The July/August 2012 issue of the Atlantic had an article called Why Women Still Can’t Have it All. The author makes a bold statement that feminists have been selling young women a fiction that they can have it all, career and family. She even admits to being one of those feminists but has realized that it’s just not true. While I could talk about so many different things in this article I want to focus on 2 key things: 1. the role of prioritizing the family and 2. what can be done as individuals to enable positive priorities and work environments.
1. The role of prioritizing the family: last year I wrote a post titled Mormon Women and Careers that said “I truly believe the companies that crack the code on how to better enable both fathers and mothers, mormon and non-mormon, to find ways to strengthen their families as well as focus on professional development and success will unlock unforeseen potential and greater happiness in their employees, leading to better, more efficient, profitable work.” It’s important to recognize that this isn’t a women’s issue. It’s a family issue. It’s important for men and women even if one parent is staying home.
I was really excited to have additional data to support this statement. She quotes a few stats that make the point above:
a. A seminal study of 527 U.S. companies, published in the Academy of Management Journal in 2000, suggests that “organizations with more extensive work-family policies have higher perceived firm-level performance” among their industry peers.
b. Examining 130 announcements of family-friendly policies in The Wall Street Journal, Arthur found that the announcements alone significantly improved share prices.
c. In 2011, a study on flexibility in the workplace by Ellen Galinsky, Kelly Sakai, and Tyler Wigton of the Families and Work Institute showed that increased flexibility correlates positively with job engagement, job satisfaction, employee retention, and employee health.
d. Other scholars have concluded that good family policies attract better talent, which in turn raises productivity, but that the policies themselves have no impact on productivity.
2. What can be done as individuals to enable positive priorities and work environments? The article suggests some things that need to change that are larger than the individual or even sometimes organizations. Therefore we need to find ways as individuals to promote a better environment. The question is how?
The best advice I received when I became a direct manager of others was “be conscious of the culture you create.” It was further explained that this meant that if I wanted to create an environment that prioritized the family or enabled flexible working schedules I needed to demonstrate that I believed in those things, not just say I believed in them. For example, I don’t have kids, but I believe they should be prioritized so I had to find a way to show this. For me this included packing up and leaving at 5pm sometimes and working from home, without shame, guilt or fear so that this was acceptable. I was shocked at how hard this was. When I began my career I didn’t have control over the culture and often worked long hard hours so the shift took a lot more work, patience and diligence than I thought it would.
The loyalty and hard, excellent work I have received from the people who have worked for me has been incredible. I have no question that living by principles and setting priorities has enabled the culture I want to create, an environment that supports and prioritizes the family.
If we want the world and society to change we have to start with what we have power and influence to change ourselves.