Recently on Twitter, Daniel Pink (@DanielPink) linked an article with a 2-minute video of David Leonhardt (@dleonhardt) calling for an end to "momism" (Gritz, 2011). This video caused me to think -- what is Momism and if it exists, why does it persist?
'Momism', discrimination towards moms, involves the following potential barriers:
1. Pregnancy discrimination
This one I can relate to -- I once had a job offer rescinded immediately upon telling the manager I was pregnant. "This changes nothing...I can't give you the job." (I can understand the employer's side yet it is still discriminatory.)
2. Maternity leave employment gap (and resulting loss of salary increases, promotions, etc.)
3. Sacrificing salary/opportunities in favour of greater work-life balance.
E.g., Part time jobs tend to pay less, lack benefits, have less room for advancement, etc. There can also be sacrifices working full time if one chooses not to work overtime most weeks especially in professions, such as law, where overtime is the norm.
Now, I can see someone asking, "Do women choose to work less hours a week prioritising their families?" and upon hearing "Yes." assuming then it's their choice adding, "There's nothing stopping them from working 50-60 hours a week, hiring a live-in nanny, etc."
The difficulty, as shown in a recent study by Randstad, is that women and men have different values. Men tend to prioritise progression and financial stability whereas women prefer flexibility and culture. (Whether this is due to nature or nurture is beyond the scope of this article although I'd appreciate any links on this.) And while as a society gender equality has improved, the reality is that the working environments and expectations, originally created for and by men, presumably mostly reflect men's interests/priorities (prestige/money versus flexibility/work-life balance) even though women make up half the workforce.
However, it's not just women who want a change in workplace norms. David Leonhardt summed it up well in his two minute video. When referring to workplace flexibility he said, "Call me an optimist, but I would bet if companies created these ladders, some men would sign up for them as well. I know I would."
And so, with many women (and men) interested in greater flexibility and work-life balance, why is it almost inconceivable for companies to consider having employees job share, work compressed work weeks or shorter work weeks with prorated pay?
Everyone could benefit from extra flexibility in the workplace, not just moms, and some companies are implementing more flexible options. For instance, Cisco Systems "realized $195 million dollars in increased employee productivity" from implementing a telework program. To learn more, the Sloan Work and Family Research Network has published the results of 16 Workplace Flexibility Case Studies (Giglio, 2011).
Giglio, K. (2011). Workplace Flexibility Case Studies. Sloan Work and Family Research Network. Retrieved July 10, 2011, from http://wfnetwork.bc.edu/template.php?name=casestudy
Gritz, J. David Leonhardt on 'Momism'. The Atlantic. Retrieved July 2, 2011, from http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/06/david-leonhardt-on-momism/241181/
Randstad (2011, April 8). Men and women ‘worlds apart’ in hunt for perfect job. World of Work. Retrieved July 2, 2011, from http://www.randstad.com.au/about-randstad/world-of-work/men-and-women-worlds-apart-in-hunt-for-perfect-job