No, I have something later tonight,” “I have to run now,” and so on, people might think I’m wasting my time, getting my nails done, or going to the movies when really I am spending my time working on a cause I really care about. They don’t really get to see that side of me. Or, for example, if it’s my anniversary or Valentine’s Day, and I have to go to dinner tonight at 8, my boss might be pissed because he or she doesn’t understand why my leaving by 8 is so important. But I can’t really say I need to leave because it’s my second anniversary.

SF: So you had to cover.  Why should it matter to your boss that you had to come up with that excuse or find a way to make what you were doing seem urgent and normal?

VC: It’s hard to say exactly where and who it hurts the most, but I think it does impact my career and in some way prevent my achievement. When I am closeted, people don’t fully understand what I’m about, but they should understand what I’m about because they’re paying me to work for them.

SF: There’s also value that you are creating for them in the things that you do outside the office. A central idea in my work is how to capture value from one part of your life and bring it into another part of your life, so that what you do in your family, what you do in your community, and what you do in your private time can bring a positive impact in your business life. If you have to shut off all of that, then you can’t really bring it into your business in terms of reputation, building networks, and understanding different kinds of markets. There is a very real business cost to the work of having to disguise yourself.

How and why did you decide to come out?

VC: It’s a new time. If anyone googled me or looked on Facebook they’d easily see that I was on the board of several LGBT groups. Since the information was essentially public and since I realized that this really shouldn’t matter or be an issue for any organization that I’d want to work for, I made the decision not to hide who I really am.

SF: How does being out now affect your job search and the interviewing process?

Rena Fried: We look at what policies and regulations they have in place. We want to be in a place that has equal health care. We’re looking at living in San Francisco; California will recognize a marriage. And we look at culture, whether they have an LGBT Employee Resource Group (ERG), or, if it’s a smaller place, then is it a place where people have photos of their partners on their desks or talk opening about being gay. And it’s not just about LGBT issues, when I look at the Executive team, is it racially diverse, are there women in leadership? I wouldn’t want to work in a place where there isn’t diversity. I think that’s core to the success of a business.

SF: And for you, Vivian?

VC: It plays a role in my wanting to leave finance and go into tech. It’s friendlier.

SF: What can companies do? What are they doing?

VC: It’s an attitude of acceptance of difference. At my summer internship at Amazon, for example, there were badges on the internal Facebook pages for “quirkiness” which sends the message that you can come to work as yourself.  It indicates and builds a culture that allows people to be different. Whereas on Wall Street the dress code, for instance, is strict and narrow.

SF: It sounds like this was a culture that not only accepted but encouraged people to be themselves. What about the Wharton culture in terms of its openness to variation and diversity?

RF: One of the reasons we chose to come to Wharton was because of the LGBT community.  Wharton has, by far and away, one of the largest LGBT communities and one of the most vocal communities.  And not just the number of people that are in “Out For Business” – our LGBT group – but also Wharton has many more queer women than the other schools.

VC: The group has about 800 people – which includes “allies” – so it’s about half the school. Most in the group are allies, which means they support the LGBT community.  During Rainbow week we give everyone mini flags and it’s exciting to walk into a classroom and see so many flags, to see so many people are accepting and welcoming and has a visible sign to say that this is a welcoming classroom.  Little signs like that make a real difference.  Companies can initiate small things like this too to create a climate of acceptance.

SF: Rena, what do you see as you look to the next five to ten years of change in the social environment of this nation and of the world in terms of a broader embrace of diversity with respect to sexual orientation?

RF: The repeal of DOMA (The Defense of Marriage Act) and nationwide legislative action on gay marriage have been great steps in the right direction which have been meaningful for us

VC: I agree that policies can change somewhat quickly, but minds don’t change as quickly. There are a lot of prejudices that still exist, and I think it’s going to take a long time for a fair amount of prejudice to undo itself.

SF: What can our listeners do to help speed up the process? What advice would you have?

RF: On a day-to-day basis, the best thing that helps me as an LGBT-identified person is when other people speak out when they hear something that’s not right. Rather than leaving it to the LGBT person who is being targeted to speak up for themselves, folk who hear something discriminatory or rude or simply offensive could stand up and say this isn’t right and why it’s not right. That simple act can go a long way in reducing discrimination and prejudice.

To learn more about the leadership organizations Rena and Vivian are involved in, visit the websites of Wharton Women in Business and the National Queer Asian and Pacific Islander Alliance.

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.

 

Building a Mentoring Roundtable — Kathy Korman Frey

Contributor: Morgan Motzel

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

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with Kathy Korman Frey, Founder and Chief of the Hot Mommas Project and Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the George Washington University School of Business. The Hot Mommas (c) Project is home to the world’s largest library of women’s leadership case studies and is an award-winning organization that helps women achieve confidence and reach their potential for success. Frey also teaches Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership at the George Washington University School of Business where her course has won a National Excellence in Entrepreneurship Education Award.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: Kathy, I understand that you are doing a lot to provide examples of women leaders that other people can learn from and perhaps be inspired by.

Kathy Korman Frey: kathy korman freyThat’s absolutely right—access to role models and mentors is directly correlated to women’s career success, even in case study form.

SF: What exactly does Hot Momma’s do?

KKF: At first, we focused on the development of women’s leadership cases because a lot of folks were interested in ensuring that the stories of various women were told. We developed a software whereby women from all over the world could share their stories in a very specific format, hence the cases. Since then, our organization has grown to include classes that bring the concept of role models and mentors to life through workshops and a virtual campus model that we are launching next month.

We’ve done the classes many times in-person, and on a number of different campuses. The psychographic and demographic that usually come to us have very specific needs. We’re doing something a little different with our virtual campus model that will really meet their different needs in terms of accessibility and time-saving.

SF: How do the case studies actually help people? What evidence do you have that they actually make a difference?

KKF: We have our own research that we’ve developed, but there was also research which initially led us down this path. When I first started teaching women’s entrepreneurship at GW, I read a study that said exposure to role models and mentors, even in the form of case studies, was shown to increase self-efficacy in women. I learned that self-efficacy is like an action-oriented form of self-confidence. If confidence is feeling good about yourself, self-efficacy is sort of like that Rosie the Riveter picture—an “I can do it” feeling. It’s the confidence that you can act on your abilities or skills and that you can accomplish something. It’s really quite powerful.

SF: Of course.    And especially to the extent that a lack of self-efficacy is what can inhibit people, especially women, in a corporate setting there’s also something to be said for having a social environment that can reinforce self-efficacy and keep you accountable to the promises you make to yourself when the going gets tough.

KKF: That is key. Actually, that’s part of what we’re doing with our virtual campus. In our research, we actually found that there is an optimal number of mentors which is significantly related to people having more confidence and higher perceptions of success than their peers. Between those having four or fewer mentors and those with five or more, there was about a twenty percent difference in self-perceptions of success and confidence. People should think about finding a “table” of mentors, and how they might build that table of five or so people, not all at once, but over the course of the year.

SF: What are some of the critical criteria for putting together that personal board of directors—people who are going to hold you accountable, offer you support, and encourage you to take on the kind of challenge that make you feel good? How should you go about selecting those people?

KKF: The most important thing is making sure that these are people who actually have your best interests at heart. This is not a general admission concert, but a table of at least five very trusted advisors. It’s also important to clarify what this table is not. For example, when somebody gets an assignment like this from our workshop or in my class, there’s always someone who thinks, “Okay, I just need a mentor with a pulse to fill this spot and get the assignment over with.”

But what the table is really about is aligning each of these seats with your goals. Let’s say you have a goal to publish another book, and it’s a book in a totally new area, then you might fill that seat with somebody who is an expert in that area. Let’s say you want to do more online or you want to do more internationally—that could be another seat. Let’s say your work puts a lot of pressure on your family, then you could have a work-life balance seat. Maybe there’s some big personal project that you’ve abandoned in light of other responsibilities, then that’s going to be your fifth seat, thus filling two seats for personal concerns and three seats for business. Folks can choose to change it up however they want, as long as they make a point to not just find a warm body and really try to align those seats to their goals.

At the end of the day, this is one of many things women can do to support themselves and to support each other. We can’t move an entire aspect of policy and decades of history with a magic wand, but when we ask, “What can I do today?” this is something I could do today, and I could teach to all the women around me, too. At Hot Momma’s, that’s really what we try to focus on.

To learn more about Kathy Korman Frey’s work, visit her organization’s website at www.HotMommasProject.com and follow her on Twitter @ChiefHotMomma.

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

About the Author

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

The Leaking Pipeline in Architecture — Rosa Sheng

Contributor: Sathvik Ramanan

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

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

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

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

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

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

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

SF: So 50 minus 18 is 32.

RS: Yes, the magic number.

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

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

SF: You declined dinner with Steve jobs!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Author

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

How Majorities Can Help Minorities — Bill Proudman

Contributor: Andrea Yeh

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

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with Bill Proudman, founder and CEO of White Men as Full Diversity Partners.  As a leadership development consultant, coach, and facilitator to many organizations, Bill works to help men see that diversity in the workplace relates to them, too. He has also co-authored a three-volume field guide on white men in leadership and diversity partnerships.

Stew Friedman: Let’s talk a little about your background.  How did you get into advocating for men to be engaged in discussions about diversity in the workplace?

Bill Proudman:  bill proudmanMy background from forty years ago was in the Outward Bound movement—the outdoor adventure, personal growth realm.  I was engaging with people, observing what happens when we change our assumptions, and how that affects behavior and action.  Around the late ’80s, I had a learning experience that was profoundly transformative for me.  For the first time ever in my life, I realized that I was white, male, and, in my case, heterosexual.

I learned that was my group identity and that my membership in those groups had a bearing on how I viewed the world, how I walked through the world, what I expected not just of myself but of others, colleagues.

SF: Was there a particular incident that led you to this epiphany, or did it happen gradually?

BP: Well, there was the original epiphany at a two-hour workshop that I attended that opened the door to this set of identities and privileges that I, as a straight white man, never had to think about.

I recognized that, as a straight, white man, a lot of my own personal beliefs and values had come from my upbringing.  Where it really became crystalized was in the early ’90s when I was starting to do diversity work.  I was noticing a peculiar dynamic. When I was working with executive teams, anytime the issue of diversity came up, the white men in the team would always outsource the issue to anybody on the team who wasn’t a white male, so it would always be the white women, colored men or women, or out gay or lesbian person on the team.  All of a sudden, they were anointed as the diversity guru.  This was very unconscious and very well-intended on their parts, but basically what it did was to create the dynamic where they never spoke about the topic white male to white male.

SF: So while the intention was to perhaps give voice and power to the minority group representative, it was in fact making it worse for him or her?

BP: It’s a complicated issue.  For example, many companies put together diversity councils.  When I would go work with those councils, I would meet with some of the white men on those councils.  Invariably, they would introduce themselves as the “token white guy” on the council.  Behind this word “token” was the notion that “I know that diversity is about all of us, but really I’m just here.  I don’t know anything, but I’m learning a lot because I’m having great conversations about these issues with colleagues who are, of course, the experts.”  So, a big part of my work is to emphasize that diversity inclusion is, from a leadership standpoint, everybody’s issue.  When we white men outsource the issue to others, we actually abdicate some of our responsibility in creating a more inclusive environment.

SF: So one of the keys to making white men into full diversity partners is to not delegate away the responsibility for leading that effort.  Is that right?

BP: Exactly.  In the United States right now if you think of Chief Diversity Officers of Fortune 500 companies, I know of two who were straight white men, and one of the guys retired.   Those roles are almost always held by white women, men and women of color, or gays or lesbians because of this pervasive societal notion that those are the people who are best able to coach, mentor, and support organizations on the topic of diversity and inclusion.  In some ways, this lets white men off the hook.

SF: But it seems to me that the other side of what you’re proposing is that if you didn’t have a representative from the minority group in the Chief Diversity Officer slot, it would seem like a different kind of problem.  How can you have a privileged white man who doesn’t understand his own unconscious bias leading the effort for diversity in our organization?  It doesn’t seem right.

BP: Exactly, it’s a Catch 22. The role of the Chief Diversity Officer is to act as a partner and help business leaders be accountable on this issue much in the same way that they’re accountable for safety, manufacturing, or other business metrics.  So this should not be outsourced to a particular department.  But if a large part of the population does not think that this issue is about them and their groupit can create really challenging difficulties at the personal and organizational levels for people who happen to be female and the first VP or SVP.   She is not just operating on her own merits.  She cannot fail because she would let down all the other women.  In other words, when you and I [older white men] get promoted, we can wash out of a position.  If I fail, no one looks at you and says, “You know what happens.  It’s another one of those white guys.”  A woman or a person of color who washes out of a very senior position can create enormous ramifications on others of the group.  As a white man, I have the privilege of being seen as an individual.  No one confuses me with all the other white men.

SF: So you are saying that women and minorities who rise through the ceilings that they have to break through carry a special weight because they are representing, right?

BP: Absolutely.  I’m not representing anyone in those situations other than myself, so it lets me more easily be more of who I am.  I’m not even conscious of this 99 percent of the time, and other white men are not either.  And for those women and people of color, it shouldn’t be a deal breaker for them either. But a woman who’s new to a role may believe that she can’t fail because she has to prove that she didn’t get the job simply because she’s female and someone wanted to score some points on their diversity scorecard.  Those of us that are white and male are generally free of that pressure.  It doesn’t mean that our work lives aren’t challenging and stressful at times, but it’s certainly not about who we represent.

SF: So what are the keys to creating the social and cultural context for there to be true partnerships where all parties are engaged collaboratively in the struggle to create an equal playing field that is truly inclusive?

BP: That’s a great question.   Catalyst, the New York-based global corporation that for fifty years has been looking at research of women in the corporate environment, did a study a couple years back and found three large barriers for men who are visible champions around gender equity: apathy, fear, and ignorance.  Apathy was rooted in the notion that if I and other men think about diversity as everyone else’s issue other than mine, I can be a pretty good short-term champion about trying to create good environments for those historically marginalized groups, but ultimately long-term I have to really understand my personal self-interest in creating a more equitable environment.  So apathy is one barrier.

Another one is fear.  For a lot of men in the US, we have a fear of making mistakes, and that’s certainly very prevalent these days.  In any given month, there’s something in the popular media about some notable figure, some politician, or some celebrity who’s made a faux pas, and all of this magnifies this idea for men of having to be perfect and not making any mistakes. We’ve got the privilege of being silent.  Nobody thinks badly if we don’t raise our voices.

And, lastly, ignorance can be real or perceived—it doesn’t matter.  The fact is that I don’t know that I don’t know.   Being part of this group, I’m sort of this fish in water.  I’m in a culture, that is, the water that I swim in, where I almost never have to leave, and because I never have to leave it, I don’t even know that I’m in water.

SF: Some people refer to this as unconscious bias, and note there are things that we can do about it.  What have you been doing in your work?  Are your workshops integrated, or are they for white men only?

BP: We do some of both.  Because historically white men have always learned about diversity from people other than white men, in 1997 we started a white male only learning experience where it was with white men learning with and from white men debunk the myths that we don’t know anything about the topic and, more importantly, that we don’t think that we can learn anything about inclusion from other white men.

SF: What was the reaction to that?  I can imagine there being all kinds of resistance to the idea of an exclusive white male club for dealing with the question of diversity.  It seems somewhat paradoxical.

BP: I read an article called “White Men and Diversity: An Oxymoron” that was exactly about that topic.  It’s that notion that “You’ve got to be kidding me.  It’s a group of white men.  That’s not very inclusive or diverse.”  But that’s what happened in 1997, and it’s still very much alive today.  We just did a workshop last summer in Portland, Oregon, where our company resides, with the mayor, the police chief, and the police commanders for the police bureau, and it was a white male only session.  Even though Portland has a fairly socially progressive label for itself, there were a lot of comments in the public discourse.  Media outlets here said that the mayor had lost his mind because it’s not a normalized notion.  For forty years or more, we’ve learned everything about difference from these marginalized groups.  The purpose of white male-only learning is to reframe and reset how men, and white men in particular, come to learn this.  One of the great benefits of this work is not just how I relate to other white guys but also how I reframe my relationship with white women and people of color.

SF: So how does that work?  Give us a snapshot of what actually happens in the white male-only groups that transforms the conversation and the mindset.

BP: I love to tell a story about one of our longtime clients.  He’s the Senior Vice President running a North American marketing organization for a global company.  His name is Lee.  .  Until this work, Lee, like most people in the US, believed that he didn’t see race and gender.  He aimed to treat everybody the same.  Through this work, he learned that maybe some other people in the organization were having a different experience.  Out of curiosity, he went to an African-American colleague he had known for 25 years who was three or four layers down in the organization from him, and he asked him if he would be willing to talk to him about what it was like as a black man working in the company.  This black gentleman was a little taken aback because that’s not a normal conversation to have, even with somebody he’s known for 25 years.  But they negotiated that boundary, and this gentleman shared something with Lee for the first time ever.  He said, “Lee, something I’ve heard you say for 25 years is that you expect people who report to you to manage down, across, and up, and I’ve really struggled with that.   I think my career is really stalled.  I’ve never thought about this before, but I realized that, when I grew up in Georgia in the ’60s, my father and the other black men and women in my life told me not to look white men in the eye because to do that would be a threat to my physical well-being, if not my life.  I’ve never thought about this until now, but I think that I’ve carried this into the workplace.  I think it’s a residue of something that happened a long time ago.”  Lee was stunned, and he asked, “What, if anything, do you want me to do about that?”  And the black man said, “I’m not sure, but just being able to talk about it out loud with you and not being told to stop whining or to just get over it or that I was just playing a race card was comforting.”  So the two agreed that they would continue talking. It was important just to be heard.

To learn more about Bill Proudman and his work, read his blog posts for White Men as Full Diversity Partners or MARC (Men Advocating Real Change), an initiative of Catalyst.

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

About the Author

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

More Money, More Problems — Scott Schieman

Contributor: Morgan Motzel

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

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with Scott Schieman, a Canada Research Chair and Professor in the sociology department at the University of Toronto. His research focuses on the social psychology of inequality, with a special emphasis on work and stress in the work-family interface. He is currently leading a national study of over 6,000 Canadian workers to understand the factors that contribute to stress across a broad sample of the working population.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: Tell us about your research, Scott—give us the headline on what it is that you’ve been working on with respect to stress and status.

Scott Schieman: scott scheimanIt all started back in 2004 when I became really interested in emotional inequality in the population.

SF: Let’s define that phrase first. Emotional inequality—what is that?

SS: From a sociology and mental health perspective, emotional inequality refers to the ways that the classic features of distress, such as anxiety, depression, and anger, are distributed in the population. Rather than being randomly distributed out there, we’ve observed that it is socially patterned, and that it is very often linked to the way we organize our lives and our social roles within work, family, elements of the community, and so forth. Emotional inequality means that not everybody experiences stress in the same way; it is an exploration of the patterns associated with those feelings. In some ways, it’s a social epidemiology for everyday stress.

SF: And how stress is associated with social roles?

SS: Looking at the key social roles is really the crux of my research—those are the roles that put demands on us and that give us the resources to deal with those demands.

SF: For example, what are those critical roles?

SS: A classic one is overwork, including long hours, excessive pressure, twelve hours of work and eight hours to do it. On the flip side of that, family-related responsibilities, such as caring for young children and caring for elder parents, can be big drivers as well. The competing pressures and demands in those roles, and how people cope with them, is what I’m most interested in.

SF: You were talking about how you got interested in this topic. Tell us more about that story.

SS: I was particularly interested in this idea of the stress of higher status. I made a discovery where I found one particular stressor seemed to occur more as you moved up in certain indicators of status (education, job security, income, etc.), and that stressor was work-family conflict. Sociologists and public health specialists often talk about how stressors tend to hurt people who are clustered in the lower rungs of the socioeconomic ladder. For some drivers, that’s definitely true—noxious work, economic hardship, etc. But what I started observing was that as people crept up the socioeconomic ladder, certain stressors in particular—job pressure and work-family conflict—were amplified.

SF: So you found those were increased in those with high status?

SS: Not necessarily just those with high status. I’m not just talking about how people at the top have it—people who we might call the 1%. We actually find that even when you move from no job authority to some job authority, there’s a tick up in particular stressors. Now that’s not to say people would or should give up those higher positions. It’s the same thing with income. If you look at income differences, where you really see a blip up in stress is right around the $50,000 to $70,000 mark of personal annual income. They’re not necessarily just coping with their stress—you could argue they have more stress, but they also have more resources to deal with it.

SF: They have more stress and more work-to-family conflict…

SS: Right, and there’s an assumption that that’s okay because they can deal with it more money.

SF: That if you have the resources to handle it, then it’s okay?

SS: Correct. But that’s not what we’re seeing in the data. What we are seeing seems to be more money, more problems—at least to some degree.

SF: In terms of how the stressors play out, what are you seeing in the outcomes for people’s lives and how it affects them on a daily basis?

SS: First, you see a lot of problems with sleep, which we’re currently exploring—people cutting back on sleep, people not getting as much sleep as they’d like to, the quality of sleep being harmed. The stress of higher status also plays out in things like life satisfaction, where instead of saying, “I’m very satisfied with life,” it just brings it down a notch to “I’m somewhat satisfied.”

In other words, it seems that, were it not for the stressors, they’d actually feel more satisfied and happier. They’d have fewer symptoms of anxiety. They’d describe the quality of their time with their kids as richer. It’s almost as if you could imagine a slight dampening on how people feel.

SF: So the higher the status, the worse the life circumstances in terms of feelings of stress and strain?

SS: Not the worse necessarily, but if you could imagine that all other things were equal, there seems to be a dampening in quality of life. People aren’t worse off, but they’re not as healthy or happy as they could be. That’s what I mean by emotional inequality. Often the discussion can focus on the rich and the poor. In my research, I look at what happens in the middle or middle-upper range. It’s like the classic “middle squeeze” tracing the lines as to how that plays out for health and well-being. The takeaway point is that these things detract from what could be a better quality of life through the middle and middle-upper social classes.

SF: “These things” being more hours, more interpersonal conflict…?

SS: Sure, and being overworked, having more responsibilities… Being held responsible for things out of your control certainly ticks up. These seem to be smaller things where people wouldn’t trade in those higher status positions to eliminate them, but they become an associated cost.

SF: So you might say complexity breeds stress and strain, which spill over into family life. How do you study and measure these things? What are you looking at to assess work-to-family conflict, for example?

SS: In Canada, we took a large, random, national sample across all occupations and sectors and looked at various dimensions of their work. Dimensions included work autonomy, schedule control, flexibility, challenging work, and complexity of work, but then also the pressures, the hours, being required to work overtime with little advance notice, etc. We’re not just looking at specific occupations and status, but at what it is about their work that would be related to psychological functioning and what might be causing problems or stress in the work/family or even the work/non-work interface, which would include things like friendships, leisure, and community engagement, for example.

We’ve also done in-depth qualitative interviews with about 65 individuals from dual-earner families and with kids younger than 18 at five different times points over the next decade to measure changes. We’re asking them about multitasking, doing work-related and family-related activities at home, who’s doing it, why they’re doing it, and how they think their family feels about it.

SF: Tell us! What are people saying?

SS: In a nutshell, it seems as though when women do more paid work hours at home they’re significantly more likely to engage in work-family multitasking. The implication is that you’re not in either role fully. A lot of people will talk about how good that is—they need to do that—and the reason they say they need to do that is because there are too many pressures and work that are spilling over.

SF: Right, so at least this way they stay connected and engaged and responsive to the work demands. But, it sounds like there’s a “but” coming…

SS: There’s a big “but” coming. It often makes people feel guilty, especially women, for not really being fully engaged and fully attentive. A huge issue related to this, for men and women, is the sending and receiving of work-related communications after whatever people define as “work hours.” That gets people into trouble. We’ve heard stories in the qualitative data of marriages having problems with this behavior.

SF: You can be physically present and psychologically absent, and that’s the critical nature of quality connection: being attentive with your mind as well as being physically in the same space.

SS: People will assert that they are in control and that they are deciding this for themselves. We sometimes ask, “Are you sure you’re in control?” if you feel like you need to respond to that email at 9 p.m. on a Sunday night when you could be doing something else with your family. “Can it really not wait until Monday morning?” We try to engage in that dialogue in our interviews with the families.

SF: How do you attain that sense of control and pursue the things that matter to you? How can you be helpful to the people that matter when they need you? You’re saying that people will assert that they have control, but they are really just rationalizing?

SS: To some extent, yes. You hear people say, “It’s my decision—I am on vacation, but I’m going to go to Starbucks and check my email for a couple of hours.” But in those moments, they’re not on vacation. You’ll hear people say that they need to do it just to check in and make sure everything is okay. Except there’s evidence that suggests being fully disengaged and taking breaks does ultimately improve your productivity. And really, what’s the worst thing that could happen if it waited until you got back from vacation? Those are the kinds of the things we confront when we probe our interviewees which helps them see that maybe they’re not in control.

On vacations, especially around the holidays, what ends up hurting people a lot are unclear expectations. In times when you’re going to be particularly stressed, it’s important to decide when it will be okay to ease off. One of the things that comes out of our research in Canada has been that when people have clear, open communication with their supervisors about those kinds of boundaries including hours and expectations with respect to workloads, those direct conversations really pay off. A lot of people find that they are afraid of drifting away from the norm of the ideal worker of seeming always eager and ready to work at a moment’s notice.

SF: I’ve found that most people have a lot to gain from asking what they should expect. It’s so important to clarify expectations in order to convey to other people that you respect what they have to say—that you’ve thought about it and that it matters to you—and it gives them a chance to correct you, showing them that you’re willing to be wrong. That conversation can save a lot of pain and angst.

You can find out more about Scott’s work on his website.  Follow Scott on Twitter @ScottSchiemanUT.

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

About the Author

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

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

Contributor: Andrea Yeh

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

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

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SF: So tell us; what did they say?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Author

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

 

 

When Flexible Schedules Hurt — Dan Clawsen and Naomi Gerstel

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 Dan Clawson and Naomi Gerstel from the Sociology Department at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. They’re co-authors of Unequal Time: Gender, Class and Family in Employment Schedules and they spoke about the problem with flexible schedules at work.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: What are the pernicious problems of flex-time that have you two discovered in your research?

Dan Clawson: The rhetoric and the practice is that flexible schedules will liberate us. But many employers have appropriated the language of flexibility and changed it around. Increasingly what flexibility means is that workers come in whenever the employer wants them to and are sent home when demand is slack.  It’s putting employers’ demands first. And if that’s what flexibility means, then workers aren’t very happy with it.

SF: It’s flexibility for whom, right? And if it’s not for the employee, then what’s the point?

DC: For an employer you’re paying only for those hours that you most need the workers and any time that you don’t need them, you send them home.

SF: So that means less control and predictability for employees.

Naomi Gerstel: It turns out that there are a lot of employees in these circumstances: young, old, salaried, working class, women, men.  Unpredictable hours are growing and they’re very painful for people.  And not only painful in the workplace but also outside. If they have children or elderly parents that they care or other family or personal obligations, it makes it hard.

SF: How extensive is flexibility solely at the behest of the employer? How widespread is this problem? And is this part of a pattern of change over the last decade or so?

NG: We don’t have data over time, but we do know that the economy is changing now. There’s technological development and changing views of workers that means that employers are increasingly staffing lean so that enforce these unpredictable hours. And we know that there are changes in families which are themselves sources of increasing unpredictability. There are more single mothers, there are more dual-earner couples, so there’s lots of reasons to believe that it’s increasing. People have just begun to collect data that show that it’s a very common problem.

SF: You mentioned that it’s not just people at the low end of the wage spectrum. How is this affecting people at the high end of the economic ladder?

DC: We interviewed one doctor and when we asked him how often he had to unpredictably had to stay late he responded, “Every night, according to my family.”  And we found that in a high end nursing home with a stable number of residents, one out of every three shifts was one that had not been scheduled in advance. So there’s a high level of unpredictability across the spectrum.

SF: And this, of course, wreaks havoc on schedules at home. What have you observed about the impact of unpredictable hours at work on workers’ families – stability, health, relationships?

NG: The effect on families depend on the economic position of the worker. Among professionals, like doctors, a very high proportion of them, men who work very long hours tend to have wives who are home or who work part-time.  They can pick up the slack when they don’t show up or can’t show up because they’re working for pay. And with nurses we see the reverse pattern. The nurses are insisting that the organizations allow them to take time to take care of their families. And they’re able to do that because nurses are in short supply. We did hundreds of interviews with nurses, doctors, nursing assistants, and emergency medical technicians and one nurse manager said to us, “You know, they’re always FMLA’ing us.” FMLA is the Family and Medical Leave Act and she talked about how so many of the nurses knew about the FMLA and took advantage of it which was rarely true for the less well paid, less well educated nursing assistants.

SF: So, it’s partly a matter of knowing your rights. So how can we help educate people about the protections that are offered, even though they are still so much smaller than those offered in other developed countries?

NG: That’s an understatement. There aren’t a lot of protections in this country! The only one is the FMLA at the moment.  But in some states paid leave is beginning to appear. But we have found that most people don’t use it or they aren’t allowed to use it especially as you move down the class structure. They don’t know about it, they don’t use it, and they’re not allowed to use it. The law is broken all the time.

SF: In the medical profession?

NG: Both in the study reported in our book, Unequal Time, but also in the national study more generally.

DC: At the nursing home where we got the records of who worked when in a 6 month period, there was only one day over that entire 6 months that was charged to a Family and Medical Leave Act. The policy at this nursing home – they had 6 paid sick days per year – was that the 1st time that somebody called out they were given a verbal warning, the 2nd time a written warning, the 3rd time a stronger written warning and the 4th time they were fired. Few states have legal protections. The clock re-set every 90 days so the director of nursing didn’t think the policy was strict enough. But that meant that if you were a single mother with two kids and something was going around and first one kid got it and then a week later the other kid got it and then a week later you got it, then if anybody was sick in the next 2 ½ months you’d be fired.

SF: Where are we going as a nation with work/life policies and practices? Is there any reason for hope?

NG: That’s a very good and a very hard question. There’s certainly a fair amount of movement, activism, to create more predictable schedules, to offer people leaves and paid leaves.  But the country is increasingly moving away from helping those who have less. We talk a lot about the growing wealth inequality but we what we worry about is that the growing time inequality is accompanying that wealth inequality. So that time, like wealth, is becoming a perk of the few. That’s the fear.

DC: All of that is absolutely true and that’s the main dynamic. But the counter movement is that at the state level and at the city level we have seen places pass laws that guarantee everybody the right to get paid sick days (or unpaid sick days depending on the size of the employer). And we have also increasingly seen movements to provide paid family leave.

NG: San Francisco just passed a bill that requires businesses to set schedules two weeks in advance so there are all sorts of movements to try to provide leaves and predictability. So it’s not as though it’s been only backward motion, but so far the gains have been relatively small.

SF:  The title of your new book is Unequal Time: Gender, Class and Family in Employment Schedules, so how does gender factor into unequal time?

NG: Gender interacts with class. Among those who are relatively well-off, the doctors and nurses, they tend to “do gender” in fairly conventional ways. Men do relatively little family work; their spouses and sometimes their nannies do it for them. And female nurses are the reverse, they tend to care of families.  But when we turn to low wage workers whether women or men we see that they “undo gender.” Sometimes this is because they have no other choice because the wife (the certified nursing assistant) becomes the primary breadwinner. And with working class men, the emergency medical technicians, tend to do far more of the work of the home than do professional men.

SF: How do you explain that?

DC: They don’t have a choice. The male doctors are earning 87% of their household’s income. For the emergency medical technicians it’s a much lower percentage and a much higher percentage of their wives are working and are working full-time so they need that income.  It’s not something they can do without and therefore they need to juggle childcare.

NG: Often their wives, who make a fairly high proportion of the family income, insist that they do.

SF: So the more equal the income contribution of partners the more likely it is that they’ll have egalitarian gender roles at home?

NG: Yes, but that’s only part of the story because the [female] nurses tend to earn a relatively high proportion of the family income and in a fair number of cases, more than their husbands. And yet they still do more of the domestic labor.  So, it’s both money and culture that shape what people do.

SF: Again, what pattern do you see over time and what do you anticipate in the future?

DC: I think there’s much more awareness of the issue now than there was when we began working on this book. But there isn’t yet a kind of unified awareness or language. It’s analogous to when, in the 1960’s Betty Friedan wrote that there was “a problem with no name.” Union negotiators, for instance, told us the negotiations would be boring and technical. And the technical turned out to be about unpredictable schedules.  There wasn’t yet an awareness of this as a problem among unions, of the connections between vacations and over-time, and being sent home unexpectedly. I think this consciousness is developing.  There are many more news articles about it.  The question is whether this growing awareness will grow into a movement to make real changes with respect to the importance of predictable schedules for our families.

NG: People have a tendency to think about their hours that there’s something wrong with them that they can’t keep control over their time. What we’re trying to show is that this isn’t simply a personal issue, that it’s a social and political issue.  As people start to understand that it’s politics and structures and that countries elsewhere do it differently they can start to fight for the right to control their time and the right to have a life outside work.

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.

 

 

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