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blogging on high-commitment workplaces

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.

Unanticipated rewards

Here’s  a quiz: see if you can figure out what kind of dad I am.

If you ask them, my children may very well tell you I am their “fake daddy”. My children are not biologically related to me, don’t share my last name, and they all don’t even currently live with me. But I can assure you, I’m a real dad when it counts: like at 3am when you’ve had a bad dream, when you skin your knee riding your bike, or when your real parents are having a bit of a problem.

Time’s up. Final answer?

I am a foster dad.

While our family was not created in the traditional way, my wife and I decided that we wanted to open our home to children who need us, whatever that reason may be. We currently have an adorable 5-month-old boy, but we have had toddlers and school-aged children too. In all, we’ve had five foster children pass through our home, and we anticipate having at least a few more.

Real Nurturing Leave

When my partner and I were graced with the news that we were expecting our first child, I was in my fifth year of service as an assistant professor in a research university. Tenure reviews are generally scheduled for the sixth year of service. Thus, in the academic profession, this is the crucial time when a scholar is expected to “publish or perish.” Usually connoting lifetime job security and academic freedom, tenure is one of the great blessings a college or university can award a professor. Conversely, however, being denied tenure (and thus losing one’s job) can act as a major setback to a life and career.

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.

Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Mayer: ‘Lean In’ and Get Your Butt to the Office!

This blog post originally appeared in PunditMom.

Lean in! Take charge! No fear!

Out with flex-time! In with face time!

These are the messages two of the highest-profile working mothers in America are sending to the rest of us. If Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer, and Marissa Mayer, Yahoo!’s Chief Executive Officer, have their way, women in the workplace will remake themselves in their C-Suite images which, sadly, is looking like something from the 1980′s movie Working Girl. Their sentiments sound an awful lot like what I heard as a young journalist and then as a new attorney in a large law firm decades ago. Is this a case of “what’s old is new again?”

Welcome to the Past: Best Buy Embraces Last Century Management Practices

Best Buy Co, Inc. has gone backwards in time, following the footsteps of Yahoo! and demanding all hands on deck. We’re certain that other organizations are going to stumble backwards as well over the next few weeks. When we heard the news, we weren’t surprised; as new management came on board over the past few years – management that obviously favors managing schedules over managing performance – the stronghold of outdated thinking became the weed that choked the evolution of the most enviable, productive, attractive and globally-forward workforce of the future.

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