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blogging on high-commitment workplaces

An Organizing Dad

I’m a Dad. Even three years and two kids later, defining myself in that way still seems somewhat surreal.

I’m also a Community Organizer.  I have been for 13 years… and believe me that’s often very surreal as well.

You see, the life of an Organizer isn’t like most. You are seen as a community resource, on call 24-7, traveling to and fro, reacting to the latest news, rallying the tired masses, dealing with setbacks, navigating the highs and lows, so on and so forth. Hmm, wait that’s sort of like being a … Dad!

As I think about this Father’s Day, the fact is that my life as a working, organizing, advocating Dad meshes together in some strange and fascinating ways. It’s a balancing act and I often fall down, but with love and support from my family and flexibility and understanding from my employer I’m making it work.

Supporting LGBT Workers and Their Families in Times of Need

Every day, LGBT Americans face unexpected emergencies or life events requiring their care and attention—a worker comes down with the flu, a child is born, an adoption is finalized, a sick child is sent home from school, an elderly loved one is hospitalized. Many LGBT workers learn at these critical moments that their employers provide little or no time off and fail to recognize their families. This lack of support and recognition can have devastating consequences for LGBT working families. Due to high rates of poverty and health disparities in the LGBT community, LGBT workers urgently need laws that guarantee paid leave for health and family needs.

Fathers on Family Leave Blog Carnival

Father’s Day is a great time to reflect on the joys, struggles, challenges and epiphanies that come with fatherhood. I’m honored to introduce this MomsRising.org Blog Carnival that focuses on the early days of fatherhood – Fathers on Family Leave, with revealing stories from dads about their introduction to fatherhood.

Like me, there are other fathers for whom the arrival of their children was revelation to the important demands of child care. However, I had the privilege of paid family leave – a privilege that seems to bestowed by chance in this country. Based on data the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 11 % of private firm workers and 16% of state and local government employees have access to any paid family leave at all. Only 40 % of workers have access to unpaid, job-protected leave, but many can’t afford to take time away from work without pay, and far far too many parents struggle with absolutely no job-protected leave, paid or unpaid. To be in this in an even more apparent context, the U.S. remains the only industrialized country without a paid family leave policy.

The Evolving Role of Men Regarding Work and Family Leave

In addition to the individual stories being shared for the Father’s Day blog festival for MomsRising.org, I wanted to provide an overall discussion of the rapidly changing role of men in this discussion around a workplace supportive of employees and their family responsibilities. Often when there is excellent discourse around the role of working mothers in the workplace and the ways that corporations can fully support this segment of the work force, so often the men who are also now taking an increasing role in family life are forgotten.

As a long time diversity professional and consultant, I would like to make some observations and assertions:

1. Over the past few decades, men have taken an increasing level of participation in family responsibilities. This can include attending children’s events, handling children’s emergencies and even staying home with small children. In addition men are taking on a more active role of caring for aging parents.

Family leave and self-employment

I just watched my three year old “graduate” from her first year of preschool. It was a cute ceremony, and the room was filled with parents that sat in long rows with their cameras trained on the kids up front. But it’s also 11am on a Friday, and that means I was one of the only dads in the room.

There were several moms who couldn’t make it, too. Most parents have to do what their jobs demand. But seven years ago my wife and I began to arrange our careers in a way that would let us both be present for the important moments in our (future) kids lives. When we decided to start our photography business, a lot of people asked why we didn’t want to wait a few years for us to be more established financially. In part, the answer was that I wouldn’t let myself take such a big risk while having kids to feed. I wanted the business itself to be more established by the time we did have kids, because one of the main reasons we started the business in the first place was to be able to parent on our own terms.

Pay Gap Deniers

Steve Tobak, a Silicon Valley consultant, reassured his Fox Business audience that “The Gender Pay Gap is a Myth,” recycling a 2009 report commissioned by the Bush Department of Labor arguing that women’s choices, not discrimination, account for the wage gap between men and women.

Next week is the anniversary of the signing of the Equal Pay Act. Is it time to declare victory? The standard pay gap measure, which greatly exaggerates women’s economic equality, is that women now earn 77 cents for each dollar earned by men. Maybe so, argue Pay Gap Deniers, but that’s due to women’s choices, not to gender discrimination.

Why Men Work So Many Hours

How many employed American mothers work more than 50 hours a week? Go on, guess. I’ve been asking lots of people that question lately. Most guess around 50 percent.

The truth is nine percent.

Nine percent of working moms clock more than 50 hours a week during the key years of career advancement: ages 25 to 44. If we limit the sample to mothers with at least a college degree, the number rises only slightly, to 13.9 percent. (These statistics came from special tabulations of data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2011 American Community Survey.)

Why We Lean Back

All right. I read it. The book that everyone, including my hero, Jon Stewart, has been talking about. So many reviews have been written about this book, that people have resorted to writing reviews of the reviews. The hype has been so incredibly, hyper—The Time story! The 60 Minutes piece! The banner ads! The web community!—that I was ready to harbor a deep dislike for this book. But that did not happen. At the risk of giving you Sheryl Sandberg fatigue, here are my thoughts, good and bad, on Lean In.

Let’s Lean In to Updating our Work Culture!

Sheryl Sandburg’s new book Lean In puts a spotlight on the shortage of women leaders in the work force. She underscores that motherhood is a time when many women get side tracked from their careers. She advises young women to “lean in” in order to stay on track, move up the hierarchy, and become leaders. Women who step back when they anticipate motherhood or are sidelined when they become pregnant are falling off the top career tracks.

At MomsRising, we celebrate mothers in leadership and value leaders like Sheryl who encourage and mentor other women to lead. This said, leaning in is not always possible, especially when work policies make it more challenging rather than less to meet responsibilities both at work and at home.

Lean In to What, Exactly?

Not to flatter myself, but I am exactly who Sheryl Sandberg had in mind when she decided to write Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. Thirty-five, married, mother of two young (but not too young) children, MBA who has worked consistently in one high-status industry for over a decade, and who is grappling with the next steps in her career. I’ve even got her name. And I am completely ready and willing to take in Sandberg’s advice, because I know I’m on the precipice of something. Maybe something big.

I’m a year or two away from my next promotion at the investment firm where I’ve worked since 2005. Our product is growing, I believe in it, and the opportunities arrive at a relentless pace. I’m in the office for dedicated hours four days a week, altered to meet the needs of my family, and work from home the fifth day. Working with international clients, I am generally available to respond to emails and join the occasional conference call at off hours, so that more time isn’t lost to time zone differences. I’m a highly organized and efficient employee, and I work hard.

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