$900 Billion Women

Fortune Magazine's October 16 issue, The 50 Most Powerful Women in Business, blows to smithereens the myth that ambitious women are opting out of work in favor of domestic tranquility. The issue features five different covers showcasing the United States' top seven female CEOs: Indra Nooyi (PepsiCo), Anne Mulcahy (Xerox), Meg Whitman (eBay), Pat Woertz (Archer Daniels Midland), Irene Rosenfeld (Kraft Foods), Brenda Barnes (Sara Lee) and Andrea Jung (Avon). The issue profiles the top 50 most successful women in business. The top 25 alone account for more than $900 billion in market capitalization and $250 billion in annual revenues. These stars range in age from 39 to 60; many have children, several do not.

There is no doubt these are powerful mamas. Our economy is thriving in part because of them -- and because our capitalist culture has expanded over the last 40 years to let these women, and their innovative, creative, competitive minds into corporate America. Many companies now realize that longterm success depends upon attracting the most talented employees -- male and female -- and this is good for everyone, no matter what our gender or our choices about combining work and kids.

But I wonder: Are parents overall better off for having women at the helm of Fortune 500 companies, controlling billions of dollars in spending and overseeing millions of employees? Are female leaders better suited to creating corporate cultures that help parents balance work and family? Or are men today just as good (or bad) at helping companies develop supportive, flexible policies for employees?

I've seen both. My best work/life situation came about when I worked for a division of Johnson & Johnson, headed by an insightful, supportive male president who was ably advised by a strong, far-thinking female head of human resources. My family and I benefitted from subsidized on-site daycare, I was given the freedom to work two days per week at home, and the company allowed me to work long-distance, part-time when my husband's job necessitated our move to Minnesota for two years.

I've had great female bosses and hard-charging, insensitive female bosses during my career. At times, I wish the solution to better work/family balance for everyone was as simple as getting more women into positions of power. My conclusion, so far, is that some ambitious people, regardless of gender, understand that a critical part of gaining employee loyalty and increasing productivity is offering work/life support; many others of both genders do not. Bad bosses come in all packages.

How about you? What type of boss would you rather work for: man, woman, parent, non-parent? What type of person runs your company? What role --if any -- does someone's gender and life experience play in their ability to promulgate innovative, smart work/life programs for employees?

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  November 8, 2006; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  You Go Girl!
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For the record, I have heard Indra Nooryi tell a group of MBA students "If you are looking for work/life balance, don't look for it here [Pepsi]. That's not how I got ahead, and that's not how you're going to get ahead."

Posted by: Big Gulp | November 8, 2006 8:00 AM

I don't think gender much matters. It's funny that you're even asking the question after as much as saying that in your article. I've had good bosses of both genders. I think corporate culture plays a larger role than boss gender. I think of corporate culture as an enormous ship that's slow to turn, even with great (or poor) leadership. It can be done but it's slow and takes steady pressure.

Posted by: Abe Lincoln | November 8, 2006 8:01 AM

"Fortune Magazine's October 16 issue, The 50 Most Powerful Women in Business, blows to smithereens the myth that ambitious women are opting out of work in favor of domestic tranquility."

Blows to smithereens? 7 top women executives in the article vs the other 70 million of us and that is a ground swell? I thought the trend was that women increasingly (though not dramatically) are NOT going back to work full-time but are compromising and working parttime or staying at home.

I have a female immediate supervisor right now with a male boss of the department - both are excellent. I had a women boss that should be entered as the "worst boss of the century" - however her tactics were ignored by the her male counterparts and superiors so they were just as much at fault.

Posted by: cmac | November 8, 2006 8:11 AM

Sorry, Nooyi, not Nooryi.

Posted by: Big Gulp | November 8, 2006 8:12 AM

"Fortune Magazine's October 16 issue, The 50 Most Powerful Women in Business, blows to smithereens the myth that ambitious women are opting out of work in favor of domestic tranquility."

Blows to smithereens? 7 top women executives in the article vs the other 70 million of us and that is a ground swell? I thought the trend was that women increasingly (though not dramatically) are NOT going back to work full-time but are compromising and working parttime or staying at home.

I have a female immediate supervisor right now with a male boss of the department - both are excellent. I had a women boss that should be entered as the "worst boss of the century" - however her tactics were ignored by the her male counterparts and superiors so they were just as much at fault.

Posted by: cmac | November 8, 2006 8:13 AM

I've had both male and female supervisors. The two male supervisors were very family friendly and supported parents to take time off for their children. The female supervisor did too, but only for her own family; she would not go on any overnight trips and would require anyone going with her on meetings to drive back home, no matter how late, to avoid staying overnight somewhere.

Posted by: John | November 8, 2006 8:20 AM

The answer to me seemed obvious--I'd rather work for a mom with a three year old and one on the way--myself! I'm the only one who is going to make choices that are always in my family's best interest. I know it's not for everyone, but I'm not waiting around for the rest of the world to adjust to my needs--I'm making a business that does so today!

Posted by: PTJobFTMom | November 8, 2006 8:25 AM

As most of us, I've worked for both men and women. I've supervised both men and women. However, the % of women present seems to make a difference. In engineering and academia, where the % of women was low low low, it was not part of the culture to be 'sensitive.' We are all competitive and not all that supportive. Behavior that some (perhaps women) would see as hateful/backstabbing/outrageous was ignored by others (perhaps men).

However, the position I had as a consultant, where the % of women was about 50%, then the boss/worker relationship was more collaborative. One never knew whether the boss/worker relationship might flip a few years down the road.

Posted by: dotted | November 8, 2006 8:25 AM

I'm sure I am going to get it for this one but, I would rather work for a man with kids whose wife works. That's what I have now and he is the best. He understands what it's like to have to get a sick kid and he also understands what it's like to be a working mom because he is married to one.

Posted by: Scarry | November 8, 2006 8:35 AM

For what it's worth, I had a couple of situations where I had a woman boss who had a REALLY GOOD childcare situation that in some ways enabled her to be a great employee and get promoted quickly and to the top. But in both instances, the boss seemed to think that we all had similar situations -- rather than realizing how extraordinarily fortunate she was.

One was a foreign service lady who had both her parents listed as dependents. They were retired and basically followed her around the world taking care of her kids. Great for her, but hardly typical.

In the other instance, my boss and her husband had produced the first grandchild in their large Italian and Latin American familes and the relatives used to actually fight about who 'got' to pick the sick child up from daycare. She travelled a lot for work and always had tons of loving people to take care of her child in her absence.

In both instances, these women were not at all understanding about other people having to leave work to pick their sick children up from daycare. So it really depends on the situation. Perhaps a male boss with a working wife and no immediate family living in his geographic area (with perhaps a kid with either learning disabilities or special needs) would be most understanding. Don't know.

Posted by: Armchair Mom | November 8, 2006 8:47 AM

Scarry-
Actually, I see your logic. Someone who 'gets it' on the home front will likely be more helpful. 'gets it' referring to those with similar issues...with similar solutions...not extraordinary win-the-lottery solutions like Armchair mom's examples!

Posted by: dotted | November 8, 2006 8:57 AM

Of all the bosses/supervisors I've had, by far the worst and least understanding were women. I've yet to work for a woman whom I thought was a good boss and cared about her employees. I'm glad to see that there are some out there. I was beginning to wonder.

Posted by: Single and denied | November 8, 2006 9:02 AM

Leslie, I think you should have tipped your hat to Nancy Pelosi today.

No idea whether she has any kids, but the First Female Speaker deserves a round of applause!!!!

Posted by: IMHO | November 8, 2006 9:08 AM

Nancy Pelosi has 5 children.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 8, 2006 9:13 AM

Nancy Pelosi (like all lazy congresspeople)works 150 days a year. Must be tough to find balance.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 8, 2006 9:17 AM

Nancy Pelosi has five children. She got her start in California politics as a volunteer and not elected to office until her children were older. The congresswoman has been quoted several times in the lead up to this campaign that she may not be at any of the celebrations on election night. Her daughter is due and she would drop everything to be there for the birth of her seventh grandchild.

Posted by: Raising on of Each | November 8, 2006 9:24 AM

I agree with scarry 100%. The worst boss I had was a married woman with no kids. The best two I've had were married men with children and working wives. You just have a different perspective once you've been there yourself. I think the difference is with or without kids, not male or female, and whether your spouse works. I'm talking strictly about life/balance issues here - being understanding about family resopnsiblities. I don't really have a sense as to who would be the better mentor.

Posted by: Sam | November 8, 2006 9:26 AM

Pelosi was born Nancy D'Alesandro in Baltimore, Maryland to Italian American parents. She became involved in politics at an early age and her father, Thomas D'Alesandro, Jr., was a U.S. Congressman from Maryland and also a Mayor of Baltimore.

Pelosi graduated from Baltimore's Institute of Notre Dame high school and Trinity College (now Trinity Washington University) in Washington D.C., where she met her future husband, Paul Pelosi. When the couple married, they moved to his hometown of San Francisco, where his brother was a member of the city's Board of Supervisors (San Francisco city & county--council).

Once the youngest of their five children became a senior in high school, Nancy Pelosi became involved in Democratic politics, working her way up to becoming party chairwoman for Northern California, and joining forces with one of the leaders of California Democratic Party politics, 5th District Congressman Phillip Burton.

Pelosi's district is one of the safest in the country; Democrats have held the seat since 1949.

The Pelosi family has a net worth of over $25 million.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 8, 2006 9:37 AM

My experience in the government is that many of the women in high positions have no children. It is still very ingrained in the culture to work long hours, move around and make personal sacrifices to get ahead. I am glad I did all this before I had children, so that enabled me to get promotions. I notice that the women I have worked for do not want to give people a break to take care of the family's needs because they don't want to appear to be playing favorites. They may do it but it is seen as an inconvenience. Some male bosses I have had actually have been better about it, particularly when they have working wives and understand the demands.

Posted by: MDmom | November 8, 2006 9:50 AM

I would prefer to work with a male boss, hands down. I've worked for female bosses and they were very scattered, ditzy, disorganized, whiney princesses or *itches. The ones with kids kept wringing their hands -- "I can't be a good mother because I have to work. And I can't concentrate on work because I have kids." Boo hoo. Choose your priorities and stop whining. I had one who came in late every morning because she had to drop the kids off at school. (Don't they have school buses anymore?) Then she'd leave early to pick up the kids. She'd expect me to cover her phones after she left and sure as shootin', 3 minutes after she left her kids would call for her. Damn it, I'm not her secretary.

I'd prefer a man with a wife who stays home with the kids. If I were hiring, I'd hire men and single women over mothers because I'd want someone who is going to show up for work and do the job, not someone who makes excuses for not working. So sue me.

Posted by: Childless by Choice | November 8, 2006 9:51 AM

I'll choose a male boss every time. They don't have as much to prove as the females do.

Posted by: Steve | November 8, 2006 9:52 AM

Loved this comment: "I'm the only one who is going to make choices that are always in my family's best interest." This is so, so true. My HR woman from J&J shocked me by saying something similar -- that I was the only one in charge of my career, and that if it were up to my company, they'd have me working 24 hours a day, so I had to set my own limits. Personal responsibility is a key component to happiness, when it comes to work and family!

Also loved: "I would rather work for a man with kids whose wife works." Often these men really "get it" too.

But the bottom line for me is that my first choices in bosses, male or female, is someone smart, empathetic, brave and innovative who values my contributions and wants to keep me on their team.

And Nancy Pelosi is GREAT and thank goodness she is spending some of that family money on the American public!

Posted by: Leslie | November 8, 2006 9:53 AM

To anonymous at 9:17 -

You have clearly never worked on the Hill. Although it is true that most members of Congress (especially in the Senate) have a ton of money - therefore allowing them to travel easily, make good childcare arrangements, and not worry about things like healthcare and working two jobs - most Congressmen/women are FAR from lazy. The hours that they keep - when the Congress is in session and not - would blow your mind. Imagine working a 10-hour day, then having 4 or 5 hours of scheduled "smile and nod" time before you start all over again. Imagine flying across the country and back - on the red eye - every weekend to shake hands and listen to people complain.
It's not an easy life, and while many Congressmen/women have the money to have the kind of lifestyle that most of us imagine, their work-life balance is ZERO. They have very little time for their families or their personal interests. Just something to keep in mind, especially as Nancy Pelosi has promised that raising the minimum wage and working to lower healthcare and perscription drug costs is number 1 on her January agenda. Those are things that make it easier for YOU to have a work-life balance.

P.S. I really hope that you are not one of those people who "forgot" to vote yesterday... I understand what it feels like to be disillusioned with your elected representatives, and certainly know that Congress doesn't always work the way we wish it would, but you have an opportunity to change that when you vote - even if change comes slowly.
P.P.S. Another woman to watch: Missouri's New Senator Claire McCaskill. Although she has money and power now, she is a one-time single mom who managed to raise three kids while working in public office. I am looking forward to what she does for women and families in the next six years.

Posted by: scr | November 8, 2006 9:56 AM

My company had a male president and CEO for ten years. He was kind and nuturing, he was always present at employee events, he placed morale at the top of his agenda, and he made an effort to get to know people individually, in all our many offices and their departments.

When he retired, we got a woman in her 50s, never married, no kids, highly ambitious, highly educated, well connected, takes no crap from no one, etc etc. Until she started, we didn't realize that the company wasn't as competitive as it could be. In the year since she's been at the helm, I see more energized employees, more excited to get into new realms of the industry, and yes, I see a better bottom line.

We owe a lot to the former president: he was responsible for lots of workplace improvements and strides forward in social responsibility. But it's our new, hard-edged president who will take the company into the future as a force to be reckoned with.

Funny that the man was in a traditional "women's role" of nuturing and listening and deprioritizing the financal end of things.

Posted by: WDC | November 8, 2006 9:58 AM

"raising the minimum wage and working to lower healthcare and perscription drug costs is number 1 on her January agenda. Those are things that make it easier for YOU to have a work-life balance."

Actually, both of those things will make it much, much, much harder for me to have a work life balance, because I won't be able to afford to keep the staff I have now, meaning I'll have to work even harder.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 8, 2006 10:02 AM

How about you? What type of boss would you rather work for: black, white, bi-racial? What type of person runs your company? What role --if any -- does someone's race and life experience play in their ability to promulgate innovative, smart work/life programs for employees?

Posted by: just curious | November 8, 2006 10:04 AM

I've had one bad female boss who had a tendancy to blame everyone else for her failures. I wasn't married with children at the time so I don't know how flexible she would have been. I suspect not very. Despite having her own children and a very supportive husband, she expected everyone to work overtime and on weekends if necessary.

I currently have male bosses. However, I make very clear boundaries of what I am willing to do, especicially in terms of the time I put in at the office. Fortunately, the three male bosses I have had have all had the attitude that my schedule can be flexible so long as I get the work done. It helps that I work in academia and that university bureaucracy, like that of the federal government, is pretty incompetent. I think part of the reason my bosses have been so flexible is because I have PROVEN my competency and reliability. Interestingly, the one female I do have to deal with, despite being a "feminist" is probably the least tolerant of my having to be out of the office for family reasons.

Posted by: LM in WI | November 8, 2006 10:07 AM

To anon at 10:02,

That's seriously tough, no sarcasm. Small business owners have a hard time of it. But for your comfort I would suggest two pollyanna-ish ideas: Universal healthcare will not cost you as an employer more money. Less, probably. (I'm basing this on the overhead costs of private insurance - 25% - and the overhead costs of Medicare - 3%.)

And, with a higher minimum wage, I imagine a tax break will be offered during a breaking-in period. Plus, it's conceivable that when your employees have a little more money, they'll be a little more reliable, stay in one job longer, have less need to dash out to their second job, to the payroll advance place, etc.

I don't know how many people here know what it's like to be truly poor, but I remember that it was very time consuming! Going to three different grocery stores to save 30 cents on milk, waiting for public transportation because I couldn't afford a car (in a city where buses were rare and trains were nonexistent), calling 20 different service providers to get the lowest rate, instead of calling three and accepting that there might be a lower price out there somewhere that I wasn't finding. Perhaps with a little more money, your employees will feel less pressure, and you'll see the results in improved productivity. Just an optimistic idea.

Posted by: WDC | November 8, 2006 10:17 AM

My gut reaction is that this discussion is just a discussion of stereotypes. It really depends on the person individually and I don't necessarily see a trend towards women being worse than men to work for. And I agree completely with cmac that 7 women don't make that much of a statement for what the rest of the gender wants and needs.

But as long as we're talking about it, my personal experience has been that the most difficult boss to work for balance-wise was one who had three children and a wife who did not work. He actually argued against a sick pay policy for salaried employees in the company because, and I quote "I haven't been sick enough to stay home from work in 25 years." Well fine...but I bet those kids of yours have been, and I bet some of the women who are working clerical jobs in our offices have kids who might get sick sometimes.... Same guy who thought it would have been OK for me to give birth when I was on the road working for the company because a doctor different from their "regular" doctor had delivered all three of their chidlren.

The worst boss my husband has had balance-wise is the female half of his current husband-wife employers. She is a very strong business woman but sometimes has difficulty realizing that it's easier when your health care is entirely covered by the company, when you have a nanny/housekeeper to take care of all kid-related issues, and when your house is on the same property as the office so you don't have to drive 20 minutes one-way to come in when there's an emergency.


Posted by: momof4 | November 8, 2006 10:24 AM

It is not a question of whether individual bosses (male or female) will make work life better for women with children, but whether a significant shift in the make-up of managers will have an effect on how companies treat motherhood. One can imagine that the first women to join the ranks of executive management got there because they were more willing to play by the rules of men. Thirty years ago, companies didn't have to (or at least felt they didn't have to) recruit women to their top positions in order to be competitive. These days, companies are struggling to attract highly qualified leaders. Salaries of executives are at a all time high. The more companies must look to women to fill these hard to fill positions, the more they will have to change to accomodate women's needs. While individual preferences can differ considerably, overall women tend to support a more balanced work/life environment. As the number of women in top management increases, the number of women that care about child-friendly policies in these positions will have to increase. If it doesn't change, then maybe we have to question how much women (in general) actually desire a more family friendly work environment. In other words, maybe women's preferences are not as dissimilar to men's as we believed.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 8, 2006 10:26 AM

I've worked for both male and female bosses in the past. Both the best and worst (in terms of promoting work-life balance) were men. The worst was a single man with no children; the best was a married man with children whose wife also worked outside the home. I don't think gender is the key factor in determining whether a boss is supportive. I do think that a person's own experience shapes what type of boss s/he will be. For example, someone who has had to make a lot of sacrifices to get where s/he is may feel that everyone else should do the same. This may be what's behind some people's negative comments about female bosses--maybe some of them had to work harder than their peers to get where they are, and they expect the same from their staff. I think I prefer a boss--male or female--who has children. In my experience, they have tended to be the most supportive of work-life balance.

Posted by: MKMS | November 8, 2006 10:26 AM

Free Lunch, Free Lunch, Free Lunch, why not free vacations, free everything.

Posted by: mcewen | November 8, 2006 10:32 AM

25 women responsible for $900 billion gets a lot of attention. The number of women is small but their accomplishments are HUGE and have a big ripple effect on employers looking to attract talented female employees. Change comes from all areas -- from elite women like those cited in Fortune, from the female politicians elected yesterday, and from raising the min wage.

Posted by: Leslie | November 8, 2006 10:32 AM

I'd prefer a man with a wife who stays home with the kids. If I were hiring, I'd hire men and single women over mothers because I'd want someone who is going to show up for work and do the job, not someone who makes excuses for not working. So sue me.

I think this is discrimination. By the way, you are not allowed to ask these questions, so yes someone might sue you or the company.

Posted by: Scarry | November 8, 2006 10:36 AM

Why would you pose yet another divisive question like this? Are we not yet evolved enough to understand that a good boss is a good boss and that gender doesn't matter? Just like a good Member of Congress, teacher, or parent/guardian. If you're good at what you do, you're good.Not to mention, I'm not sure what this kind of question has to do with balance. If anythig, it only throw you off balance by discussing/debating/questioning a topic like this.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 8, 2006 10:38 AM

I'm a grown-up and I don't really need my boss's "support" or "understanding". I put in Leave Slips when I come in late or leave early for ANY reason. So does everyone else in my office.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 8, 2006 10:41 AM

I'd prefer a man with a wife who stays home with the kids. If I were hiring, I'd hire men and single women over mothers because I'd want someone who is going to show up for work and do the job, not someone who makes excuses for not working. So sue me.

I think this is discrimination. By the way, you are not allowed to ask these questions, so yes someone might sue you or the company.

******

Yeah, but unfortunately, it's true. I've struggled on whether or not to tell a potential employer that "Look, just because I'm newly married doesn't mean that I will be pregnant within the year." But I think that on some level they do consider that, because it happens a lot, and it costs companies time and money.

I have wondered if I didn't get certain positions because they knew I was a newlywed (with the whole name change transition occurring at the time), and that just plain sucks.

Nothing like potentially being discriminated against for an assumption that I will choose the traditional way of life...

Posted by: literarygirl | November 8, 2006 10:44 AM

Today's question is patently offensive. I can't believe people are responding seriously.

Posted by: just curious | November 8, 2006 10:45 AM

Well,

Since we are being sterotypical - my worst bosses have been - A Single Man, A Gay Man with no adoption desires, an older woman who didn't breastfeed her own kids (therefore she felt the rest of us should have quit when we came back to work), and a mom of one who had a maid and nannies and didn't mind being away from her family all the time.

Hah! That covers just about everyone!!!! Seems like I've only had one decent boss in 15 years - a working mother of 2 with a husband who had to travel for work and therefore understood that things happen unexpectedly. Too bad the single man was threatened by her successes and had her transferred.

Posted by: G | November 8, 2006 10:45 AM

I can almost guarantee that if you interview those Fortune women, 99% of them would be against raising min wage. I am at a loss as to how you seem to be connecting the two - big business and welfare. These are gender neutral issues.

Posted by: 2 Leslie | November 8, 2006 10:47 AM

My best boss was a woman and my worst boss was a woman. Both were married with children. I've had great male bosses in my life, too. The great bosses are the ones who appreciate me for the work I do, and I always tried to reward them by providing more than the minimum. My husband has always been supportive and my children are grown now,but at all stages it was up to me to make my own decisions about my work environment. Creative thinking (and some hard selling) on my part was what led me to those environments where I could shine.

I don't head a Fortune 500 company and I don't make millions for anyone, but now that I am close to retirement I can honestly say that I have made a positive contribution to society.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 8, 2006 10:57 AM

"I'd prefer a man with a wife who stays home with the kids. If I were hiring, I'd hire men and single women over mothers"

That is a truly creepy attitude.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 8, 2006 10:57 AM

"I'd prefer a man with a wife who stays home with the kids. If I were hiring, I'd hire men and single women over mothers"

That is a truly creepy attitude.

Posted by: m | November 8, 2006 10:57 AM

To the childless by choice person: there's a book out - I forget the name - that has preety good information about how the studies show that after having kids women are much smarter and more able to handle a bunch of things at once and get things done. Very ccompelling and even had mgrs saying that women w kids work smarter and harder than anyone else - but mgrs are not allowed to ask if you have kids at an interview, even tho this mgr wanted to know.

Posted by: atlmom | November 8, 2006 10:58 AM

"No idea whether she has any kids, but the First Female Speaker deserves a round of applause!!!!"

So this is why we should praise her? Her major qualification is being female?

Posted by: Anonymous | November 8, 2006 10:59 AM

Most businesses are in the business of making a profit. Period. They do not start out thinking "Golly, gee, what benefits can we dish out to our workers." They focus on the bottom line, the profit. They would not be in the Fortune 500 if they didn't do that. Ever hear of 'Management by Objective?' If they need to make X% of profit, they will do whatever to make that profit, even if it means laying off employees, dropping benefits, cutting positions. This daycare brouhaha you're always wanting was set up because management did the math. It's cheaper to hire a babysitter to watch your kids than it is to lose the billable time you professionals can pull down. In our case, a law firm, attorneys can bill up to $800 per hour. Multiply that by 8 or 10 or 12, and compare to the cost of hiring a babysitter. Daycare is for the Firm's benefit, not yours.

Posted by: Childless by Choice | November 8, 2006 11:00 AM

"My family and I benefitted from subsidized on-site daycare, I was given the freedom to work two days per week at home, and the company allowed me to work long-distance, part-time when my husband's job necessitated our move to Minnesota for two years."

How about all of the single and childfree employees that helped subsidize these benefits? How would they react to these questions posed for the blog?

Posted by: yep | November 8, 2006 11:02 AM

I have had all kinds of bosses, and really, I don't think you can make generalizations. I had a male boss with a working wife and kids. He was very understanding and flexible when it came to work life issues. After that, I had another male boss with a working wife. He was only flexible when it came to his own work life issues. He really did not care about anyone else. After that, I had a female boss with children. She was great, amenable to flexible schedules, understanding about sick kids. My next boss after that was a single women with no kids and no life outside work. She was awful about work life balance issues. My current boss is a single woman who does not have children. She is great. She lets people in the office bring their kids when school is closed. She allows us to have flexible schedules and work at home when the kids are sick. And she includes family and children in our big holiday party every year. So I make no generalizations about what kind of person is most friendly to working parents. It all depends on the person.

Posted by: Emily | November 8, 2006 11:06 AM

Luckily, CBC has not advanced enough in her mediocre career to be in a position to make hiring decisions. Yes, her views are discriminatory. Luckily, she has no power.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 8, 2006 11:11 AM

"My gut reaction is that this discussion is just a discussion of stereotypes"

Momof4, couldn't agree more. My ideal boss is someone who respects me and my abilities, is straightforward, and doesn't have a lot of baggage. My boss right now is pretty great that way - he knows I do good work and he doesn't care when or where I do it so long as it gets done. He gives me direct and straightforward guidance and feedback, and also solicits my opinions on things. It's great.

I can understand the point that a boss who has a working spouse and kids is more likely to be sympathetic than one who has a SAH spouse or no kids; but in the end, to me, it's their approach to the work that matters most.

I'm off to the inlaws' house for a long weekend, see you all next week!

Posted by: Megan | November 8, 2006 11:12 AM

I do agree that what we should be looking at is the shift in what kind of people make up the work force. The fact is, that there are a lot of working moms out there, and there are a lot of dads out there whose wives work also. I think this fact by itself means that the workplace is becoming friendlier to working moms. I also see many more flexible arrangements today than I did 20 or even 10 years ago. Things are changing, and I think they will continue to do so.

Posted by: Emily | November 8, 2006 11:20 AM

Hey CBC do they get extra credit if they are having affairs?

Posted by: Anonymous | November 8, 2006 11:24 AM

Warning: yet more sterotyping ahead!

I find it interesting that often the female executives/bosses who are unsympathetic towards other mothers are not the ones who necessarily busted their butt to "have it all", but who simply had the resources to hire people to help them (or do it entirely) take care of their children and their homes. Women in these positions are really no different than men with SAH wives, and we shouldn't really hold them as examples of what an ideal mother should be. We can admire and respect them, of course - but admiring them as a mother is like admiring Donald Trump as a father.

Posted by: momof4 | November 8, 2006 11:27 AM

And I realize that nobody here is posting that they admire female top executives as mothers, but it does seem to be one of those things you hear about - "She's the CEO of XYZ corporation! And she has 5 children!! What a woman!!! What a perfect example of motherhood!"

Posted by: momof4 | November 8, 2006 11:29 AM

It absolutely depends on the person. My boss is a single mom whose child needs to be driven to and from school, so she works about 25-30 hours a week. I am single-with-no-kids so it is made very clear to me that I will be the one who picks up the slack.

When I requested two days of vacation, her response was, "what do you need vacation for?".

Posted by: kimberly | November 8, 2006 11:31 AM

"but it does seem to be one of those things you hear about - "She's the CEO of XYZ corporation! And she has 5 children!! What a woman!!! What a perfect example of motherhood!"


This is silly and only a fool would describe someone this way. There is no perfect example of anything good 'cause no one is perfect.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 8, 2006 11:34 AM

Kimberly -- bottom lline, this is a parenting blog. Not a place for the childless to complain about people with children.

Posted by: why are you here? | November 8, 2006 11:35 AM

Maybe women who are in supervisory positions are less understanding of women who take time off/leave early/come in late for their kids all the time because they are sick of women shouldering these burdens alone. Maybe they're annoyed that their employees don't expect their husbands to take time off/leave early/go in late to do child-related errands. Not that it's right, but just something to chew on.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 8, 2006 11:36 AM

"Nothing like potentially being discriminated against for an assumption that I will choose the traditional way of life..."

literarygirl --

An assumption that you may have encouraged by choosing the traditional "name change transition"?

You can't have it both ways. If you do traditional things like take someone else's name, you have to put up with the consequences -- in this case, people thinking you are more traditionally minded than you really are.

Posted by: pittypat | November 8, 2006 11:36 AM

Why should my marital status and family life matter to my boss as long as I do my job and do it well. Everyone benefits from some flexibility in their work.

A person without children can judge a person with children for a myriad of reasons and vice versa. What I find interesting is the seeming lack of foresight on the part of those without children. If parents do not do their job and raise responsible healthy children, who will work for the fortune 500 companies everyone seems so fond of when the current work force retires. I'd like to think that most people have children so they can participate in their lives - not pay someone else to. Are we all supposed to devote life to work and the almighty dollar and not enjoy the millions of things life has to offer outside of the office. There are many other ways to contribute to society - how about starting with acknowledging and respecting one's right to make your own decisions - everyone is different and will make different choices. If you choose to spend your life at the office (with consequences as well), go ahead but I don't have to make the same decision. I love my job and am consistently rewarded for good work but it is not my life regardless of my parental status.

Childless by choice, I wonder if deep down you are just a sad, scared and insecure little girl looking for acceptance. What a shameful way to do so.

Posted by: just a thought | November 8, 2006 11:43 AM

"Kimberly -- bottom lline, this is a parenting blog. Not a place for the childless to complain about people with children."

To: Why are you here? --

You need to acquaint yourself more thoroughly with the history of this blog. It's not just for parents, and it's not just about parenting. It's about how people achieve balance in their work and home lives.

Check out the archives.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 8, 2006 11:43 AM

Pittypat:

Ok, so if I chose not to take my husband's name, people would assume that I might not want kids then too?

I don't really see that at all. I see people assume that you want kids if you're married...In fact, that was one of the most irritating things about telling people of our impending or recent marriage. Often, no congratulations were offered for that, but just "Oh! When are you having kids?" or "How many kids are you going to have?"

The two decisions are not one in the same, but they are treated as such. That bothers me.

Posted by: literarygirl | November 8, 2006 11:44 AM

Pittypat

Is this really you or someone pretending to be you? I know you have strong views on some issues, but they don't usually come off as so judgmental. It seems very unfair to assume someone is traditional in every respect because they choose to change their name, and to suggest that literarygirl deserves it. What's so wrong with wanting to be linked to your spouse?

Posted by: Sam | November 8, 2006 11:45 AM

to anon at 11:36

you're correct. I admit to sometimes being of guilty of thinking 'why can't your husband/significant other take care of it this time?' I admit to wondering why the job is last on the list.

I know my husband could and did take care of it at least 50% of the time because it is just the right thing to do.

Posted by: dotted | November 8, 2006 11:46 AM

Oh no, please don't get Pittypat started on the taking your husband's last name issue. We've covered this. She has some um, rigid views on this. I for one, don't want to read her go on and on about this. Because she will.

Posted by: lucky husband | November 8, 2006 11:49 AM

Lucky husband

Some issues are worth revisiting. Few people have read every single word of every posting on this blog.

I missed the one on granite countertops; does anyone have the date of that discussion?

Posted by: Trixie | November 8, 2006 11:54 AM

So am I to assume that every womam who doesn't take her husband's name is like pittypat?

Posted by: Anonymous | November 8, 2006 11:56 AM

This kind of a redunant blog topic. Of course gender alone does not determine the total behavior of a boss. I have had good male married and single bosses. Good female married and single bosses. Good with our without children. Bad on all accounts as well. It is the person who decides if a flexible lifestyle is important to them. I honestly think some of these die hear managers just don't have a life outside of work. So they don't mind living for the job. CBC- you really need to rethink whether you want to be on this blog. All you do is complain about parents. If you spent more time concentrating on your own life rather then complaining about others, you might actually find a committed relationship and do something other then answer phones.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 8, 2006 11:57 AM

I think people change their name when they get married for a number of reasons. One reason for us was simply to make it easier. If all the family members share the same name, it is easier on everyone. I did not want my children and my husband having a different name. I tried to get DH to take my name but he was afraid his father would have freaked out. I kind of like the idea of changing both names. But I wonder if that messes up geneology results. DHs family just spent 3 years doing a study of their family history. It was kind of neat to look at.

Posted by: foamgnome | November 8, 2006 12:00 PM

Dotted - I was the anon. poster earlier - forgot to post my "name."

This is a bad part of my own personality. I definetely have thought this before, and it irks me to no end when women at work joke about how they can't get their husbands to "help" thus leaving them to always leave early, etc. The way I think of it - you have to have difficult balance discussions with someone - your husband, your co-workers, etc. If you choose not to have them with your husbands, then don't get bent out of shape when women who have made it work in their own families get irritated you won't do it in yours (single moms - this doesn't apply to you - I have no idea how you do it! My husband & I can barely do zone defense!).

Posted by: The original just a thought | November 8, 2006 12:01 PM

my two best bosses ever were a man w/two grown children whose wife did not work and a woman w/three kids and a husband who worked p/t. Both of them cared about their employees as people and both of them wanted results,bottom line. They didnt hassle about whether someone took half a sick day, or needed to leave early/come in late,they only cared that you got your work done, whenever, however. They treated everyone humanely, did not retaliate against or mock anyone for needing time to tend a sick parent or child, go to the dentist, and everyone went the extra mile and beyond for these bosses,gladly pitching in to cover for anyone who needed it. Their attitude was, yes, you get your work done, but you're a person and deserve to be treated right. Why aren't there more bosses like them?

Posted by: Ritamae | November 8, 2006 12:02 PM

original just a thought:

well said! I like the 'zone defense' comment...I'm chuckling here.

I think Leslie should ask you to write a blog entry, or if she agrees with you, to express the same sentiment. Balance begins in the 'home' conversations!

Posted by: dotted | November 8, 2006 12:05 PM

Lucky husband

Some issues are worth revisiting.


Not this one. Maybe Lucky Husband and Pittypat could set up their own little board where they can both post their extremist views on the topic, and you can go read it. Then the rest of us can go on in peace.

Posted by: oy | November 8, 2006 12:07 PM

Trying to determine a management trend based upon the sex of the manager just isn't going to work out very well. The two groups are just too large and too diverse to make any meaningful projections. Factors such as age, education, experience, cultural background, family situation, and personality will vastly outweigh any contributions from sex alone.

Posted by: Rufus | November 8, 2006 12:12 PM

to literary girl: sure, it's unfair and discriminatory, but the best way to head off some of those lost opportunities is to raise the issues yourself in your job interviews. We know the prospective employer can't ask and comply with federal nondiscrimination laws, but we can volunteer self-serving information about our personal choices. I have volunteered in interviews that my childcare selection is stable, that my husband and I alternate taking care of sick-days, etc. IMHO, letting the prospective employer reach his or her own uninformed opinion about me and my personal choices is rarely good for me. Who knows, he may be a close friend of CBC and share her views of what constitutes a reliable, dedicated employee.

Posted by: NC lawyer | November 8, 2006 12:15 PM

I would love more talk about "balance at home" when you both work (Laura from the business travel blog day - are you out there?)

I posted my particular challenge in this area recently and have been trying to be proactive in it; since it's so difficult for me, I asked to have my house cleaned professionally as my birthday present this year (that's proactive, right? - and before anyone talks about the money issue, we can't afford it either) - well, it's happening on Friday (best present ever!) and I find myself trying to pre-clean before they come :)

I hate stereotypes, too, but do other 30-something women on here find themselves living in the shadow of mothers who "did it all" or tried to because their husbands weren't helping - the superwoman issue of the 70s and 80s that's been discussed before?

I think this would be a very interesting topic by itself

Posted by: justhavetosay | November 8, 2006 12:18 PM

CBC, did you ever wonder why companies build benefits that primarily serve their employees' families instead of just hiring singles with no children as a way to save money?

Posted by: Rufus | November 8, 2006 12:19 PM

Geez, people, calm down. I'm not advocating anything, nor am I on a soapbox. Just commenting on litgirl's woes.

I merely said to her that one consequence of taking a husband's name is that some people may think you're more traditional than you actually are.

There's nothing wrong with taking his name, but don't be surprised by the assumptions some people will make.

And, by the way, why would potential employers need to know that you're newly married (other than the "name transition thing")? Why would you tell them?

Posted by: pittypat | November 8, 2006 12:22 PM

Living in a mother's shadow is a good topic and it need not be confined to the superwoman working mother myth.

The trick is to stop out of the shadow and live your own life.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 8, 2006 12:24 PM

If the topic is work-life balance, why wouldn't Kimberly have a comment? Or are only parents supposed to get the benefits and privileges? Maybe I'll remember that the next time a co-worker asks me to fill in for her while she does for the kids. Certainly my life isn't less important!

Posted by: childfree and equal | November 8, 2006 12:26 PM

childfree and equal -- this is a parenting blog, pure and simple. You can say its a work-life balance blog, but it's really a work-life balance for parents blog. Your life is not "less important" because of this blog.

Posted by: why are you here? | November 8, 2006 12:31 PM

"And, by the way, why would potential employers need to know that you're newly married (other than the "name transition thing")? Why would you tell them?"

Well, it's not like I'm dying to tell them, but it has come up at times either during an interview or usually during the small talk phase. I don't see anything wrong with them knowing, and since it is a life-changing event, it's nice to share the news. But yes, the name change transition was the big giveaway.

Also, when I was interviewing a lot around the time of the wedding, I felt it was only fair to inform potential employers of time off because of the wedding or honeymoon. I sensed they appreciated the notice, and not having it sprung on them once I was hired.

Posted by: literarygirl | November 8, 2006 12:33 PM

I would rather work for a boss who has children. Does not matter male or female. I would think that the boss understands work/family balance issues better than a single person. That's just my little opinion. I am sure there are exceptions to the rule, but my experience has borne this out.

Posted by: Mr.Honda | November 8, 2006 12:33 PM

I don't know where you're coming from, but you don't make The Rules.

This blog is for anyone interested in issues of work-life balance, which may or may not involve kids, elderly parents, great hobbies or other non-work life activities.

if you can find a way to discourage McEwen from posting, however, have at it.

Posted by: to why are you here? | November 8, 2006 12:34 PM

"Not this one. Maybe Lucky Husband and Pittypat could set up their own little board where they can both post their extremist views on the topic, and you can go read it. Then the rest of us can go on in peace."

Oy --

Just wondering. Where did you get the idea that I have an extremeist view on the question of taking the husband's name?

Yes, I've argued that it's reasonable not to do so for a variety of reasons. But I've never said that women shouldn't take their husband's names -- only that they shouldn't be forced or pressured to.

I've argued that it's an individual choice that the woman should make. (I think that's why a lot of the male posters on this blog got angry with me. They feel it should be partly their decision.)

This is a serious topic, Oy, and you're playing it for laughs. How does that contribute to this discussion?

Posted by: pittypat | November 8, 2006 12:36 PM

Having child care subsidized by the co. definitely helps those who are child free, for many reasons -

Ensuring that those with children have adequate coverage helps those with kids work better so they don't have to worry about childcare. You get better workers that way.
I definitely don't think that employers are there to serve employees, but when they provide certain benefits, they get better people working for them, who are more loyal - which makes for a more productive employee and more profits for the company...

Posted by: atlmom | November 8, 2006 12:37 PM

I don't claim to make the rules, although I do have a gift for stating the obvious. Come on, it's a parenting blog. That's why people write about breast feeding, public schools, daycare, circumcision, and the social scene on the playground.

But, alas, none of these topics have managed to scare McEwen way.

Posted by: why are you here? | November 8, 2006 12:40 PM

"this is a parenting blog, pure and simple."

Not exactly. A lot of people who don't have children or whose children are grown look at and post at this blog. Some are simply curious, some are managers who help set policy, some have an agenda, etc.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 8, 2006 12:42 PM

"this is a parenting blog, pure and simple."

To: Why --

If that were true, why would Leslie throw out topics like: Why or why not to have kids? Why did you / didn't you vote today? Do black and white women have trouble communicating and having friendships with each other?

These have all been recent topics, and their emphasis clearly was not on parenting.

So, really, you're wrong. Live with it.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 8, 2006 12:46 PM

Just wondering. Where did you get the idea that I have an extremeist view on the question of taking the husband's name?

Probably from all of your posts the day it was a blog topic about how it means the woman becomes the man's property and we'll never be able to shake that history off and any woman who does take her husband's name is perpetuating that history. Just a guess, though.

Then, of course, on the other side, was Lucky Husband posting about how only women who take their husband's names really love their husbands and how lucky those husbands are.

Both views are extremist IMHO.

Posted by: oy | November 8, 2006 12:47 PM

To atlmom:

"Ensuring that those with children have adequate coverage helps those with kids work better so they don't have to worry about childcare. You get better workers that way."

Do you have any stats to back up that statement?

Posted by: Anonymous | November 8, 2006 12:50 PM

Still a parenting blog.

I guess what gets my goat is when the childless use this parenting blog as a forum to complain about their bosses with kids, their ex-friends with kids, the kids at the restaurant.

What was the title of that book Leslie wrote? Why is she the moderator of this blog?

Posted by: why are you here? | November 8, 2006 12:51 PM

Well, I bet Pittypat and I can agree on one thing -- "oy" rewrote our strong opinions and made them even more extreme -- certainly more extreme than what we said.

Posted by: lucky husband | November 8, 2006 12:56 PM

"This blog is devoted to illuminating the work/family debate through stories from moms about how we juggle work and kids, in whatever portions we've chosen (including none). So welcome, working moms, sort-of working moms and not-working-right-now moms. "

While I like to see all people here, we shouldn't act like this blog is something it's not.

Posted by: actually | November 8, 2006 1:02 PM

so shall all the non-Mom guys leave as well?

Posted by: to actually | November 8, 2006 1:03 PM

"Still a parenting blog. "

OK, what are the rules?

Posted by: Anonymous | November 8, 2006 1:04 PM

Basing things on what I have seen in the workplace, a more cohesive, empowering environment is better than one based on abusive tactics (i.e., I will fire you if you come in a minute later! Or bosses who yell, etc). People work better when they are more contented. You can believe it or not, but I am sure you've seen it in the work place as well. Motivated, happy employees do better work. *shrug* just run a company where you treat the employees poorly, and you see the good ones leave. My last job was like that - five people in four months (and counting) and my (smaller sub) group (of people who are very specialize and hard to find) saw turnover over 25% per year for a while (four people, and they had to replace at least one per year, and two can't leave because of visa issues). HR says the managers are always right (part of the problem).

Posted by: atlmom | November 8, 2006 1:06 PM

You missed the point. We don't want anyone to leave, well maybe CBC, but you can't say this isn't a parenting blog because it clearly is.

Posted by: just pointing out | November 8, 2006 1:07 PM

Just wondering- for those complaining about female bosses, could your discontent stem from some hidden bias--that you don't like taking orders from a woman? Maybe you're more programmed to take orders/direction from a man and are secretly resentful of a woman in power?

Posted by: Just a thought | November 8, 2006 1:09 PM

Top 5 Beaten TO DEATH Blog Topics

5. No Free Lunch because everyone's equal/ Some people/groups need a hand
4. Nobody Likes Scarry/Everybody Loves Scarry
3. Enforce the Post rules about deleting things
2. F04: Town Pariah or misunderstood Teddy Bear?
1. What is this blog about/who should participate?

I saw we make a community agreement never to discuss these again. Anyone bringing up these topics gets 40 lashes.

Posted by: Blog Historian | November 8, 2006 1:22 PM

I agree with points impliedly made by Just a thought. A certain percentage of employees of both genders don't accept the authority of a female boss and are not the same team players they are when they have a male boss.

also Women often expect female bosses to be more nurturing or more understanding of work-life balance issues based on nothing more than common gender. A good female boss, like a good male boss, is in the business of running a profitable enterprise and running it with the best, most reliable employees she can attract and retain. If the job can be done from home or tomorrow, fine, you have flexibility. If it needs to be done now, the fact that your child is sick doesn't change the client deadline. Work it out with your spouse (if you have one), not with the boss. The only employees who, in my opinion, should be cut additional slack by everyone on the team are single moms and adult caretakers of seniors (with no local siblings or other support). It is, however, incumbent, on those folks to kick it into overdrive and pay back their colleagues when there's no imminent crisis in their lives.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 8, 2006 1:24 PM

Oy,

If you check back, you'll see that my primary objection was to engagement rings, which I feel confer "ownership."

My further objection was to the idea that men have the right to be part of the decision about the wife's name. If the wife wants to share the decision, fine, but the man is not automatically entitled to be part of the decision. I did not claim that taking the husband's name makes a woman the man's property.

Interestingly, the name of that blog was "To Keep or Not to Keep Your Maiden Name." So, presumably Leslie was interested in generating some debate on the pros and cons -- not just getting a bunch of glowing testimonials from wives who took their husbands' names.

Debate involves at least two perspectives on an issue; otherwise, there's nothing to talk about. I took a position that I believe in, and a few men on the blog got quite huffy. They seemed to think that ridicule is an effective debate strategy; I concluded from this that they just didn't have a good argument of their own.

Anyway, feel free to malign me further, but do go back and review that blog first. It should help to clear up your misconceptions.


Posted by: pittypat | November 8, 2006 1:27 PM

Pittypat I feel the need to point out that several of the men in that blog session DID make good arguments for why their wives took their names.

It is unreasonable for you to take a tone that suggests that your opinion left us all withered and unable to respond with logic and reason.

Except mcewen, I mean.

Posted by: Random Guy | November 8, 2006 1:32 PM

"The only employees who, in my opinion, should be cut additional slack by everyone on the team are single moms and adult caretakers of seniors"

How do you justify this to your employees? How do you monitor "additional slack" and kicking into "overdrive"?

Posted by: Anonymous | November 8, 2006 1:33 PM

As a GenX woman, I've had rough times with female bosses. I think this is a particular generational problem. My female predecessors had it tough and worked hard and had to try to be like they thought men who succeeded behaved (i.e. tough, insensitive, hard working, not concerned about family). They seemed to resent younger women who never faced the same hurdles and to have let the normal female cattiness/insecurity that makes women compete with each other and judge each other so harshly affect their management style.

And with a male boss - you can ALWAYS use the vague "female problems" to explain any sick day!

Posted by: Men are Simple! | November 8, 2006 1:33 PM

One of the most successful and ambitious women I know changed her name to her husband's when she got married so that she would have the same name as her kids. I kept my name but am thikning of changing it because the immigration people are suspicious of me when I fly internationally with my kids (who have their dad's name). People change their names for lots of reasons. why make assumptions?

Posted by: m | November 8, 2006 1:44 PM

Random Guy

I must have been fantasizing about Colin Farrell during the maiden name discussion 'cause I didn't see any "good arguments for why their wives took their names."

Please summarize. Maybe they are good arguments to you 'cause you're a guy.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 8, 2006 1:45 PM

NC Lawyer:

I see where you're coming from, and I have considered mentioning it, but I can't shake the feeling that it's just not the right thing to do (mainly because, it's really no one's business)...it is most definitely being stuck between a rock and a hard place.

And I don't want that to come back and bite me for having mentioned it. It should just be enough to simply interview and qualify with my experience and skill sets, but I suspect at times that my age, marital status and gender works against me.

Yet, I see both sides of it. Companies have to look out for themselves as well.

If you were in this situation, how would you word it or bring it up to a potential employer?

Posted by: literarygirl | November 8, 2006 1:50 PM

Interesting topic considering I saw the following article in Fast Company yesterday:
http://www.fastcompany.com/resources/talent/heffernan/101006.html

It talks about how few of us are using our full talents at work and that one of the marks of successful women entrepreneurs is the fact that they DON'T separate work and life.

Posted by: LQ | November 8, 2006 1:55 PM

"It is unreasonable for you to take a tone that suggests that your opinion left us all withered and unable to respond with logic and reason."

Random Guy --

Heaven forfend that I should have left you emasculated in any way at all. :>)

Please see exactly what I said in my previous post: "a few men on the blog got quite huffy."

A few men. That doesn't mean all of you, RG. It means A FEW. And if you go back and reread the blog, you'll see that a few specific men got quite nasty. (No, I won't name names.)

Posted by: pittypat | November 8, 2006 1:57 PM

Anon, the most compelling argument for me was that some women decided to change their names because they knew their husbands appreciated it. It was something that made the husbands happy. I think a couple of guys even said they considered it a 'gift'.

That was cool because for some of the women I know, their wonderful wedding day memories endure as a great symbol of getting married. Well, for some of us, the honor of the wife taking the name was roughly equated to that, and it rung true to me.

(I'm not going back thru the archives. Working from memory.)

Posted by: Random Guy | November 8, 2006 2:16 PM

pittypat archives
---
I find the whole engagement ring thing a little sickening. Why would a woman want to have to wear a symbol saying "I belong to someone now" or "Look what I caught"? The guy buys the ring essentially to brand the woman as "taken." What's wrong with an old-fashioned pledge to one another to get married? Why does there need to be this demonstration of ownership?

Same thing with last names. Why can't she and he join together and make a unit without her having to allow herself to be subsumed under his name?

Both of these actions are fine for those who wish to pursue them. But some of us have different values -- that is, we value the relationship, not the symbols.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 8, 2006 2:17 PM

I would rather work for a boss that values employees above company profits. One that sees each individual as a person instead of a means to achieve a work-goal. One that understands that family does come before work.

Gender has nothing to do with it.
Leslie, why does everything have to be a gender issue? Sometimes I get the impression that you think a woman president and 100 women senators and 400+ women representatives will make the USA heaven on earth. (as well as every fortune500 CEO being a woman).

Posted by: Mr.Honda | November 8, 2006 2:17 PM

I worked for a woman boss once.
Carly Fiorina at HP.
She ran the company to the ground, then got fired with a $30million severence package.

She was even Fortune magazine's "most powerful" woman.

It was during her reign that I wanted to work part-time for a few months due to the birth of my firstborn. HR cited company policy that forbade it and said I could quit instead.

Posted by: TicklesTheClown | November 8, 2006 2:24 PM

I have a question for anyone on here. I didn't see it answered above. How many of these women are mother's? How many are married?
Just curious.

One problem with stereotyping is that you take away the individual characteristics of the person you are talking about. A woman is not always a "mother" and a man is not always a "father". It is the individual characteristics of these women (or men) that gets them to the top.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 8, 2006 2:25 PM

Hi justhavetosay -- yes, back today (been off for a few days w/sick kid -- speaking of work/life balance). Congrats on the housecleaners! Big relief if you can swing it (tho I tend to do the "cleaning for the cleaners" thing too! Don't want to waste their limited time picking up toys). Personally, I plan to ask my husband for time-saving stuff as a present this year -- like, if he'd take my car to Jiffy Lube, or change the battery in my watch, or just do some of that other nagging little stuff I haven't been able to get around to, it would be the best present he could give me.

I suspect there is a big generational component here. When I was growing up in the 70s and 80s, the big powerful corporate job was the Holy Grail -- there's nothing like being told that you can't do or be something to make you want to prove you can. And so for people like my mom, who was told she could be a nurse or secretary, seeing me go to law school and get courted by big firms was one of the proudest moments of her life ("you mean they flew you there for an interview? and THEY paid for it?").

But it seems for the generation after me, who grew up with those doors (legally) open, it's easier to take it for granted that you will advance or not based on merit, so you can focus more on what you want than on feeling you have to prove that you can "make it." And there's also more of a shift toward wanting to balance time at home with career achievement -- when I compare the attitudes and beliefs of some of our older partners vs. our younger associates, a lot of them are just very different in that regard. Whether that's in reaction to the "superwoman" myth, or to not feeling they have to fight so hard to be taken seriously, I don't know.

I agree that a good or bad boss relates more to experience and attitude than gender. The most important characteristic of a good boss, to me, is whether they see their employees as valuable assets, or as fungible widgets to be exchanged the moment they cause a problem. If you have an empathetic boss who believes employees are assets, then he or she will look for reasonable accommodations that will allow those employees contribute at work while having enough time outside of work to have a personal life -- whether that involves kids, aging parents, volunteer work, or some other interest.

In practice, however, sometimes people have to experience it themselves, which is why some of my best bosses have been married with a WOH spouse and kids w/o a nanny. Once you've dealt with that kind of juggling yourself, it's easier to understand it when someone else has to. One of the guys I work with/for is absolutely great, but has a SAH wife who has always covered doctor's visits, illness, days school is closed, etc. So he just seems sort of bemused when he sees me having to take care of my share of kid stuff -- he's not at all negative about it, it's just more like he never even considered that, because he never had to deal with it himself.

Posted by: Laura | November 8, 2006 2:33 PM

If we're going to go there with the surname debate, I'm with pittpat. We are a unit because we became married. Neither the rings, the name, or the establishment of a joint checking account means a thing to us -- it's all for the outside world. I didn't have an engagement ring until 6 years after we were married because we had other financial priorities. With respect to changing surnames, my husband (generally very conservative) was frank that he wouldn't consider changing his name and wouldn't expect me to change mine. It continues to matter not a bit to him and has turned out to be a great way to separate telemarketers from those who know us. The only time it's an issue is with the occasional other who assumes that somehow we don't love each other as much, or I am not committed to the marriage as much, as those who change their names to be identical. Our kids bear his name and have never had anyone ask them any questions about the different names. Heck, the kids have never asked either of us why the names are different. I miss living in DC where this was such a non-issue.

Posted by: NC lawyer | November 8, 2006 2:37 PM

Male or Female I would rather work for a person who is capable of seeing beyond their own situation. My husband and I both work outside of the home. We have no SAH relatives or friends who could take care of a sick child that live near us. My husband shares the child care burdens with me, but very often I do the most because I work in government where I'm allowed to use sick leave to care for immediate family and his company is run by men in their 50's whose wives always SAH and very little leave is tolerated regardless of how much is earned. Regardless of the boss's attitude, I think the US in general should realize the value of well rounded individuals as employees and follow through on allowing ee's to take advantage of ALL compensation offered including time away from work.

Posted by: bobina | November 8, 2006 2:40 PM

Random Guy

Wife takes husband's name as gift and/or to make husband happy. Why did husband request it in the first place?

My husband would be real happy and honored if I got breast implants, but it ain't gonna happen.

I still don't get ot.


Posted by: Anonymous | November 8, 2006 2:40 PM

My husband would be real happy and honored if I got breast implants, but it ain't gonna happen.

Now that is funny. :)

Posted by: foamgnome | November 8, 2006 2:46 PM

NC lawyer:
I don't have the same surname as my husband either. I'm also in NC and nobody cares here. Nor has anyone ever cared whereever we lived in the last 25 years or so.

anon at 2:40
implants aren't happening here either. What's the use? They'll just sag more. Sagging isn't the sexiest look on the block, imho.

Posted by: dotted | November 8, 2006 2:49 PM

But having the ring, or taking the surname, or merging the checking accounts CAN be the woman's decision, and it DOESN'T necessarily make her suberviant, and it DOESN'T logically follow that the ring, name, and account are more important than the relationship.

Posted by: lucky husband | November 8, 2006 2:51 PM

Lucky husband

"But having the ring, or taking the surname, or merging the checking accounts CAN be the woman's decision, and it DOESN'T necessarily make her suberviant, and it DOESN'T logically follow that the ring, name, and account are more important than the relationship."

No, but why is the woman making the changes? Hell will freeze over before I merge all/most of my assets with anyone as long as I am of sound mind.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 8, 2006 2:56 PM

"My husband would be real happy and honored if I got breast implants, but it ain't gonna happen."

Good one! LOL!!!

Posted by: pittypat | November 8, 2006 2:59 PM

"Hell will freeze over before I merge all/most of my assets with anyone as long as I am of sound mind."

We've been fine with merged assets and shared last name. That's us.

So when a couple does have separate bank accouts, who pays for the breast implants?

Posted by: lucky husband | November 8, 2006 3:01 PM

the husband pays for the breast implants. the wife pays for the follicle implants. right?

Posted by: to lucky husband | November 8, 2006 3:06 PM

The dems won the house! We can look forward to higher taxes now, especially bringing back the estate tax in 2010. Gots ta tax the rich more!!

Posted by: Woohoo! | November 8, 2006 3:07 PM

"But having the ring, or taking the surname, or merging the checking accounts CAN be the woman's decision, and it DOESN'T necessarily make her suberviant, and it DOESN'T logically follow that the ring, name, and account are more important than the relationship."

No, but why is the woman making the changes? Hell will freeze over before I merge all/most of my assets with anyone as long as I am of sound mind
---

How is the woman making ALL the changes?
She gets a ring. That's a nice gift from me.

She takes the surname. Yes, this is the woman making the changes. This is a big choice, and although I have been criticized for it, I appreicate this decision.

We merge the accounts. Women come into marriage with assets -- this is a change for both parties.

Posted by: lucky husband | November 8, 2006 3:10 PM

Engagement rings and surname changes for women when they marry are symbols, but they also mean something. The engagement ring is a kind of branding of the woman, made pallatable by the idea that somehow, the size and value of the diamond gives her a certain amount of prestige over women who are not so branded. And the idea that a woman should voluntarily change her name to her husband's as a "gift' to him also implies that she should be subsumed by him as a result of the marriage. If men routinely were expected to do the same, and take their wives' last names, perhaps this would not be true, but this symbolic act does not go both ways (with very very few exceptions".

We talk about symbols as if they did not mean anything, but they mean a lot. If they did not, they would not be so important to people. Saying that taking your husband's last name does not mean anything so just go ahead and do it is ridiculous. If it does not mean anything, why bother to do it? These symbols are very powerful in our society, and unfortunately, they are remnants of a paternalistic society that has historically oppressed women. I figure people can do what they want. But it is disingenuous to say that buying into these symbols does not mean anything. They point to a time when women were the property of men. I, for one, refuse to condone the things that these symbols represent.

Posted by: Emily | November 8, 2006 3:10 PM

Democrats won the House and will probably take the Senate as well. Go Joe Liberman. Now, we may finally get the Heck out of Iraq and start spending some of our money on our own issues! Yeah, I will gladly give up the tax cut for the rich (inheritance tax) to actually work on some domestic issues.

Posted by: foamgnome | November 8, 2006 3:11 PM

My wife makes much more than I do. We have one joint account. I keep the books, I spend what I want, when I want. She cooks, cleans, watches the kids. Life is good.

Posted by: AnotherHubby | November 8, 2006 3:11 PM

"But having the ring, or taking the surname, or merging the checking accounts CAN be the woman's decision, and it DOESN'T necessarily make her suberviant, and it DOESN'T logically follow that the ring, name, and account are more important than the relationship."

Lucky --

I don't disagree with you -- except about the ring thing.

My husband and I both wear wedding bands, but I didn't need or want an engagement ring to prove that he loved me and wanted to make things permanent. For me, there's a huge difference between exchanging rings as a pledge (a good thing) and getting an engagement ring (a not-so-good thing).

In Victorian times, well-to-do men liked to have fleshy, well-padded wives to show how successful they were (i.e., could buy large quantities of rich, expensive food). I see engagement rings in the same light. The man has to demonstrate to the outside world how successful he is, and he does this by buying his fiancee an expensive ring. (And the fiancee, who in all other respects is a modern, independent, equality-minded woman, has come to expect this as her due.)

And nowadays, men are terrorized by the diamond industry, which shames them into spending a certain percentage of their annual income on a ring. (What is it now, three months' salary?) Since when did you guys agree to tithe to the jewelers?

So, you see, we aren't all that far apart in perspective.

Posted by: pittypat | November 8, 2006 3:13 PM

"The engagement ring is a kind of branding of the woman, made pallatable by the idea that somehow, the size and value of the diamond gives her a certain amount of prestige over women who are not so branded."

Where does this kind of thinking come from?

I don't want my daughter to require a ring, but if her future husband presents her with one in a loving spirit, I certainly don't want her to be offended by this gesture!

Posted by: lucky husband | November 8, 2006 3:15 PM

But really the dems think it is a mandate for them when it is really a mandate against the other guy. So my dream of giuiliani (sp?) In2008 may really come true. A moderate repub who isn't a crazy spender

Posted by: atlmom | November 8, 2006 3:15 PM

Emily- I actually viewed the engagement ring as a wonderful gift from my DH. He took a lot of time and care when choosing the diamond. He let me choose the setting. But it is a symbol of our love for one another and his belief in the commitment. I think it is sort of sad that women do not also give a man, such a gift. But I never viewed it as a symbol of belonging to my husband. As far as the name change, well lots of women choose not to change their name. More choose to. I haven't seen any indication that women who take on their husband's name feel any more subservant then women who don't. I am not saying those were symbols of ownership in the past. But times have changed and maybe it is time to revisit the meaning of such acts. Just a thought. I think people are free to do whatever they want.

Posted by: foamgnome | November 8, 2006 3:16 PM

The dems are taking the House and the Senate. The dems are taking the House and the Senate. The Dems are taking the House and the Senate.

It is a new day in America. Yipee!!! Yipee.

Sorry, I just had to gloat somewhere. I am so happy today.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 8, 2006 3:16 PM

We were fooled into thinking a diamond ring was important. I spent $3K on it, she wore it for 1 month, then it's been in the safe for the last 10yrs. In hindsight, we should have just settled for $200 wedding bands.

Posted by: AnotherHubby | November 8, 2006 3:18 PM

Women still making the changes:

Men don't wear engagement rings; men want women wear to them to signal to the world that the bride-to-be has been bagged & tagged.

Merged bank accounts will have husband's surname; wife's maiden name disappears like poof.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 8, 2006 3:18 PM

I'm really not trying to be snide here at all, but for those men who regarded their wives assuming their names a gift--why is that? What makes it appealing that a woman would take your name?

I love my husband, deeply and passionately but never would I ask him to change his name to mine. I suppose it's because I associate his name with him. It's part of his identity, perhaps not as much as the lines on his face. But it's an important part. I just can't quite figure out why asking him to change that would be appealing.

Posted by: TC | November 8, 2006 3:19 PM

I just think the engagement ring is ridiculous. It is an outrageously expensive shiny piece of metal and rock that only the woman wears. The size of the diamond is supposed to be a signal about the man's prestige and commitment to the woman. The woman who wears it is marked as taken, but the man does not have to be similarly marked.

I like the idea of exchanging wedding rings as a mutual promise to each other, as Pittypat said. But I don't see the point of the engagement ring at all, other than to enrich the jeweler.

But to each his own. If people want to waste their money on these trappings, no skin off my nose. I just don't see the point.

Posted by: Emily | November 8, 2006 3:22 PM

"But really the dems think it is a mandate for them when it is really a mandate against the other guy."

altmom --

I think the dems know this. Pelosi has already indicated that she expects to work from the center, because she knows that so many of those house seats the dems picked up were won by conservative Democrats who had appeal for Republicans angry with their own party. I don't think you'll see a Democratic version of 1994, when Gingrich made moderate Republicans irrelevant in his government.

At least I hope the dems work this way. I'd like to believe that they've learned something from the Republican meltdown -- and that they haven't forgotten the lessons of '94.

Posted by: pittypat | November 8, 2006 3:23 PM

"The dems are taking the House and the Senate. The dems are taking the House and the Senate. The Dems are taking the House and the Senate.

It is a new day in America. Yipee!!! Yipee.

Sorry, I just had to gloat somewhere. I am so happy today."

I second that. Let's do the dance of joy. :>)

Posted by: pittypat | November 8, 2006 3:25 PM

Emily, I agree on the ring issue and feel the same about names. I'd never criticize someone for taking her husband's name, although I've chosen not to do so. What does frustrate me, though, is when people assume that I'm not committed to my husband because I don't have an engagement ring or an assumed :) name. I think that's presumptuous and, frankly, ugly.

Posted by: TC | November 8, 2006 3:27 PM

What the heck is wrong with just wanting a pretty piece of jewelry from the man you love? If my husband had wanted a pretty piece of jewelry from me when we got engaged I would have bought him one.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 8, 2006 3:27 PM

Wow, let everyone do their own thing and take it for what it is, rather than imposing your own judgenpment on it. My ring is beautiful, and my DH said he wanted to buy one that would be enormous ( ie fill a room) to show everyone how he feels-not to brand me. After two kids, it doesn't fit and I need to make it bigger. Oh, well.

Rings are way better than men peeing on you, by the way.

Posted by: atlmom | November 8, 2006 3:28 PM

Dems are in control.
Better buy your guns now while it's still legal.

Posted by: Woohoo! | November 8, 2006 3:28 PM

Pittypat, I don't want to agree with you.

I do agree with you on the diamond industry brainwashing men on a big diamond engagment ring. And the diamond anniversary band. And the past, future, present ring. And so the successful women aren't left out -- the right hand ring, which you buy for yourself once you've "made it" in the corporate world. Perhaps another time, we'll cover the diamond necklaces and earrings that mark milestones in our life.

My wife likes her engagment ring. She didn't want me to spend a fortune on it. I wanted her to have it, and many years later, I'm still happy to see it on her finger. It does not symbolize ownership or status to me. We don't live in Victorian times. At the same time, I know you don't have to have that ring to be engaged. But I don't think having one is automatically a bad thing.

Can't it just be a gift?

Of course, she not wearing it NOW, because another baby is on the way. That puts the "Lucky" in "Lucky Husband" in my book!

Posted by: lucky husband | November 8, 2006 3:29 PM

and didn't we just talk this stupid name change issue to death a few weeks ago? WHO CARES!!!????

Posted by: Anonymous | November 8, 2006 3:29 PM

Wow--I don't really see that wearing an engagement ring means I'm branded. Same with taking his last name.

I know he spent a great amount of time searching for a unique piece of jewelry to accompany his proposal. Not because he wanted to brand or "mark" me, but because he loves me, and wanted to present me with a token of that love for me to cherish and wear.

But of course, that's not to say if he proposed without one I would've said no. It was his choice to get it for me, and mine to accept (or decline).

And for what it's worth, I know it wasn't 3 month's salary. That's ridiculous. Not all women who wear an engagement ring are high-maintenance, materialistic divas.

Posted by: literarygirl | November 8, 2006 3:31 PM

Pittypat, I don't want to agree with you.

I do agree with you on the diamond industry brainwashing men on a big diamond engagment ring. And the diamond anniversary band. And the past, future, present ring. And so the successful women aren't left out -- the right hand ring, which you buy for yourself once you've "made it" in the corporate world. Perhaps another time, we'll cover the diamond necklaces and earrings that mark milestones in our life.

My wife likes her engagment ring. She didn't want me to spend a fortune on it. I wanted her to have it, and many years later, I'm still happy to see it on her finger. It does not symbolize ownership or status to me. We don't live in Victorian times. At the same time, I know you don't have to have that ring to be engaged. But I don't think having one is automatically a bad thing.

Can't it just be a gift?

Of course, she not wearing it NOW, because another baby is on the way. That puts the "Lucky" in "Lucky Husband" in my book!

Posted by: lucky husband | November 8, 2006 3:32 PM

Why don't men receive engagement rings?

Posted by: Anonymous | November 8, 2006 3:36 PM

Anyone who is really "brainwashed" by the diamond industry into thinking they have to spend 2 months salary or WHATEVER on an engagement ring deserves to be taken for their money.

While you're at it, you should probably run out and buy every educational video game system, housecleaning gadget, and a minivan with a built in DVD player because if you don't your life will be hell and your children will be stupid. The television ads say so, you know.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 8, 2006 3:37 PM

I agree that the gender of the boss matters little compared to his or her views on the value of the employee. I've had almost all female bosses and they have varied greatly in style, competence, and support of "work/life balance."

I've never viewed the name changing thing as a gift--my wife ended up taking my name a few years after we got married--I couldn't convince her to merge our names together (no hyphens--more like a mashup) and she had no desire to keep her maiden name. It's nice when you're making calls for doc appointments or school stuff in terms of every one having the same name. It also feels more like a team name to me. Sometimes decisions like this mean the world to people and other don't think twice about them (that usually seems to be a matter of self-definition vs. convenience/practicality; e.g., self-definition: I will not be owned and suppressed by taking another's name. convenience/practicality: We can use the same name on return-address labels!).

I'm not in to the whole status/ownership symbolism thing, but like many social norms, the ring serves multiple purposes. On a certain level, it signifies a certain commitment or tangible investment in the future--yes, it's not necessary for a loving relationship or to declare one's love, but picking and paying for the ring is a bigger obligation than the simple thought (sure, I'll marry her).

Makes me think maybe Mervis Diamonds actually penned these Madonna lyrics:
"Some boys kiss me, some boys hug me I think they're o. k. If they don't give me proper credit I just walk away----

They can beg and they can plead but they can't see the light cause the boy with the cold hard cash is always mister right, cause we are living in a material--- world and I am a material- girl."

Posted by: marc | November 8, 2006 3:38 PM

Okay, I might have been the first poster to admit to subscribing to the "her taking my name was a gift to me" theory. The reality was this:

She asked me if I wanted her to take my name. I told her that it was clearly her call, but I would be honored. On the wedding day, that's a gift she gave me. It's something that makes me smile every day. The actual wedding "ceremony" I believe provided a similar enduring memory for her. Standing before family and friends with the "I now pronounce you..." speech was her favorite public expression of our union. Her carrying my name is my favorite expression of our union.

I neither "possess" her nor have forced her to do anything she didn't want to. I've seriously dated women who didn't want to change their name when/if they decided to get married. It had no bearing on the relationships.

As for the engagement ring, you make of that symbol whatever you wish to make of it. If you choose to see it as some women expressing that she is soon to be "possessed" by some guy, then that's you reading your bias into it. If that particular women chooses to see it as "someone loves me so much that he gave me a gift to serve as a constant reminder that he wants to be with me forever", then why don't you just let her be happy with that viewpoint?

(I do agree that we husbands get totally hosed on having to pay out for engagement rings, valentine's day and "sweetest day" (WTF?) every year.)

-Pp.

Posted by: Proud Papa | November 8, 2006 3:39 PM

To: " Posted by: atlmom | November 8, 2006 03:15 PM "

Giuiliani at dream? What the world outside NY doesn't know about Rudy Giuiliani! Yes, he was a 9-11 hero, but look into his corrupt past. Remember Bernard Kerik?

Posted by: Anonymous | November 8, 2006 3:40 PM

Is it three months salary gross?

Three months take home pay?

Posted by: lucky husband | November 8, 2006 3:42 PM

Marc -- quoting Madonna lyrics! That made my day! (sad, I know)

Posted by: lucky husband | November 8, 2006 3:45 PM

According to the stupid commercials, it's just 3 months pay :-) I bet it's net.

Don't pay retail for anything!

Posted by: Random Guy | November 8, 2006 3:45 PM

What the F is "sweetest day"?

Posted by: marc | November 8, 2006 3:46 PM

Proud Papa

Did you receive an engagement ring?

You're right on men getting hosed for jewelry; it's a billion dollar racket that men fall for like chumps. Do men lose their judgment when it comes to nookie?

Posted by: Anonymous | November 8, 2006 3:49 PM

Sweetests day is a friggin hallmark holiday.

http://www.theromantic.com/sweetestday.htm

Posted by: Anonymous | November 8, 2006 3:50 PM

"but picking and paying for the ring is a bigger obligation than the simple thought (sure, I'll marry her)."

Really not so, Marc.

You can't even begin to know what has come before in any situation where two people decide to get married.

There are many, many kinds of tokens of love and affection, and some are a lot harder to do than simply buying a ring. Often, they are actions or behaviors, promises that have been kept or amends that have been made. Sometimes, they're more tangible. But, whatever binds a couple, the relationship -- and the man's committment to it -- shouldn't be valued on whether the man buys and pays for a ring.

That action doesn't make him a more worthy suitor. :>)

Posted by: pittypat | November 8, 2006 3:50 PM

Love her, honor her, cherish her....
but put everything in your name.
:) :)

Posted by: AnotherHubby | November 8, 2006 3:50 PM

Proudpapa, thanks for your response. I admit I'm still a little befuddled by the whole name-taking thing, but then again I didn't have a wedding, per se, so I must just be a whole different kind of gal!

Posted by: TC | November 8, 2006 3:50 PM

"Don't pay retail for anything"

Don't be suckers at all; don't buy any of this crap.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 8, 2006 3:51 PM

sweetest day is celebrated in Ohio. I don't know if it is anywhere else. I think it is a gimmick to just make more money.

Posted by: Scarry | November 8, 2006 3:52 PM

I did not get an engagement ring, but I got carte blanche to design a killer-cool wedding ring for myself.

I don't wear any jewelry other than the wedding ring and a watch, and I really like them both to be pretty decent.

Posted by: Proud Papa | November 8, 2006 3:52 PM

It's amazing how many men fall for the jewelry shakedown. You gotta wonder......

Posted by: Anonymous | November 8, 2006 3:55 PM

Pittypat --

"That action doesn't make him a more worthy suitor. :>)"

Nor does it make him some materialistic brute. Or someone who has time-travelled from the Victorian era.

But, pittypat, I agree with you once more, NOTHING is more important, more life-altering, more signficant than making the decision that you are going to commit your heart and life to this other person.

Posted by: lucky husband | November 8, 2006 3:58 PM

"sweetest day is celebrated in Ohio. I don't know if it is anywhere else. I think it is a gimmick to just make more money."

Scarry --

I remember "Sweetest Day" from growing up in Michigan. If I recall correctly, it was made up by card and candy companies -- yeah, to make more $$$.

Guess maybe it's a Midwestern thing. Ugh!

Posted by: pittypat | November 8, 2006 3:59 PM

Lucky husband

Noble thoughts indeed, but do you change poopy diapers?

Posted by: Anonymous | November 8, 2006 4:01 PM

"Nor does it make him some materialistic brute. Or someone who has time-travelled from the Victorian era."

Lucky --

Agreeing with me seems to have put you in a mood. I didn't say -- or suggest -- either of those things.

But I think your other observation -- that
"NOTHING is more important, more life-altering, more signficant than making the decision that you are going to commit your heart and life to this other person" -- is a really nice way to lay this discussion to rest. I couldn't agree with you more, and I imagine most of the folks chatting here today will agree with you as well.

Posted by: pittypat | November 8, 2006 4:05 PM

"NOTHING is more important, more life-altering, more signficant than making the decision that you are going to commit your heart and life to this other person"

Not exactly. Can think of a lot of things more important. You can do better than this.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 8, 2006 4:09 PM

About a year before I got married, I bought a place that was definitely a fixer upper. A few months after that, my husband asked me to marry him. No engagement ring. I accepted. We then spent the next few months fixing up the house. He spent all his free time, his weekends, his sweat, and yes, quite a bit of his money, working on a house that was not legally his, so that after we married, we could have a nice and comfortable home together. He never asked me to put his name on the title. A few months after we married, I refinanced, and his name went on the mortgage and the title, but this was all at my initiative. I think that in terms of symbols, actions speak louder than rings.

Posted by: Emily | November 8, 2006 4:12 PM

"It's amazing how many men fall for the jewelry shakedown. You gotta wonder......"

We were young, naive and in love.

Now I am old, cynical and practical.

Selling the diamond to pay for kids college tuition.

Posted by: AnotherHubby | November 8, 2006 4:15 PM

Lucky husband

Noble thoughts indeed, but do you change poopy diapers?

---

I made the mistake of telling my wife that I didn't think our own kids' poop smelled all that bad. As you can well imagine, I change A LOT of diapers now.

Posted by: lucky husband | November 8, 2006 4:15 PM

"NOTHING is more important, more life-altering, more signficant than making the decision that you are going to commit your heart and life to this other person"

Not exactly. Can think of a lot of things more important. You can do better than this.

---

Like what? It's still the most imporant descision I can think of.

Posted by: lucky husband | November 8, 2006 4:16 PM

Don't know how to make it more clear to men about jewelry:

IT'S A HUSTLE
IT'S A SHAKEDOWN
IT'S FOR SUCKERS
P.T. Barnum would be proud!

You've had fair warning!

Posted by: Anonymous | November 8, 2006 4:17 PM

I would rather work for a boss that doles out the compensation/benefits packages fairly and based on performance and nothing else. There should be no special benefits, compensation or concessions for some simply because they are parents or because they are women or men. I don't think that has anything to do with whether the person's gender or whether the person is a parent or not.

A competent boss knows the workplace has little to do with a person's private life decisions. A competent boss's objective should be to efficiently provide whatever product or service his business is producing. That boss will compensate the workers appropriately according to their performance without regard for any situation in their private life.

Posted by: Manuel | November 8, 2006 4:19 PM

I always got and gave something on sweetest day. I know it is made up but I did like the gifts and the thought.

Posted by: Scarry | November 8, 2006 4:21 PM

Emily,

This is exactly what I'm talking about. Your husband's hard work, sweat, and selflessness conveyed his love for you in a way that jewelry never could.

Great story.

Posted by: pittypat | November 8, 2006 4:31 PM

"What role --if any -- does someone's gender and life experience play in their ability to promulgate innovative, smart work/life programs for employees?"

The answer SHOULD be absolutely none. A good manager or HR department should note that you capture and keep your best employees by treating them reasonably. The fact that we participate in this blog is testament that this isn't reality--yet.

But things are getting better, and we have reason to suspect the future will only improve, especially as we all work to make it so.

Laura, like many others, put it eloquently:
======================================
"I agree that a good or bad boss relates more to experience and attitude than gender. The most important characteristic of a good boss, to me, is whether they see their employees as valuable assets, or as fungible widgets to be exchanged the moment they cause a problem. If you have an empathetic boss who believes employees are assets, then he or she will look for reasonable accommodations that will allow those employees contribute at work while having enough time outside of work to have a personal life -- whether that involves kids, aging parents, volunteer work, or some other interest."
======================================

And though personal anecdotes don't always tell everything or allow you to draw conclusions, sometimes seeing other's experiences can offer some value, or at least food for thought. So what we have read here about each other can be more than just a discussion about stereotypes, despite what some posters mentioned earlier.

Posted by: Texas Dad of 2 | November 8, 2006 4:32 PM

that boss you describe? He or she will continually be surprised when valued and senior personnel resign to go with a competitor. Competing employers often appreciate that employee recruitment and retention is about treating people as whole people and individuals, and not as mere cogs in the machinery, and that efficiently providing the product or service is often about matching talented people with positions that fit what those talented people are willing to give right now to their employer. Maybe in a different time in their lives they'll give more or less. Preventing turnover improves the boss's bottom line.

in a family, fairness doesn't require that when one kid needs a new winter coat, each of the other 4 kids gets a new winter coat whether or not they need one. Taking the analogy into the workplace, if one employee needs a flexible schedule for 4 months and the business can accommodate him or her, the smart employer finds a way to get the job done and accommodate this employee (if possible) rather than cause the employee to update his or her resume.

Posted by: to Manuel | November 8, 2006 4:34 PM

All this flexibility to retain employees is a thing of the past in the high-tech industry. India and China are providing an unlimited pool of cheap labor. Employers aren't willing to accomodate your requests if they are the least bit burdensome. They're already making plans to offshore your job.

Posted by: Offshored | November 8, 2006 4:40 PM

"I would rather work for a boss that values employees above company profits. One that sees each individual as a person instead of a means to achieve a work-goal. One that understands that family does come before work."

I'd hate to work for a boss like that. I don't come to work to be valued as an individual or for my boss to appreciate my family. I come to work to make money. A competent boss who is concerned about profits will obviously recognize that he needs to take care of his resources and will therefore compensate employees appropriately based on performance. A boss who values an individual or likes someone's family will easily let certain people become favorites regardless of performance. And if I don't happen to be one of the favorites, I can see myself quickly looking for another job as my performance is ignored.

Posted by: Manuel | November 8, 2006 4:40 PM

I really think whether a boss is a good one depends on the individual--not whether they are male or female. It also depends on the individual employee. Flexibility is a two-way street. I give my employees all the time off they need for family, medical, etc. The responsible employees recognize that this is a two-way street, that sometimes they're going to be asked to do a little extra. The other ones (and the worst I've seen was male, by the way) just take, take, take and don't realize the work needs to get done, too. As long as your work gets done, I don't care how many hours a day your butt is in the chair. If your work isn't getting done, you go on the short leash. I'm a married woman with no kids, so everyone--have at me!

Posted by: Raysmom | November 8, 2006 4:43 PM

I never said anything about compensation being tied to performance. You're reading into my comments, something that I never said.

A boss can still be fair and view the employees as people with families to care for. If you'd rather work for a robot machine instead of a caring human being, all the best to you.

Posted by: To Manuel 4:40 | November 8, 2006 4:44 PM

to Offshored.

I am married to a network server administrator. As in ALL industries, a smart employee doesn't make requests that are burdensome on the organization. A smart employee proposes a way to accomplish the goals of the company that, while it might be different than "the way it's always been done around here", meets both the needs of the organization and the needs of the employee. For example, forwarding your office phone to your home so that you can work from home one day a week may be not at all burdensome in some businesses and absolutely not workable in others. It doesn't work for my practice at all, but I work with several colleagues in other practice areas for whom it works great.

IT folks often have flexibility in their hours because they tend to either work or at least be available on an as needed basis 24-7. Can they take 3 weeks off to settle an estate? No way. Can they leave early and work from home when one of the kids is sick? sometimes. it depends on the day.

Posted by: NC lawyer | November 8, 2006 4:48 PM

La-di-dah. So you have a husband who believed in you, is not particularly risk-adverse, and can paint. Good for you.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 8, 2006 4:48 PM

To anonymous 4:48 poster --

You have no soul.

Posted by: pittypat | November 8, 2006 4:53 PM

To the unsigned writer who responded to my first post,

I do not think fairness requires that each person get exactly the same thing. In fact, I think fairness really shouldn't be a much of a concern in the workplace. The workplace is not a family. And of course you don't give every worker the same thing. You give the worker's with better performance more compensation and even flexibility/freedom to keep them around. If that means flexible schedules or more leave, you give it to the employee and allow them to use it as they choose. However, I don't agree that any employee should qualify for more leave, benefits or compensation of any kind just because they can make a child. That shouldn't be a concern for the business just as it shouldn't be used to discriminate against a worker at the interview.

Posted by: Manuel | November 8, 2006 4:56 PM

I hate to brag, but he is also smart, kind, funny, a devoted father and son, and really good in bed.

Posted by: Emily | November 8, 2006 5:00 PM

to Emily: LOL -- yours has to be the best response I've seen to totally undeserved snarkiness.

Posted by: NC lawyer | November 8, 2006 5:02 PM

Emily, you are bragging.
Why do something you hate?

Posted by: u | November 8, 2006 5:03 PM

Who is to say that the business should not decide to be a family friendly employer, if they feel that such a policy helps their bottom line. Having happy employees helps business. Happy employees do better work. If a business decides that providing maternity leave, or flexible schedules, or whatever to people that need them make the workplace a happier, more productive place, who is anyone to question how they go about achieving their profits?

Posted by: to manuel | November 8, 2006 5:05 PM


I didn't hate it so much, after the fact. In fact, I think I will do it more often now, since it has proven to be so satisfying.

Posted by: Emily | November 8, 2006 5:08 PM

But was he also a Peace Corps Volunteer? And does he bake? Please.

I think the snarkiness is deserved.

Posted by: Anon 4:48 | November 8, 2006 5:09 PM

But was he also a Peace Corps Volunteer? And does he bake? Please.

I think the snarkiness is deserved.

Posted by: Anon 4:48 | November 8, 2006 5:09 PM

Yay Raysmom. So many places don't seem to get that it is a two-way street, and that treating your employees with respect can bring a tremendous return on that investment. I've talked before about how good my current employer has been with telecommuting, part-time, etc. That was all brought home again this past few days, when I had to deal with a late-night emergency room visit with my 1-yr-old, and my bosses were calling and e-mailing looking for ways they could help me by taking over on some big upcoming things (luckily, things are better and I didn't need them to step in). Their consistent support makes me WANT to return the favor and go over and above for them when the clients need it.

On the other hand, at another job, they were more than happy to have you stay late, but if you needed to cut out an hour early, everything was suddenly by the book and a big deal requiring multiple levels of approval. Yeah, it's all perfectly legal (I'm not hourly), but it's annoying when the street doesn't go both ways, you know? It wasn't even the rules themselves so much as what they said about the company's true view of its employees -- that we were expenses, not assets; that we were little children with no work ethic who couldn't be trusted to get the job done; and thus that they had to ride herd, rope, and hogtie us to squeeze any work out of us. And yet they couldn't figure out why people were leaving right and left.

Posted by: Laura | November 8, 2006 5:10 PM

Yes, he also bakes and cooks. His creme caramel is to die for. Nope, not a Peace Corps volunteer, although he regularly volunteers for the PTA.

Posted by: Emily | November 8, 2006 5:14 PM

Yes, he also bakes and cooks. His creme caramel is to die for. Nope, not a Peace Corps volunteer, although he regularly volunteers for the PTA.

Posted by: Emily | November 8, 2006 5:14 PM

"Who is to say that the business should not decide to be a family friendly employer, if they feel that such a policy helps their bottom line. Having happy employees helps business. Happy employees do better work. If a business decides that providing maternity leave, or flexible schedules, or whatever to people that need them make the workplace a happier, more productive place, who is anyone to question how they go about achieving their profits?"

I am not aware of any laws against providing extra compensation or more freedom to some employees simply because they are parents. So I agree, I doubt that I can question that. What I've posted here is simply my opinion on the subject. A couple small options (admittedly small and in the minority) I have in this area is to look for employers who structure their compensation the way I like it and if I ever invest to look for the companies that have the proper compensation policies as part of my research.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 8, 2006 5:14 PM

"Who is to say that the business should not decide to be a family friendly employer, if they feel that such a policy helps their bottom line. Having happy employees helps business. Happy employees do better work. If a business decides that providing maternity leave, or flexible schedules, or whatever to people that need them make the workplace a happier, more productive place, who is anyone to question how they go about achieving their profits?"

I am not aware of any laws against providing extra compensation or more freedom to some employees simply because they are parents. So I don't think that I or anyone else can seriously question a business' decisions in this area. What I've posted here is simply my opinion on the subject. A couple small options (admittedly in the minority since most people want children and the extra benefits to go along with them) I have in this area is to look for employers who structure their compensation the way I like it and if I ever invest to look for the companies that have the proper compensation policies as part of my research.

Posted by: Manuel | November 8, 2006 5:17 PM

the bottom line, Manuel, is that well-run businesses (like Laura's employer) have figured out that profits are enhanced when people are treated well and turnover is minimized.

I do fully agree with you that the requests for accommodation of parents are no more important than such requests made by childless folks. parents haven't cornered the market on life needs and should not treat childless colleagues as though Suzy's sniffles are automaticlly more important than a childless colleagues' desire to get out of the office early on Friday and head to the beach.

Posted by: NC lawyer | November 8, 2006 5:17 PM

"I made the mistake of telling my wife that I didn't think our own kids' poop smelled all that bad. As you can well imagine, I change A LOT of diapers now"

Luckyhusband, you made me laugh.

My late father-in-law exemplified learned helplessness with one of his five children.

When he was supposed to change a poopy diaper, he simply opened the cloth diaper, observed the poop, sprinkled a little powder, closed up the diaper, and waited for my mother-in-law to conclude that was the last diaper he was ever going to change!

Posted by: Kate | November 8, 2006 5:28 PM

I actually read an article somewhere that talked about a scientific study that showed that parents do not think the poop of their own children stinks as badly as other kids' poop. Parents were asked to smell a bunch of poopy diapers and blindly pick out the least offensive smelling ones. Apparently, they chose those of their own children. The interpretation is that apparently, this is a genetic adaptation that allows us to care for our little children by not being as offended by their poop as other people are. Kinda funny, but Lucky Husband, this may not be all in your head.

Posted by: Emily | November 8, 2006 5:33 PM

I actually read an article somewhere that talked about a scientific study that showed that parents do not think the poop of their own children stinks as badly as other kids' poop. Parents were asked to smell a bunch of poopy diapers and blindly pick out the least offensive smelling ones. Apparently, they chose those of their own children. The interpretation is that apparently, this is a genetic adaptation that allows us to care for our little children by not being as offended by their poop as other people are. Kinda funny, but Lucky Husband, this may not be all in your head.

Posted by: Emily | November 8, 2006 5:33 PM

It is important to realize where corporate culture forms. Recent research has shown that gender composition in a start up has a huge impact in how many women are hired and how thy are treated.

Posted by: Gaurav Sood | November 8, 2006 6:36 PM

Leslie, the lunatics are posting anonymously from the asylum again. I think they're jealous of my freedom, my independence, my 'mediocre' career that has allowed me to buy my own diamonds, put myself through college and buy my own house without a dime of support from a man -- Daddy or significant other. How many of them can make the same statement? My house has tripled in value since I bought it. And my circle of high profile friends. Their names are in the papers almost every day. True, my lover has given me jewelry too, but it doesn't come with a ball and chain attached.

You people are pathetic -- You bathe and sleep with your own children and I honestly consider that disgusting. This blog has dissolved into discussion of diamonds and poopy diapers. No wonder that new mother couldn't find any friends. You're really a boooorrrring lot and nobody but other boring people want to be around you. This blog will be a big snore without me to kick around anymore. I have better things to do with my time. KMA.

Posted by: Childless by Choice | November 8, 2006 8:07 PM

golly, gee, imagine what we'll do without someone routinely blasting strangers as "pathetic". I can hardly wait.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 8, 2006 8:13 PM

I've done all the things you've done without sleeping with someone else's husband. So you are not unique, just pathetic.

Posted by: to cbc | November 8, 2006 8:48 PM

So, I can't get granite countertops? What's up with that? They're the bomb; if I get some extra money, I might have to do the deed!

My current boss is female and one of the best I've had. We're going through some leadership changes now, so I hope I still have her when the dust settles. Honestly, I've had bad male and female bosses, single and with children. It's really the personality and the capacity to understand and "get it." I think anyone has that capacity. And women get a bad rap sometimes b/c many of them feel the pressure to be tough on themselves and other women to prevent from being seen as weak. So understanding goes out the window.

Actually, now that I think about it, my better bosses have all been older. They've been around for years, paid their dues and are more chill, regardless of gender.

BTW, it's particularly snarky today. A little too much hatorade on the rocks?

Posted by: theoriginalmomof2 | November 8, 2006 9:13 PM

True, my lover has given me jewelry too, but it doesn't come with a ball and chain attached.

You wish it did, that's why you are so nasty.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 8, 2006 10:01 PM

Childless by Choice. Thanks for leaving. You won't be missed, because you are truly hateful. I actually feel sorry for you, because I cannot imagine what it must be like to be inside your head, with all that anger and vitriol consuming you from the inside. Get some therapy. You desperately need it.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 9, 2006 10:05 AM

There's no such thing as 'domestic tranquility' unless you are in a position of hiring a nanny, maid, cook etc....

It is ignorant to assume that a stay at home mother or father is in a tranquil situation.

Posted by: withnail&I | November 12, 2006 3:54 PM

I think 'Childless by Choice' must have been abandoned by her mother as a young child. Her comments are cruel, full of judgment and hatred. Sad, ugly & toxic.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 12, 2006 4:24 PM

Honestly, I think women have a harder time working together successfully, then in mixed gender environments. Sometimes, a predominantly female situation deteriorates quickly into something that resembles my worst memories from high school.

Posted by: Angel | November 15, 2006 9:34 AM

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