Until we move beyond the notion that work-life and workplace flexibility is a women’s issue we’ll never bring the workplace into the 21st Century.
Creating a new workplace, one that’s not based on the 1950s Company Man model, is about blowing away all the preconceived notions we have about gender, culture, and what really matters in this life.
Men are also feeling the pressure of balancing work-life issues, as Families and Work Institute’s research shows:
* Spending more time at work significantly increases the potential for work-family conflict. Among men who work 50 or more hours per week, 60% report experiencing some or a lot of conflict, compared to men who work 40-49 hours a week, 39% of whom experience conflict. In fact, the amount of time men spend working is more important in predicting their work-family conflict than the time men spend on child care, chores, and leisure.
* Men who work in demanding jobs are more likely to experience more work-family conflict (61%) than men whose jobs are moderately demanding (44%)
* Fathers in dual-earner couples are more likely to experience conflict as well. Interestingly, these fathers work three hours more per week than men their ages without children.
* Many fathers would prefer to work less, but they work long hours to earn money for their families.
An article in the New York Times today does a good job of addressing the realities of the U.S. workplace and it’s failure to keep up.
The piece is titled “Why Gender Equality Stalled” and is written by Stephanie Coontz, a professor of family history at Evergreen State College and the author of “A Strange Stirring: The Feminine Mystique and American Women at the Dawn of the 1960s.”
Here’s an excerpt:
Today the main barriers to further progress toward gender equity no longer lie in people’s personal attitudes and relationships. Instead, structural impediments prevent people from acting on their egalitarian values, forcing men and women into personal accommodations and rationalizations that do not reflect their preferences. The gender revolution is not in a stall. It has hit a wall.
Our goal should be to develop work-life policies that enable people to put their gender values into practice. So let’s stop arguing about the hard choices women make and help more women and men avoid such hard choices. To do that, we must stop seeing work-family policy as a women’s issue and start seeing it as a human rights issue that affects parents, children, partners, singles and elders.
Clearly, many women still have to carry most of the weight of parenting, but until the issue is seen as a business imperative and not just a gender issue, women and men won’t get the workflex they need to survive in today’s workplace.