Archive: Workplaces

One Company Strikes A Balance

Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported the following research findings from the nonprofit Families and Work Institute: Only 16% of employers offer full pay for childbirth leave, down from 27% in 1998, based on a nationally representative sample of 1,100 employers by the nonprofit Families and Work Institute. The average maximum length of job-guaranteed leaves for new mothers shrank too, to 15.2 weeks from 16.1 weeks a decade ago; leave for dads fell to 12.6 weeks from 13.1. Employers aren't deliberately targeting new mothers with pay cuts; rather, maternity leave has been caught in the crossfire over rising disability costs in general. Most maternity-leave pay in the U.S. comes in the form of disability pay, allotted for the six to eight weeks typically needed to heal after childbirth. New mothers are being hit by a cost-cutting move among employers toward paying only a fraction of full pay to workers...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | June 19, 2008; 07:10 AM ET | Comments (0)

Female Soldiers' Private War

Women constitute the fastest growing group of U.S. war veterans, according to a Memorial Day opinion article in the New York Times For Women Warriors, Deep Wounds, Little Care. According to Helen Benedict, a Columbia University professor and the article's author, women currently account for 15 percent of U.S. active duty forces. By 2020, women are forecast to make up 20 percent of all veterans under age 45. Like all women entering a male-dominated workplace, female soldiers face unique, unanticipated challenges. But one of the toughest facing women in the U.S. military is sexual abuse and harassment from fellow service members. Nearly a third of female veterans say they were sexually assaulted or raped while in the military, according to Benedict. More than 70 percent report being sexually harassed by male colleagues. Benedict's numbers seem high for any workplace; abuse and harassment figures are notoriously hard to prove. But even...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | May 28, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Privacy, Pumping and Protection

Virginia Woolf made famous women's need for A Room of One's Own. We've come a long way since 1929 when the book came out. Now we're all getting a room of our own -- to pump breastmilk at work. And it's about time; reading comments on Mommy Track'd about bosses barging in or co-workers wondering what you're doing in the bathroom for an hour is enough to show you why. According to yesterday's Washington Post Health section, a new D.C. law joins Maryland, Virginia and federal laws that protect a woman's right to breastfeed and pump at work. The Child's Right to Nurse Act requires employers to provide a private, clean space, presumably with an electrical outlet, for pumping breastmilk. The room must be located outside a restroom; anyone who has pumped on a toilet seat understands why this clause is critical. If your company doesn't comply, tell them what...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | May 14, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (54)

The Green Argument for Telecommuting

By Rebeldad Brian Reid Last week, oil prices hit another record high, topping $126 a barrel and leading to a new rash of stories about gasoline spurting over $4 a gallon. Coincidently, my company opened a DC office last week, meaning that I'll be commuting (by car, rail and bike) at least part-time from now on. And that gave me plenty of time to think - while I sat in my car - about the green side of telecommuting. I've spent time in this space talking about the selfish reasons why telecommuting works from a business point of view and enables better work-life balance, but the time has come to talk the trend seriously from an environmental perspective. The folks at undress4success.com, a site focused on working from home, estimated that getting the 40 percent of Americans who could work from home off of the roads and into a home...

 

By Brian Reid | May 13, 2008; 06:45 AM ET | Comments (59)

SWAT Moms

According to The Wall Street Journal in How Stay-at-Home Moms Are Filling an Executive Niche: "Lots of employers would like to be able to hire cheap, temporary teams of seasoned pros with experience managing $2 billion investment portfolios, running ad campaigns or earning Ph.D.s in neuroscience," I agree -- although I'm stupified that corporate America has been so slow to locate these ideal teams of temp employees, since all of us know where to find them: the local playground. Welcome to a new acronym, the mommy "SWAT team": Smart Women With Available Time. This moniker describes just about every stay-at-home mom I know, high voltage, seasoned employees who are taking time off to raise our kids. "What's different about these teams is that they're available on short notice because the women are usually at home; they tend to work cheap because their main motive is to keep their skills fresh;...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | May 7, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (38)

The Business-Trip Gift

By Rebeldad Brian Reid I am not a huge fan of business travel, yet somehow this year I have seen the inside of at least 10 airports and three train stations. In the last month, I've spent nine hours stuck in the Indianapolis airport, had the pleasure of watching the moon rise over the Potomac from the tarmac of National Airport for four hours and shared a redeye flight with approximately 130 13-year-olds on a school trip. Not a single one of them feel asleep. Neither did I. All of this to-ing and fro-ing has given me fresh perspective on one of the more subtle and complex aspects of business travel: the obligatory business trip gift. I have no idea where the idea that kids who are deprived of a parent for a few days deserve a guilt-inspired, overpriced gift-shop trinket got started, but the children seem to instinctively know...

 

By Brian Reid | April 17, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Your Money or Your Life?

By Rebeldad Brian Reid Deloitte released a report last month on how tech companies could get and retain talent. It was fairly standard consulting company stuff, with the colorful graphs and specific figures that confirm what most of us already suspect about human resources: Everyone wants more smart people. Toward the end of the report, the authors start trying to give businesses some hints on how to attract those smart people, and the report makes the claim the work-life balance will be a driving force in keeping workers happy. Actually, the Deloitte report makes clear that it dislikes the term "work-life balance," noting that "work-life balance ... often amounts to working less." Instead, they place a great deal of emphasis on letting employees work hard on their own terms, which appears to mean schedules that are flexible when it comes down to where and when that work gets done. The...

 

By Brian Reid | March 27, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (24)

Maternal Profiling

A January Atlanta Journal Constitution commentary between two female columnists debated the realities of Maternal Profiling -- employment discrimination against a woman who has, or will have, children. Common examples include pregnant women being fired for trumped-up reasons; interview questions designed to weed out mothers and other caregivers; performance reviews designed to eliminate those employees, whether or not work has actually been affected. The broader legal definition, used by Joan Williams and Work-Life Law Center at Hastings College of Law in California, is the term Family Responsibilities Discrimination. Andrea Cornell Sarvady argues that, no matter what you call it, the practice is "definitely alive and well." She described two cases of women penalized at work for being moms: Auto service technician Mailyn Pickler was fired a week after she told her dealership that she was pregnant; the boss informed her that it wouldn't be prudent to drive the shuttle bus...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | March 5, 2008; 10:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Botoxing Your Resume

Two weeks ago, we wrestled with ageism and the workplace in Dangers of Looking Your Age. Last Thursday, the New York Times jumped on the bandwagon with Nice Resume. Have You Considered Botox? The focus of the article was a wildly popular new book, which debuted on The New York Times best-seller list at #8 in the advice and how-to category; as of post-time, it ranked #11 on Amazon. Written by former Glamour beauty director Charla Krupp, a columnist for More magazine, the book is How Not to Look Old. The book jacket explains its reason-for-being: "Looking hip is not just about vanity anymore, it's critical to every woman's personal and financial survival!" The Times article pokes plenty of fun at the book's scary chapter headlines: NOTHING AGES YOU LIKE...FOREHEAD LINES....NOTHING AGES YOU LIKE....YELLOW TEETH...NOTHING AGES YOU LIKE A SAGGY BUTT (okay, that last one was my contribution). Charla Krupp...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | January 30, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (97)

Law Firms Flirt With Flexibility

Much to the frustration of ambitious working moms with legal degrees, law firms -- particularly the largest, most prestigious ones -- have eschewed work-life balance. Hard-charging women stormed the gates of law schools starting in the 1970s, entering the profession in record numbers. Ironically, "balance" decreased dramatically at the same time. Billable hour quotas have risen from roughly 1,200 to 1,600 hours a year in 1965 to 2,000 to 2,200 annual hours today, which translates to 42 hours a week (requiring at least 60 hours per week in the office). Industry practices have long included partnership tracks based on seniority, not performance; salaries and bonuses based on billable hours instead of revenue generation and miserly family-leave policies. But red flags in recent years are finally forcing the profession to question whether it's time to restructure billing practices, schedules and partnership tracks. They include a grassroots rebellion by students at Stanford,...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | January 28, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

A Crash Course on Workplace Re-Entry

By Rebeldad Brian Reid One of the classic arguments against taking time away from career to raise kids is that even a few short years out of the workforce is enough to seriously damage long-term earning potential and professional advancement. For some, it's getting mommy-tracked (or daddy-tracked), and others don't even make it that far -- just getting back into the workforce is a significant obstacle. But if you have three days open in January, an advanced degree (MBA, JD, MA, or MBA) and $1,175, Baruch College in New York has a program for you: "Opting Back In," a program designed to allow participants to leave with: A professional-looking updated resume A personalized plan of action to return to work A personal pitch Refreshed negotiation skills A support network of like-minded individuals looking to return to work The cynical part of me scoffs at the whole deal: I can't imagine...

 

By Brian Reid | November 29, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (47)

Can Scandal Help a Woman's Career?

Here's a new gender-driven double standard: Can notoriety help, rather than hurt, a woman's career? In scandals surrounding Citigroup in the past year, two of three main players were male (the chairman and the chief of global investment) both of whom were forced to resign amidst allegations of impropriety and disastrous financial results. The third character, Maria Bartiromo, the host of CNBC's two-hour daily show The Closing Bell, has seen her career soar following the scandal. She's landed a slew of interviews with major political and business figures and has hit record ratings for CNBC, according to the New York Times As Citigroup Chief Totters, CNBC Reporter is Having a Great Year. Even her sexist moniker, The Money Honey, is a plus for her career -- so much so that Bartiromo has trademarked the nickname for herself. There are other noteworthy recent examples. Think Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie, Lindsay Lohan,...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | November 12, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (76)

Confidence Game

In California on a business trip last month, I met a mom with two kids who'd graduated from business school in the late 1990s. She'd been home with the kids for five years, she explained, but was looking to go back. I assumed she'd return to the field she'd entered after business school. "I want to go into something non-profit," she said instead. Now, I firmly believe that nonprofit careers are tremendously rewarding, but my heart sank a bit from the ambivalence etched on my new friend's face. I suspected I knew what she was thinking. Over the years, I've studied working and stay-at-home moms, I've met dozens of successful former lawyers and businesswomen in a range of lucrative fields who lose their confidence after staying home for a few years. They assume they can't return to their original fields, despite their successful track records. They erroneously think going into...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | October 10, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Working for the Work-Obsessed

By Rebeldad Brian Reid My old CEO, Mike Bloomberg, made the papers the other day. Actually, he makes the papers pretty much every day now, what with the whole presidential non-candidate thing and the trans fat thing and the global warming thing. But what caught my eye was that he made the Wall Street Journal for talking about his work-life balance. Or the lack thereof. The key to success, Bloomberg told graduates of City University of New York's College of Staten Island, is something that sounds a lot like workaholism: If you're the first one in in the morning and the last one to leave at night and you take fewer vacation days and never take a sick day, you will do better than the people who don't do that. It is very simple. And he joshingly admitted that the parenting thing wasn't his bag. I've managed to raise two...

 

By Brian Reid | June 28, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Opting Back In

Thank you to everyone who responded to my call-out back in February for moms who'd been home with kids for three to 10 years and either had returned or were looking to return to work. Based on an assignment from More Magazine, I interviewed more than three dozen women ages 35 to 55, went to conferences at top business schools for "on rampers" and interviewed recruiters and hiring managers across the country. The results were reported this week in the June issue of More Magazine, Back in Business, and in Newsweek's Trying to Opt Back In. Based on conventional wisdom, women can't leave work for more than a few months without jeopardizing their pay levels or their entire careers. Right? Well, the moms I talked to said WRONG: I was not able to find a single college-educated mother who was unable to return to full-time work within twelve months. "I...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | May 23, 2007; 07:15 AM ET | Comments (274)

Take Our Daughters And Sons To Work(-Life Balance) Day

By Rebeldad Brian Reid Today is Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day, which -- judging from the comments to last year's free-for-all posting on the topic -- is either a wonderful chance to give children some much needed perspective on their working parents or a day of headaches and lost productivity. TODASTWD is supposed to be a celebration of labor, a kind of informational job fair for adolescents. The official Web site for the event talks about how the event helps "build their self-esteem" and allows children to "discover there are limitless opportunities." But there's also a bit about helping kids "figure out how their future work, home, and community life fit together," but the site doesn't do into much detail about how TODASTWD is supposed to do that. Indeed, this blog is a testament to the fact that a huge number of adults have yet to figure...

 

By Brian Reid | April 26, 2007; 08:20 AM ET | Comments (0)

Telecommuting Meet Career Advancement

By Rebeldad Brian Reid Telecommuting took a hit a couple of weeks ago. A survey of executives conducted by Korn/Ferry found that 61 percent of execs believe that telecommuters will damage their career prospects by working from home. But that's not the weird part. Those same executives believed overwhelmingly (78 percent) that telecommuters are at least as effective -- if not more so -- than their in-office colleagues. I've argued here before that telecommuting, for the huge swaths of the workforce for which it is practical, is enormously beneficial. It gives employees the option of working where they work best, it eliminates time-sucking commutes, it can aid in work-life balance, it reduces the expense of office space and so on. And while I have no desire to belittle the importance of face-to-face contact in corporate culture, let me be honest: the pleasure of discussing "The Office" at the office is...

 

By Brian Reid | February 1, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (263)

The Government Is the Answer (Maybe)

By Rebeldad Brian Reid In the search for answers to questions of balance, I've spent a lot of time thinking about ways that employers can make life easier as well as plenty of ways that individuals can try to arrange things to their advantage. But I've pretty much given up on the government stepping in to help. The landmark law in the United States is the Family and Medical Leave Act, which was enacted in 1993 and guaranteed leave to (most) workers. But by international standards, the law was late in coming and weak. The U.S. is one of two OECD countries that still don't have paid maternity leave. (Australia is the other, and the lack of paid leave is a political issue there.) FMLA, meager as it is, has still come under attack from business interests, and advocates for strong leave remain vigilant. But there is hope, of sorts....

 

By Brian Reid | November 2, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Five Tricks to Tame Technology

By Rebeldad Brian Reid People who love balance love to hate the insidious way that wireless devices have proliferated, and there has been much hue and cry over "Crackberries" and electronic leashes and the way wireless devices have turned the home into a branch of the office. I don't buy it. The technology isn't intrinsically evil or flawed or dangerous. Instead, it seems pretty clear that our behavior hasn't kept up with the wireless gizmo revolution. Don't like your Treo buzzing at dinner? The solution is pretty simple. Shut it off. Or throw it into the Potomac. You own the device, not the other way around. I've been developing some rules for myself to develop the discipline needed to keep my various beeping and vibrating and chirping devices at bay when it comes to family time, and I'd love to hear yours: 1. Remember Why You Went Wireless: There are...

 

By Brian Reid | September 7, 2006; 06:30 AM ET | Comments (105)

Do At-Home Dads Help or Hurt Work-Life Balance?

By Rebeldad Brian Reid For a long time, I've assumed I was doing right by society and my kids by being an active dad. I was thrilled to find academics that linked involved fathers to everything from reduced contact with juvenile justice to lower rates of teen pregnancy. And I thought that by throwing gender roles to the wind that I was part of a tiny revolution that would change the way that the home and the workplace operated. But lately, I've been forced to reconsider whether at-home dads do much to promote work-life balance or actually hurt the cause. It all started with a wonderful profile of at-home dads in and around San Francisco by the San Francisco Chronicle. Though a compelling and honest look at an interesting group of guys, a Salon piece raised a reasonable question: Aren't stories about at-home dads just celebrating traditional work-family choices? Does...

 

By Brian Reid | August 10, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (118)

Devil Bosses

Inspired by the Meryl Streep movie "The Devil Wears Prada," Washington Post business reporter Amy Joyce described several "devil bosses" in her Life at Work column last Sunday. The article made me recall a few nasty bosses of my own -- including one tyrannical Iraqi woman who inflicted upon me the fear and intimidation tactics she'd learned growing up in a series of British boarding schools. But none compares to the woman who made all employees in her department stay at work during a two-foot snowfall that ended up closing the entire company for two days. We all had young children in day care and school whom we needed to get to -- and then get home safely -- but she was oblivious, even as afternoon darkness fell. We knew she was largely clueless and not intentionally endangering our children, but we were all so intimidated by her past tirades...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | July 14, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (223)

$48.9 Million Babies

The Washington Post and other newspapers reported yesterday that Verizon settled its landmark 2002 class-action pregnancy bias suit for $48.9 million -- the second-largest pregnancy discrimination settlement ever. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission calculated that Verizon predecessors Nynex and Bell Atlantic illegally denied 12,326 current and former female employees pension and other benefits when pregnant or on maternity leave from July 1965 through December 1983, violating the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 and the Equal Pay Act of 1963, all of which protect women's equal rights in the workplace. Although lawsuits are expensive, unpleasant undertakings for all involved, this settlement -- and the future legal protection it suggests -- are good news for the 64 million working moms in this country, 51% of whom return to work within four months of giving birth. Before laws were enacted protecting working women, we were required...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | June 7, 2006; 07:45 AM ET | Comments (0)

Politicking The Working Mom Agenda

Happy Birthday, Kathleen Sebelius! Kansas's second female governor turned 58 on Monday. Two amazing accomplishments we all should thank her for. First, when she was Insurance Commissioner in Kansas, this working mom (she has two grown sons) instituted a policy similar to the Infants in the Workplace program run by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, which allows employees to set up cribs in their offices and bring babies to work until they're six months old. A handful of other employers currently offer similar programs, including the Department of Energy and many credit unions and banks. Can you imagine how much easier it would be to go back to work if all companies adopted this program? To get ammunition to bring to your human resources department, you can turn to the Work & Family Connection, an information clearinghouse. Second, in honor of Mother's Day, Governor Sebelius worked with the Democratic...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | May 17, 2006; 06:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

More Than A Paycheck

Johnson & Johnson -- a company where I spent my late 20s and early 30s -- is often called a "Family of Companies." Surprising to me is how often this sprawling conglomerate does feel like a family. Fifteen years ago, when I was going through the dissolution of my first marriage, my job felt like a safe haven, a place of consistency amidst chaos. Once I'd rebuilt my life, Johnson & Johnson sent me to Australia, Brazil, Dubai, Argentina and Mexico, places where I met people and had adventures I'd never have had without work. When I became a mom, J&J showed me how work and motherhood can enrich each other, and when I had to move to Minneapolis for my husband's job, J&J let me work long-distance, part-time, from halfway across the country. The company supported me in myriad life situations. I recently was in New Jersey near the...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | May 10, 2006; 06:00 AM ET | Comments (44)

Mommy's Office

6 a.m. Kids asleep (two in our bed). Husband in guest room. I'm in the kitchen stealing an hour of work before the morning tumult of breakfast, teeth brushing, shoe-tying and homework-finding. To some, the kitchen might seem an insane place for a home office. Especially given that my work, like most work, requires concentration. To me, as a mom, the kitchen is the only practical place where I can actually expect to get work done on a regular basis, aside from my real office, that oasis of peace, tranquility and civilization far from chocolate-dipped fingers and Sponge Bob background music. Imagine trying to run to an upstairs office, only to have to run back down when the howling over "He pinched me first!" or "Could I have another glass of milk?" begins. My mother cannot fathom how (or why) I serve my kids dinner and then frantically demolish 20...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | March 10, 2006; 06:30 AM ET | Comments (0)

 

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