Why are men never told they need to balance home and career?

Via Slashdot, I read an article today in Computer World summarizing the experience of four women and how the thrived in IT. It was definitely interesting, but I have some issues with the framing of the issues.
The first profile about Monique McKeon who eventually worked for the Chubb Corp ( a woman friendly place apparently where she is happy) experienced in her early career in IT a struggle between her home life and having a flourishing career.

At the consultancy, her travel schedule kept her out of town more than she was comfortable with. Then, when her first child was born, the bottom fell out. “I heard through the grapevine that one of the partners said I wasn’t as committed as before I had children,� she says. “That was the day I started looking for a job.

Please don’t tell me the work place doesn’t discriminate against working mothers. If a male employee showed affection or interest towards one of their children, would they be called out for a lack of commitment to the job?
At the end of every profile there is a little bit of advice:

You can balance an IT career with your home life, but it means making choices that are true to your priorities and understanding the trade-offs. “Having it all� is a fantasy.

That’s right ladies, get used to it. You will not have the same choices, so be happy with the ones you have. I am sure the author of this piece did not intend for this article to denigrate the success of these women in anyway, but actually wanted to highlight some of the experiences of women in IT. However, it is clear that thriving doesn’t mean actually beating boys at their own game. It means learning how to balance home and career, which is not something that men have to do.
It appears, at least to me, thriving means making strategic choices that may not always be the most career savvy, but allows you relative peace and minimized discrimination. I guess in order to thrive you have to forget that you want to get to the top and “refocus” your energy to where a woman’s energy ought to be, on her family! I mean imagine you were a woman that didn’t care about having kids and just wanted to make it to the top? What are you then?
There is a lot more to the article I am not getting into here, but really grim aspect for me is the significant decrease in the number of women that are going to college for computer science. I guess in light of Cara’s excellent analysis of sexism in tech culture, why am I NOT surprised?
Coping strategies to make it in any workplace are great, but let’s not cover up the deeper issues here.

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46 Comments

  1. SarahMC
    Posted August 7, 2007 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    “But the problem is that when I go around and speak on campuses, I still don’t get young men standing up and saying, ‘How can I combine career and family?’”
    - Gloria Steinem
    This issue is so, so crucial. We women are constantly being told that we can’t have it all; it’s just not possible. Are men ever told the same thing? Are they encouraged to choose either fulfilling family lives or satisfying careers? No. It’s just expected that they’ll marry, have children and continue working. :shrug: Even when they work 80 hour weeks and never SEE their families, they’re not scolded for focusing too much on their jobs. It’s a very frustrating double-standard.

  2. cpp
    Posted August 7, 2007 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    I got slightly involved in the Slashdot discussion responding to this: http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=262259&cid=20133303
    You can read the thread there. Alas, overall the whole Slashdot comments section was aggravating…
    But in my thread I did manage to plug Pandagon, Feministing, Alas!, and even a trivial analysis of the Male Privilege Checklist.

  3. Posted August 7, 2007 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    I work in IT, with a CS background, and I’m also a mom. For what it’s worth, my experience has proved every one of your comments true. I always feel people expect an explanation from me as to why I’m the breadwinner in my family and not the other way around, or an explanation why I’m not a completely horrible mother for being so. Never mind the fact that my boyfriend is much less ambitious and qualified than I, and that he honestly prefers to stay home with our daughter. It just seems to make people uncomfortable. And this is definitely compounded in the tech field with the general female-unfriendly atmosphere there. I think the only real solution is to get more women in the field – but with so much bullshit to put up with just to do your job and support your family, it’s hard to blame them for going to other fields.

  4. lilianna28
    Posted August 7, 2007 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    I totally agree SarahM, it’s a terrible issue on both sides of the coin- women are forced to choose and men are expected NOT to choose- men who opt out of the partner track to benefit their home lives face different discrimination. And after being fired because I wouldn’t put in 70 hours a week mostly because I wanted to get home to breastfeed, I know first hand there is horrid discrimination at hand here.
    I think we as a society need to redefine what having “it all” means. To me, having a satisfying career doesn’t mean being at the very top and making the big ol’ bucks.It means doing something I care about so I can get home to my “real life” with my daughter and my partner.
    There are a lot of good resources, like Take Back Your Time (http://www.timeday.org/) and Momsrising.org that talk about the necessary steps to getting our lives back from our jobs. After getting slammed so badly after returning from leave by a job I worked my ass off, I realigned my priorities. My goal is to create an environment in this country where my daughter won’t have to.

  5. penguinlady
    Posted August 7, 2007 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    Men *are* told the same thing, but not nearly as frequently as women and usually after they are hired, rather than not accepting women in the first place. My husband lost his job because he had the audacity to tell his boss that he would NOT work 12 hours a day, 6 days a week because he actually wanted to spend time with his family. However, he was the only exception at that company; another man missed the entire first year of his daughter’s life working those insane hours (and longer). I would imagine that one of the reasons women were not employed there in the first place (as there were 2 women – both unmarried and young – out of 40 people) was the assumption that they “wouldn’t be able to balance work and home life”.
    My hubby is the exception that proves the rule, apparently.

  6. giffy
    Posted August 7, 2007 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    “If a male employee showed affection or interest towards one of their children, would they be called out for a lack of commitment to the job?”
    I think they would. Men get the “career first” stereotype and women get the “home first” stereotype.
    I know that when I have told some of my more conservative family members that I want a job that will give me time for family they tell me thats what a “good” wife is for. As a man I should put career and money first and make sure I marry a women who will not work and stay home raising kids and cooking me dinner.
    The idea that you could have an arrangement were both parties work and assume home responsibilities is foreign to them.

  7. alexmlwallace
    Posted August 7, 2007 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    SarahMC- I didn’t agree with much of that. These days both men and women are held to very high standards in terms of work and time- the double standard here is that while men are abandoning “their life” women are abandoning “their family”. The funny part is that in actuality they mean the exact same damn thing, but the semantics of it reveal the sexism behind the thinking. But the end result is the same.
    I work long hours in the IT industry and it interferes with my usual life. I don’t have a family for it to screw up, but it creates plenty of tension between my girlfriend and I. At the same time, if I’m working at the office and I don’t work overtime, that puts me out of the running of “serious career-minded workers” that move up. Almost every single day I’m faced with the question- do I leave work when I should, and see my girlfriend? Or do I put in the longer hours, get the money, and keep pushing forward? In the IT industry both men and women sacrifice serious chunks of their lives for their careers.
    Are men ever told the same thing? Are they encouraged to choose either fulfilling family lives or satisfying careers?
    As a man, I have to say the answer to your question is Yes, Yes, and YES. If I were to “get serious” about my career I’d be working 80 hour weeks, every week. That’s too much of a sacrifice for me, and I know I’ll never reach the top of the tech careers because of it. Why? The only reason I have is because I have a girlfriend that I’d like to see for more than an hour a day.
    The double standard goes both ways. Men are expected to work themselves to death, women are expected to pump babies out. This door swings both ways.

  8. eedlebeedle
    Posted August 7, 2007 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    I read some of the comment strings on the Slashdot article (always good to get outside the bubble of people who are well versed in these issues) and I was also irritated by the discussion. It’s like people read “women,� “workplace,� and “discrimination� and immediately jump to sexual harassment. Don’t get me wrong, sexual harassment is bad too, but it’s disheartening to think about how far we have to go to solve these issues when it doesn’t even occur to people that management writing someone off as not “as committed as before [they] had children� is just as big a problem. I would argue that these subtle and career altering biases are more troubling because there’s no easy way to shrug them off or confront an individual like you can with stupid locker-room humor.

  9. keshmeshi
    Posted August 7, 2007 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps sexism is involved in the decreasing number of women majoring in computer science.
    I’m more inclined to credit women with being realistic. With more and more tech jobs getting shipped overseas and with declining salaries (It used to be that you could look forward to a six-figure salary in that field. Now you’ll be lucky to get a middle class income.), tech is no longer the guaranteed path to success it was in the ’90s.

  10. SarahMC
    Posted August 7, 2007 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    Giffy:
    Seems to me conservatives have no problem with “absentee” dads as long as they’re married to the mothers. It’s only when they’re unmarried or non-white that it’s a problem. I thought fatherhood was supposed to be oh-so-important to these people? But apparently “fatherhood” means nothing more than “brings home the bacon” to them.
    Egalitarian relationships are much healthier for everyone.

  11. buffythewhite
    Posted August 7, 2007 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    “Why are men never told they need to balance home and career?”
    Ummmm…they are. I guess articles like this one entitled ‘Men Need To Strike A Balance Between Office And Home’ don’t measure up?
    http://www.independentngonline.com/?c=137&a=14048
    or this one
    http://www.whatsyourmotto.com/Blogs/2004/08/10/the_male_joblessand_how_they_pass_their_time/
    or this one
    http://monster.typepad.com/monsterblog/2006/08/worklife_balanc.html

  12. noname
    Posted August 7, 2007 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    “If a male employee showed affection or interest towards one of their children, would they be called out for a lack of commitment to the job?” – Samhita
    Probably, if it diminished time spent at work.

  13. chris_balay
    Posted August 7, 2007 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    “Why are men never told they need to balance home and career?”
    They may not be told it, but must do it anyway!
    In my experience as a male IT professional I find that we are in fact called to make a choice between career and family.
    I have a family by because I really wanted a family. Spending time with them is my top priority
    The result of this is that I have not done as well with my career. There are only so many hours in the day. I can not work 10 to 12 hours a day and still consider myself a father. These are the trade-offs that we ALL are forced to make.
    CIO’s of large corporation are almost never very good parents or anything else that requires a lot of time to excel at.

  14. Posted August 7, 2007 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    Few people bother telling men that we can’t have it all, because few men believe that they can.
    Men can, possibly, have all they want… if they don’t want it all. So can women. But there are VERY few men who think it’s possible to have an unlimited career and also an unlimited home life.
    So while it is true that men get much more career support, that has always come at a cost of family time and family interaction. Those things aren’t “better” when men do them, it’s just that we’ve been told what to expect for so many years that nobody bothers complaining about it much.
    That doesn’t make things any better for women. But it does answer the question of why there aren’t any: “No, Men, you have to balance home and career and you can’t have it all” articles. It’s because we know that already.
    I struggle with the work/family balance daily. It’s not easy for anyone.

  15. Faerylore
    Posted August 7, 2007 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    I attended a polytechnic u for undergrad, and I distinctly remember a speaker in one of the engineering fields coming to speak on her experiences in that male-dominated field. During Q&A she was asked how does she balance work and home. Her answer just about killed me. There was no talk about redefining how housework, childcare, ect get done. Her solution: ‘hire out whatever you can’. So basically it was still women’s work… just some other woman had to do it.
    But that does lead to an interesting question, say that both parents in the family have careers that demand more than full-time hours from them. Are these people expected to give up on having a family if they want to develop their talents and do well in the area that makes them happy? Bc it seems that you get punished any way you go at it; if you try to challenge the system for asking too much from their employees you get a rep for being ‘difficult’ and somebody else gets the promotion. If both of you do what’s needed to excel in your careers then you can’t see your family enough (or go crazy trying to balance everything). And if you do make your kids (or dog forbid spending time with your SO) a priority, then you (both of you) get ‘mommy tracked’ and won’t be allowed to advance as far as you would otherwise.
    How in the hell is any of that supposed to work out?

  16. SarahMC
    Posted August 7, 2007 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    “But there are VERY few men who think it’s possible to have an unlimited career and also an unlimited home life.”
    But, as far as I’m concerned, MOST men don’t expect to have nearly the responsibility IN the home that women do. I mean, do men even want to have unlimited home lives? I know all men are different, but it seems to me that most men see no problem with their arrangement because they know they’re not expected to spend much time with their kids/changing diapers/cooking/cleaning.

  17. Faerylore
    Posted August 7, 2007 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    maybe it is true that most men don’t want to pull their own wait in the home, and doesn’t that make it even worse for a woman who’s trying to achieve some sort of balance in her life between all of her responsibilities? And from what I’ve seen on the internet, I think that a lot of guys are redefining what fatherhood means to them in a positive direction for the whole family.
    Isn’t it time for the corporations to catch up?

  18. lilianna28
    Posted August 7, 2007 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    How in the hell is any of that supposed to work out? – Faerylore
    It doesn’t, and that’s what so damn depressing about work today.
    From timeday.org:
    * We’re putting in longer hours on the job now than we did in the 1950s, despite promises of a coming age of leisure before the year 2000.
    * In fact, we’re working more than medieval peasants did, and more than the citizens of any other industrial country.
    * Mandatory overtime is at near record levels, in spite of a recession.
    * On average, we work nearly nine full weeks (350 hours) LONGER per year than our peers in Western Europe do.
    * Working Americans average a little over two weeks of vacation per year, while Europeans average five to six weeks. Many of us (including 37% of women earning less than $40,000 per year) get no paid vacation at all.
    Contemporary Americans complain of unprecedented levels of busyness in everyday life. They worry about frenetic schedules, hurried children, couples with no time together, families who rarely eat meals together, and an onslaught of “hidden work” from proliferating emails, junk mail, and telemarketing calls. The Girl Scouts recently introduced a “Stress Free” merit badge for today’s harried young girls.
    It’s a workplace issue with no solution until everyone in the workplace is on board. At my old job, the higher ups were smashingly good at pitting the “marrieds” against the “singles”. If a mom took a few hours off to go to a dr. appointment, a “single” person was told to pick up the slack, and it created a lot of resentment. Every second someone wasn’t at their desk, 4 people wasted time figuring out why they were “stuck covering for” the other person. It’s a disease that’s affecting everyone.
    Another point about why women are faced with this “do it all, have it all” mentality and men, while also discriminated against, aren’t held as responsible if they are out of the home more often has roots in the lack of equality of the sexes. It’s that “bring home the bacon AND fry it up in the pan” 80s battle cry that set women up so badly- you want equality in the workplace? You better work like a man AND nurture like a woman than, lady Jane, or you’re a failure at both. There isn’t a lot of stigma in a man who doesn’t get home to pick up the kids / make dinner for the family.
    But you know, it’s because couples live together before they get hitched that divorce rates are so high. Couldn’t possibly be that we’re working people to death.

  19. Faerylore
    Posted August 7, 2007 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    I totally agree, Lilianna. And of course don’t queer couples also get the short end of it from several directions?
    I guess a gay couple shouldn’t expect to be able to have a kid bc neither of them are going to be allowed to take care of it without going up against some serious gender battles in the workplace. Paternity leave? Yeah right
    And I guess that assuming if I choose to settle down and have a kid with someone (heh), both of us will be constantly judged as to why we’re at work instead of taking care of the babies. Um, I mean, ‘why are you at work’ AND ‘you better not make that kid queer’.
    And I don’t even want to think about how I would handle it as a single parent…

  20. ankathry
    Posted August 7, 2007 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    “Please don’t tell me the work place doesn’t discriminate against working mothers. If a male employee showed affection or interest towards one of their children, would they be called out for a lack of commitment to the job?”
    Actually, if a man decided he needed to cut back his travel to spend more time with his kids, then yes, I think he would get called out. I think the gender difference comes in when one considers that the man would probably be considered an anomaly, while the woman making the same decision would most likely be fulfilling her employers’ prejudicial stereotypes (“I’m telling you, Bob, this is why we shouldn’t hire women. As soon as they start pushing out kids, they’re useless, and no matter what they say, they all want to push out kids!”).
    I don’t know, I agree that men are not as pressured to “have it all” (or at least that the definition of “all” is a bit different than it is for women, suggesting less time and responsibility at home), but I don’t think that the deemphasis of family for them is any less harmful than its overemphasis is for women. Corporate policies are flat out anti-family and anti-happiness, regardless of gender.

  21. alexmlwallace
    Posted August 7, 2007 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    SarahMC: I know all men are different, but it seems to me that most men see no problem with their arrangement because they know they’re not expected to spend much time with their kids/changing diapers/cooking/cleaning.
    I know all men are different, but allow me to make a sweeping, sexist generalization based on stereotypes perpetuated in the media.
    I mean, come on now. Adding “I know all men are different” is just a polite lead in to some good old fashioned sexist remarks. If I started off a sentence by saying “I know all women are different…” you know it wouldn’t be going anywhere good. And it didn’t.

  22. lilianna28
    Posted August 7, 2007 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    Corporate policies are flat out anti-family and anti-happiness, regardless of gender.- ankathry
    You are absolutely correct. I didn’t mean to come across as stating otherwise. It’s just one reason why women are made to feel like “bad women” when they ‘neglect’ their families for work and men are just… men. It doesn’t mean the feeling for the individual person isn’t the same.

  23. noname
    Posted August 7, 2007 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    lilianna28 – I think you are missing something. Women who focus on work at the expense of family are often considered “bad mothersâ€?. Men who focus on family at the expense of work are often considered “losersâ€?.

  24. kathygnome
    Posted August 7, 2007 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    My perspective as a woman in tech who used to be a man in tech.
    “Why are men never told they need to balance home and career?”
    Well the simple answer is that men don’t have a choice. Men are expected to choose career over family always. If they don’t, it’s an admission they are not “real men.” Where a woman in a similar situation might be parked in a second class job, men will likely simply be let go.
    As one male friend put it “I get two weeks of vacation a year, but it’s understood that I won’t take it.”
    The real question is why the corporate system is allowed to demand this level of servitude from ANY worker, male or female.
    None of which, IMHO, has anything to do with why women don’t go into tech. I think that starts far earlier than choices about family and career and has far more to do with the adolescent male culture that continues to surround computers and the amount of computer knowledge that is transferred by immersion in tech culture and experimentation rather than through formal academic training.
    The kid who is tinkering with the computer at 14 so they can play the latest game will be the same one who four years later is a frosh in comp sci who ten years later is pulling 80 hour a week “crunches” to ship a product. If a girl is told “LOLZ girlz do not play Warcraft newb” at 14, they’re far less likely to be working in the industry ten years later.

  25. Posted August 7, 2007 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    On the plus side, my husband just started a new job, and when he talked to his supervisor about taking some time off when the baby is born (in November), he was told that family should be a priority and that he is expected to take a week or so off. Additionally, he was told that there would be no problem with him occasionally working from home to take care of a sick baby. So there are a few rays of light out there.

  26. lilianna28
    Posted August 7, 2007 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    Men who focus on family at the expense of work are often considered “losers�.- noname
    You’re right, of course. Didn’t mean to gloss over that aspect.

  27. Faerylore
    Posted August 7, 2007 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    Another thought I just had is that businesses looking to hire in fields/jobs where there is significantly more demand than supply tend to (in my experience) be much more flexible in terms of hours/compensation/ect bc otherwise some other more appealing employer will get the better (or sometimes only) employee out there. Now if we could get that in the jobs/fields where everyone wants to work…

  28. workerbee
    Posted August 7, 2007 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    kathygnome wrote: “Well the simple answer is that men don’t have a choice. Men are expected to choose career over family always. If they don’t, it’s an admission they are not “real men.” Where a woman in a similar situation might be parked in a second class job, men will likely simply be let go.”
    I can’t speak for blue collar settings, but in the professional and management ranks, there are plenty of second class employees, male and female. I am too young to remember a different workplace, but one doesn’t rise without making difficult sacrifices.
    I see mothers and fathers who work every weekend, into the evenings, and over holidays. They commiserate over missing their kids’ lives. I find that most are genuinely understanding of any co-worker, male or female, who pushes back against the workload to spend more time outside of the office (with family, climbing buddies, or whoever), but it is now a law of physics that such balance will count as a mark against you in the race to the top.
    And, frankly, why shouldn’t it? The shareholders of my employer are not running a charity. If this approach to office management generated worse returns than a balance-friendly approach, every F500 firm out there would require employees to get a life.
    In the end, there is a big range between the “winnners” and the “losers”. Clocking out at 5 or 6 will not make me a loser, but in today’s office world, it probably will keep me from being the next rising star. But isn’t that what I want anyway when I leave early to pick up my kids, or hang out with my SO, or go bungee-jumping?

  29. Faerylore
    Posted August 7, 2007 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    And just think Workerbee how much more your shareholders would love the profit margins if you didn’t get paid extra for overtime… or if you couldn’t unionize… or got paid min wage (or if min wage didn’t exist). The race to the profit margin does not make any corporate practice ethical… usually the opposite in fact.

  30. SarahMC
    Posted August 7, 2007 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

    IMO, here is the problem:
    Women have grown to be more “equal” with men by working outside the home (just like men). However, those same women are not yet equal IN the home.
    Even when they work outside the home, women are still expected to do the housework and tend to the children, while men are not. And for some reason, even working women think it’s primarily their responsibility to cook, clean, care for the children, etc.
    It’s not just that the husbands expect it; women expect it too. So many women are working two shifts while their husbands are working one. If you’re expected to do this, of course you can’t “have it all!” Something’s gotta give WITHIN the home.
    Women are contributing to their families financially but in many cases, their husbands are not contributing to the “women’s work” within the home.
    Just pay attention to commercials for cleaning products, diapers, most food items, etc. They’re all aimed at women.

  31. suissesse
    Posted August 7, 2007 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

    I sense that there are a lot more families out there than just “husband-wife-kid(s)”. Perhaps the “media” (oooh – they’re always so EVIL) hasn’t caught up with the times? I know even my parents have had a different experience than in this article. As for myself and my friends, no one fits the model. Does anyone here?
    For example: my boss (male, natch) used to work for AMEX as a financial consultant. Probably made lots o’ dough. When he had kids, he move to our company, where he probably took a significant pay-cut, but where the hours are more flexible for everyone. He can duck out of the office at 4:30 to make his kids softball game, or come in at 11 because he had to take his kid to the hospital – no one bats an eye. A woman recently got pregnant in our office (6 people work here) – she brings her toddler in regularly (except on meeting days, when her boyfriend takes over). Perhaps the bing Corporations will eventually give way to smaller business like this one? I don’t know about you, but I’d rather make $33,000 a year and walk home for lunch everyday, than twice that and never see my cats. I don’t even know if this post was relevant – I just don’t want people thinking there aren’t alternatives to Big Corp out there.

  32. suissesse
    Posted August 7, 2007 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    I sense that there are a lot more families out there than just “husband-wife-kid(s)”. Perhaps the “media” (oooh – they’re always so EVIL) hasn’t caught up with the times? I know even my parents have had a different experience than in this article. As for myself and my friends, no one fits the model. Does anyone here?
    For example: my boss (male, natch) used to work for AMEX as a financial consultant. Probably made lots o’ dough. When he had kids, he move to our company, where he probably took a significant pay-cut, but where the hours are more flexible for everyone. He can duck out of the office at 4:30 to make his kids softball game, or come in at 11 because he had to take his kid to the hospital – no one bats an eye. A woman recently got pregnant in our office (6 people work here) – she brings her toddler in regularly (except on meeting days, when her boyfriend takes over). Perhaps the bing Corporations will eventually give way to smaller business like this one? I don’t know about you, but I’d rather make $33,000 a year and walk home for lunch everyday, than twice that and never see my cats. I don’t even know if this post was relevant – I just don’t want people thinking there aren’t alternatives to Big Corp out there. Also, workerbee – sometimes being a happy employee makes one more efficient…

  33. workerbee
    Posted August 7, 2007 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    Like suissesse says, there are alternatives to where one can work. And, there are alternatives within the companies that one chooses. Like suissesse, I fully expect to work at smaller, less profit-driven offices when I’m older, because the added freedom to come and go as I want will matter more then, regardless of whether it is because I have kids, want to polish my new car, or whatever.
    Faerylore, I’m sorry, but most employment arrangements have nothing to do with ethics, even if the employer is an entity that espouses to be a good citizen of the community. For-profit offices will do what is accepted by social norms, and what is legal (usually). So, they will pay megabucks to the top 1-2 percent of employees that scrap their way to the top, and much less to the next 20%, and as little as possible to the masses of workers that actually make the place run. All the while trying to get the most production out of the employees. That is, in short, capitalism. And, it works. And, it really crimps the personal life, unless you are Donald Trump’s offspring.
    Not that it matters, but I am no fan of this approach. But I wish that every high school teacher in American told every student, male and female, that workplaces will require tough choices: earn enough to send little Suzie to Harvard, or see Suzie play soccer on a patchy public school field. I kid a bit, of course, but the sooner young workers think about this, the better we will all be, IMHO.

  34. giffy
    Posted August 7, 2007 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    SarahMC,
    Agreed, egalitarianism is the way to go.
    I think a lot of it comes down to the hyper completive drive instilled in most men. Masculinity tells us that we have to be the best, conquer the world, and make tons of money. Whether it’s in an office or a factory, we must work and fight with every once of our being. To do otherwise is to be unmanly, which is a fate worse then death.
    While some of us see this for the bullshit that it is, many men don’t. Unfortunately because of the way our society is ordered they tend to rise to the top and then expect it out of there subordinates. Personally, I prefer to work for women because they generally have not been gendered in this way. While they may be highly successful they realize that work is not everything and that we need not sacrifice everything else in our lives for rather meaningless professional accomplishments.

  35. Roxie
    Posted August 7, 2007 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    The other day I was watching (bbc america) “How Clean is Your House”
    Well, the house they chose this time was an absolute HORROR. It was really, really it should’ve been condemned and the children taken away, imo, but I digress..
    This couple had 7 children all under the age of 14. The mother was a SAHM and the father worked outside of the home. When asked what he does to help around the house, he started talking about his job and how he’s out of the house and when he comes home, he has to put the kids to bed, then he’s tired/wants to spend time with his wife and then he says
    Well, she’s home all day, I don’t see why she can’t get it done
    I screamed. Literally.

  36. Faerylore
    Posted August 7, 2007 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    Workerbee,
    I’m not debating that their approach to business is working in the ways (ie profit) that they care about. But, we’re talking about the social and ethical ramifications of their business choices. I don’t think any of us are argueing about whether their approach earns them money. We’re discussing the fact that our society finds their practices acceptable. We have corporate laws, they should be expanded to redefine what is acceptable to demand from your employees and what isn’t. Being required to work 80+ hrs and not being allowed to actually take your vacation time is not acceptable. The fact that my mom cannot take her lunch everyday at work is unacceptable.

  37. lilianna28
    Posted August 7, 2007 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

    Faerylore beat me to it, but yes, yes yes to what she’s said. PLUS, it isn’t even all that profitable to overwork your workforce. Stress levels rise and health issues increase, adding to decreased work product.
    You mention that you’re too young to have known any differently- I too, am too young to know a workplace that allows for life outside of the office sans repercussions (my current job non-withstanding, which is extremely pro-family. It should be the standard, not an anomaly). That doesn’t mean that it is RIGHT.
    “Well, that’s Capitalism” is a shoddy excuse. Perhaps you’re a Libertarian, which, no stones, but we’ll just never agree on this issue. Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness and all that, I think it is the government’s responsibility to set the tone for what is acceptable workplace atmospheres, what constitutes a “well balanced life” for the people in that society and how they are affected by ethical business practices. If it’s all about making money, if it’s all about corporations behaving however they want to make a buck, why do we have any sort of regulations? Why EPA standards? Why regulate monopolies? Why can’t Enron lie to the world about their profits and then just ditch their employees? They made a buck! Running employees (and their families) into the ground with shitty business policies is the same as dumping your shit in the nearest river because it’s cheap and helps your profits. It’s WRONG.
    And teaching our high school kids that life sucks and you have to deal with it creates even more apathy than we’re dealing with today. How many people just take shit and think that they don’t deserve better? When does THAT end?

  38. lilianna28
    Posted August 7, 2007 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

    Also, to comment on the fact that there are “always other jobs.” I’m approaching this topic from my very comfortable, post-college office job with computer access and time to post here when I’m taking a break. That said, we’re not even breaking the surface of lower income jobs, and the fact that some working families cannot afford to take MATERNITY leave-going back to work three days after giving birth- unless it’s unpaid. We’re talking about families who cannot plan their lives because WalMart has gone to a “just in time” workforce where, get this, you get call times when you “could” get called into work- or not- or maybe… hey JIT is great for products, why not people too? If you are too poor to work a cushy job, should you just not be allowed to have a family? Kids? A decent life? Add shitty pay and no health benefits and what are we DOING TO PEOPLE?

  39. workerbee
    Posted August 7, 2007 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

    Faerylore, you’re right, we have corporate laws. But they can’t regulate mentality, and the American mentality is to push for the top. The government is not setting that mentality – it’s set by millions of workers who devote greater and greater portions of their lives to work (even though most of them will never taste even a sliver of the topcake, but I digress). As for the motivation behind laws, call me a cynic (or an attorney, which I am), but laws are made to make this great machine we call home run more profitably. Lilianna28 was close when she called me a libertarian. I’m a cynic. I believe in treating women equally, I try to do so, and I don’t think corporations care one way or another.
    And, lilianna28, apathy is rather different than cynicism and being realistic. What’s the point of believing in equality for women if that belief sets up an expectation that will lead to disappointment for so many young women workers? Working is awful, for men and women. The solution, again IMHO, is not social activism. There are 300 million people in the U.S. You would have to pull off the greatest revolution in the history of the world, in the most affluent country in the history of the world. I wouldn’t bet on it. I would, though, bet on you and every other worker who sees how capitalism works, and then decides how to work in it. (And, unless you or I have a PAC with 10s of millions to spend on lobbyists, like my boss, you and I aren’t invited to D.C. Therefore, I don’t expect government to drive change.) Under the law, Enron was bad because it undermined the capital markets. EPA standards allowed the Big Three to stop worrying about whether the government or plaintiff’s lawyers would insist on cleaner cars. And the Antitrust laws are pretty selectively applied – it’s not a pretty picture.

  40. Faerylore
    Posted August 7, 2007 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    The problem I have with it Workerbee is that it is not substainable. Our government is doing a horrible job regulating business. Something is going to break, ppl can’t work like that forever. And maybe those corporations will start noticing the effects of their practices when they see all of the top workers going to work for companies that actually appreciate them. Or just as commonly, avoiding the field (ie tech) entirely and going instead into a field that is a better fit for life.

  41. noname
    Posted August 7, 2007 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

    “Personally, I prefer to work for women because they generally have not been gendered in this way. While they may be highly successful they realize that work is not everything and that we need not sacrifice everything else in our lives for rather meaningless professional accomplishments.� – giffy
    I wouldn’t say that too loud while trying to break through the “glass ceiling�.

  42. Posted August 7, 2007 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

    No, no, no. And NO.
    Workerbee, I’m also too young to remember a time before our bottom-line-obsessed, profit-margin-driven, middle-class-destroying corporatist economy (note I didn’t say capitalist, by the way: capitalism rewards ingenuity and creativity and “making the pie bigger.” Our current state of affairs and of law enforcement encourages the opposite) began encroaching upon time that rightfully belongs to the *workers*, and calling it “regular working hours.”
    kathygnome hit the nail on the head with this:
    The real question is why the corporate system is allowed to demand this level of servitude from ANY worker, male or female.
    That something is about profit doesn’t make it right. For the record, I’m also something of a libertarian — because I believe in PEOPLE, and I believe in those people’s RIGHTS AND LIBERTIES. Liberty does not do you a fat lot of good if you’re starving. And if the only way not to starve is to give up more than a reasonable amount of liberty — then you’re not talking about libertarian capitalism. You are talking about corporate slavery.
    Look, it would be really easy for me to buy into this myth. I work for a big firm. I have what most would probably consider a pretty cushy life. I make more money per year than my father made until he was in his forties — and he’s a doctor. I’m close enough to the top, in other words, to see it for the festering maggot-pool that it is. We do not have a healthy economy. We do not have a healthy society. We are slowly killing our workforce in the name of the almighty dollar (which, by the way, is actually NOT so mighty these days).
    America used to stand for freedom. It used to be about PEOPLE living their dreams. Today it is about corporate monoliths making money. Don’t join the lemmings and be tricked into thinking you have any shot at being anywhere remotely within spitting range of Donald Trump. Trump made his money by breaking the law, screwing people over, backstabbing, lying, and exploiting the system. And look how we reward him and his ilk. We idolize them. We build up a cult of celebrity around them because a part of us thinks “that could be me!!!” We need to wake up and realize it can’t. The people who get to the top pull the ladder up behind them. They have to, or they’ll get pushed off. People act in their self-interest, as you surely agree. So a SMART government will structure laws that make it in people’s self-interest to add to the collective size of the pie, rather than snipe with the rest of the workerbees over who gets the biggest piece.
    I don’t think I need to clarify which is at play in OUR economy.

  43. workerbee
    Posted August 8, 2007 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    Law Fairy, I completely agree with your analysis of the economy and corporate culture; it is massively inefficient, corrupt, and fails to provide adequate incentives for genuine “ingenuity and creativity”. But, unlike you I guess, I don’t see the point of slamming one’s head against reality.
    Let’s use law firms as an example. Like you, I started my legal career at a firm. It paid very well, and led to the opportunity to work for my current corporate employer. I would guess that 90% of the work that occurred at the firm was inefficient and absolutely mind-numbing. There was no reason to genuinely excel individually. So, what to do? Well, for me, I decided to make as much “profit” from my transaction with that firm as I could. Pure and simple.
    And, the same holds true for my current job. And, for hordes of workers around the country. It isn’t pleasant, and it isn’t even close to how the world would work if it tracked my daydreams and imagination. It is basically a major mess. So major, that it’ll never be cleaned up. Ever. No “smart government” can make a difference. There is no solution. There will never be, my apologies to “Miss Congeniality”, World Peace, and people will always go hungry while you and I are paid more in a day than most people in the world make in a year.
    What one CAN do is work to help others avoid depression, frustration and anger. My wife and I don’t plan on having children, but we try to tell our cousins and nieces/nephews that they won’t get anywhere hoping that governments require companies to become more life-balance oriented. Frankly, it isn’t even fun talking about that. And, those that drink the coolaid and believe that enough social action could actually make a difference, they face a life of deprivation and disallusionment. So, in all seriously, I think it’s time to see “what is at play” and focus on what can be done to better one’s life, rather than on what would be a people-friendly approach to running the economy.
    And, by “focus on what can be done”, I do not mean striving to be anything like Donald Trump. Quite the opposite. Although there are jobs that pay well (like mine and yours), I agree that real wealth is only attainable through business, which can get dirty. So, if one wants wealth, go for it. Otherwise, from where I sit, it is about trade-offs.
    And, I’m not a “libertarian”. I would rather look at this world and my life realistically than try to fit into a label.

  44. Doug S.
    Posted August 8, 2007 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    Well, one thing that government “could” do is eliminate the distinction that makes “salaried” employees ineligible for overtime pay. If it cost corporations more to have one person work 80 hours than to have two people work 40 hours, then you might see people being told “Go home already, you’re costing us money!”
    Advancement in a career has turned into a “race to the bottom” in which those who are willing to work more hours than others get the rewards. As a result, everyone works 80 hour weeks just to keep up even though they might prefer to have everyone work 40 hour weeks. This is essentially a “tragedy of the commons” that needs collective action to overcome. I think professional white-collar workers, such as engineers, computer programmers, doctors, lawyers and even investment bankers, need to seriously think about unionizing.
    I’m not kidding about investment bankers, either. My brother is currently a summer intern at Goldman Sachs and he’s being essentially required to work 18 hour days. At some point, free time becomes more valuable than extra money; what good is money you never have time to spend? It’s much harder to get extra free time today without hurting the ability to get money in the future than it is to get extra money today without sacrificing the ability to have extra free time in the future.

  45. Rua
    Posted August 11, 2007 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

    There’s a magazine here in Ireland called Women Mean Business which my shop receives and every time I read it I get enraged. It’s ostensibly meant to help women improve their work lives and highlight new female entrepreneurs but about a third of each issue is unfailingly dedicated to “balancing work and home life”. In other words, how to hide a baby bottle in a suitcase and how to get to both the babysitter’s and the airport on time. It is assumed that this is what every reader wants. They also promote a sort of knives-out corporate climbing policy; in the most recent issue there was mention of an incident where one woman got revenge on another female employee by loudly talking about her rash on a crowded elevator, and this was touted as cunning! It’s so condescending.

  46. Mina
    Posted August 11, 2007 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

    “* On average, we work nearly nine full weeks (350 hours) LONGER per year than our peers in Western Europe do.
    “* Working Americans average a little over two weeks of vacation per year, while Europeans average five to six weeks. Many of us (including 37% of women earning less than $40,000 per year) get no paid vacation at all.”
    Western Europeans aren’t our only peers…
    “Well, one thing that government ‘could’ do is eliminate the distinction that makes “salaried” employees ineligible for overtime pay. If it cost corporations more to have one person work 80 hours than to have two people work 40 hours, then you might see people being told ‘Go home already, you’re costing us money!’”
    Very interesting.

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