Subscribe to this Blog
Today's Blogs
    The Checkup:

The Case for 'Womenomics'

Claire Shipman, senior national correspondent for ABC News' "Good Morning America" and mother of two, and Katty Kay, Washington correspondent and anchor for "BBC World News America" and mother of four, were working moms in need of a friendly sounding board. When one would get a new job offer, the other would hear her out, they told Salon. "Is this what you want for your family, these kinds of hours or that kind of travel?" were the kinds of questions they posed to each other. The conversations, they say, were hard at first, because that meant admitting a change of ambition, a lack of desire to keep climbing the ladder.

What's resulted from that friendship is a book that encourages the "New All." Their advice for managing: It's okay to not always have to reach for the top. It's okay to find what's "enough" for you. To do work that's "good enough." Workers who put a value on their time don't have to work 60-hour workweeks, Shipman says. "It's not only a male-female issue. Younger workers -- Gen X and Gen Y -- all want a much broader life. They want more time. They're not willing to be slaves to the corporate ladder. They value things outside of work and see themselves as more balanced, family-oriented human beings. That's where we are and where the next generation of workers is, and that's something companies will have to cope with."

"Womenomics" comes out at a time when our country is juxtaposing a recession and job losses with policy experts aimed at changing our countries' work-life policies. One such organization is the Workplace Flexibility 2010 project, which released its first report -- based on 5 years of work -- last month. It's "a blueprint to make flexible work arrangements the norm across income levels, genders and generations," says the project's co-director Katie Corrigan. All workplaces should offer flexible work arrangements, time off and career maintenance and re-entry, the report states.

"We found flexible work arrangements aren’t needed by one population," Corrigan says. "Our report includes solutions to making flexible the norm [for everyone]. Research shows low-wage workers need the same flexibility for the same reasons as anyone else. They don’t have support at home or income at home to buy support like child care. They have much less access than higher wage workers.

The case for flexible work arrangements isn't just an issue of parents of small children, Corrigan adds. "The aging workforce wants more flexibility in their jobs. People with disabilities want flexibility to help them stay in work force. The younger generation expects to share demands of home and wants flexibility to make that work. … This is a common need of lots and lots of people. The American workforce has changed and the workplace needs to keep up."

Shipman says she hopes that "Womenomics" "lets women see that many people feel the way they do, and that change is starting to happen." Kay adds to that: "We're giving women a sense that they can take some control over the way they work. We're not telling them 'you can slack off.' It's just that you can work differently."

Do you think we're in a world that's a-changin'? Are workplaces becoming more flexible-friendly? What do you think of the "Womenomics" argument?

By Stacey Garfinkle |  June 3, 2009; 7:30 AM ET  | Category:  Policy , Work/Life Balance
Previous: Why I Told My Kids, "I Have Cancer" | Next: Michael Lewis States the Obvious: We Cover Up the Unpleasant Parts of Parenting

Comments


Womenomics - really? - blech. That name is a sure fire way to ensure the failure of the movement. Sounds more to me like a little thing called common sense and making choices.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | June 3, 2009 7:51 AM | Report abuse

"Do you think we're in a world that's a-changin'?"

Ja, the economy is tanking. Not the best time for the private "workplace to keep up." Fedgov, however will make an effort due to pending PC legislation that has been in the pipe line for a while.

Posted by: jezebel3 | June 3, 2009 8:02 AM | Report abuse

"Womenomics"? Way to shoot yourself in the foot.

The point is valid. We need to move beyond seeing this as an issue for a single group; there are many, many people who don't have a choice at all, so finding ways to help them face their challenges is critical. But seriously: we need "research" to tell us that low-wage women would benefit from the same flexibility that some high-wage women get? What, because kids in low-wage families don't get sick and parents don't ever have to work late?

But even for high-wage women, the best thing we could do is extend that flexibility beyond our current limited circle. We've made it ok for mom to get a paying job, but it's still not anywhere near as ok for dad to stay home, or take paternal leave, or work a reduced schedule, etc. Which then effectively forces women to choose to cut back -- because at least we have the choice.

Don't get me wrong; I've chosen an 80% schedule, and I'm [darn] happy I have that choice. And my husband is not temperamentally suited to cutting back at work (if he tried to stay home with the kids, would be a fun contest to see whose head would explode first). But it bothers me that, if our situations were reversed, he wouldn't have the same choice as I do.

Posted by: laura33 | June 3, 2009 8:09 AM | Report abuse

I have to say I do think some men have more choice than they will admit to. For instance in the federal government, men can take up to 12 weeks unpaid leave for paternity leave. Very few men actually take it. They claim they can't step away from their jobs for that long. I think that is baloney. I have seen men do it and they fare it just fine. And of course most federal women take at least 12 weeks.

I also have not heard of any Fed man taking paternity leave be hasseled about it. So it goes back to men are hard wired or so indoctorinated to believe they need to work out of the home all the time. I think some men could have more choices if they wanted to take them.

I also think a large portion of men do not wish to stay at home with the kids. I don't think women are holding them back. I think they choose not to do this on a large scale.

I hope the younger generation does favor more free time. But every time someone brings that up, they start railing on Europe. Well maybe it is time for the US to stop valuing stuff so much and start valuing free time. I mean seriously, where has our deep desire to consume led us? The current financial crisis. Innovation, hard work, and a desire to make a better life for ourselves and our families are good things. But isn't more time with the family viewed as better for our families?

I think we bring it on ourselves because we are not willing to give up something for that extra time. Like if people held on to their cars for 8-10 years or didn't own 3 TV sets or any number of small things, we might shave a few hours off the week.

Posted by: foamgnome | June 3, 2009 8:35 AM | Report abuse

in the professional work place there are going to be a group of employees that value their free time more than their career advancement and a group of employees that don't.

employees (men/women/moms/dads), with other things being equal, who are willing and able to work all of the time will get ahead in the work place. the employees who aren't willing to do that will fall behind.

i leave work at 5pm every day, and although i will work from home and am almost always available by phone or email, my schedule is (just slightly)affecting my career advancement. and i think it's absolutely fair. i made a choice to spend more time with my family.

more on-topic, i think that professional workplaces around washington have become increasingly comfortable with alternative schedules that accommodate family schedules, but it comes at a cost.

Posted by: interestingidea1234 | June 3, 2009 9:03 AM | Report abuse

how about "Flexonomics"? Far less instantly off-putting.

My DH is a Fed, and he took 6 weeks paternity leave and was hassled about it. Ultimately it did not impact his promotion status, but he certainly got some blowback about it.

One amazing thing, though: he looked into the regs and found he could take ADVANCE sick leave--so all his time off was paid. (Sick leave can be used for yourself or for the care of a sick family member.) I strongly encourage everyone to look at the fine print--you might be eligible for this too! He had to submit his request in writing to HR well ahead of time, then wait several weeks while they looked at the fine print and determined he was right.

Posted by: newslinks1 | June 3, 2009 9:04 AM | Report abuse

IF you would just value the work a parent does at home with the children everything else would fall into place.
After 10 years of being at home with my kids, I cannot use any of my experience on a resume.... The Economy does no value parents at home.

Posted by: landriault | June 3, 2009 9:26 AM | Report abuse

i think the economy values very much the contribution of stay-at-home parents, but it doesn't qualify you to be a researcher at NRH.


Posted by: interestingidea1234 | June 3, 2009 9:34 AM | Report abuse

"What's resulted from that friendship is a book that encourages the "New All." Their advice for managing: It's okay to not always have to reach for the top. It's okay to find what's "enough" for you. To do work that's "good enough." Workers who put a value on their time don't have to work 60-hour workweeks, Shipman says"

I don't need a book to tell me this. Common sense. And they should change the name. Though the people who would read this junk might like this name.

Posted by: sunflower571 | June 3, 2009 9:39 AM | Report abuse

of course you can use your 10 years being at home on your resume! search for "SAHM resume" and it will give you some tips on how to list it.

this babycenter discussion board is helpful too:
http://www.babycenter.com/400_what-does-a-stay-at-home-mom-put-on-her-resume_500501_1000.bc

Posted by: newslinks1 | June 3, 2009 9:40 AM | Report abuse

"Well maybe it is time for the US to stop valuing stuff so much and start valuing free time." - Well said!

I am with everyone else who said "Womenomics" is a poor name choice. They are saying flexibility is needed across the board by men and women regardless of socioeconomic status, yet they are calling the movment something that automatically alienates a good percentage of the population. Makes no sense to me.

The argument, however, is a good one.

Posted by: thosewilsongirls | June 3, 2009 9:40 AM | Report abuse

Perhaps the problem with men taking 12 weeks paternity leave is that it is UNPAID, as is most maternity leave. I don't know too many two income couples that can take back to back or simultaneous unpaid maternity/paternity leave.

My husband took vacation and sick leave, total of 4 weeks when our second kid was born. First one he got zero time off. We did what we had to do and got through it, as do most people. Demanding changes in our jobs was not an option, but slowly over time options have gotten better. In my Org we can now carry more vacation and sick leave time over and receive time off from a leave bank for babies and health issues. This wasn't an option when I had kids, but I am glad it is now. In my experience, this is the trend.

Lastly, I don't need to read a book by Claire Shipman or Katty Kay to get advise on real life issues facing women, I'm pretty good at sniffing out my own advise from people I trust. Womenomics doesn't appeal to me, how about "Family Economics."

Posted by: cheekymonkey | June 3, 2009 9:48 AM | Report abuse

I talked to a guy at my kids practice. He was a middle manager, had a mercedes, kids went to private school, wife stayed at home. Pretty successful huh? Said he had been gone on business for 3 weeks straight, his wife was going on a short trip with girlfriends now that he was back. I never felt sorrier for someone in a long time. Missed all his kids practices, didn't tuck them in, didn't have any time with his wife, didn't go to the pool after work and watch his kids do cannonballs,didn't get the hugs and I love you daddy giggles. But I am sure that somewhere someone envys him, not me. I was richer than he ever would be.

Posted by: pwaa | June 3, 2009 9:58 AM | Report abuse

"Well maybe it is time for the US to stop valuing stuff so much and start valuing free time."

When I hear people making general statements about whta everyone should value it chills me. Foamgnome, you have the choice now to individually, in your life, not have a TV, cars etc. No need to suggest everyone must live like this-I suppose you will want higher taxes so the government can provide more for us so we can work less? Focus on your own life and don't try to make decisions for others.

Posted by: sunflower571 | June 3, 2009 10:01 AM | Report abuse

Agree with the others that the name is a bad choice; it will turn off a number of potential readers.

There are a number of interesting topics going on here. The term "new all" is another gross one (pure psychobabble) but the concept is interesting - you can "have it all" if you define "all" to be that which is attainable within your desired work/life environment, NOT what somebody else defines as "all."

However, not everybody defines "all" the same way and that's a good thing. Somebody HAS to be the CEO/President/Commander with all the duties, responsibilities and working conditions that come with it, so it's good that somebody wants that and defines it to be his/her "all."

WRT "now" and the recession, interestingidea's point is valid: "employees (men/women/moms/dads), with other things being equal, who are willing and able to work all of the time will get ahead in the work place. the employees who aren't willing to do that will fall behind."

It's a global economy. If the Indians, Chinese, Russians, etc. want to (or have to) work harder/all the time, they'll get ahead. My brother, an industrial engineer with over 20 years experience, lost his job when the plant closed. The German-based industrial conglomerate closed its US plants and moved production to China. Why? Because they don't have to play Chinese workers decent salaries or benefits, and they can demand and get a 50-60 hour work week. So they get rid of their European and US employees, and in the short term profits are fatter (well, they would be if any of the Chinese-made stuff actually worked, but that's another story).

Then there's the fact that GM just sold its Hummer brand to the Chinese. And the Indians and Chinese want to sell cars in the US, which will mean more competition. And if they produce and sell them more cheaply, guess how the competition ends up.

So it's fine if lots of people want to redefine "all" and accept a standard of living that makes them happy. Nothing wrong with that and to an extent DW and I have done that ourselves. But you have to do that in full cognizance of the competition that you'll face, and the potential impact on your life down the road because of that competition and what it might do to you.

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | June 3, 2009 10:06 AM | Report abuse

So these 2 women, each of whom have high-level jobs that must have required a lot of ambition and sacrifice to achieve (senior national correspondent for ABC? anchor for BBC? these are top-level jobs!) are telling the rest of us women that it's okay not to want to reach for the top?

Posted by: bubba777 | June 3, 2009 10:34 AM | Report abuse

PWAA, I tend to agree. We have made choices that have effected our "careers" and it was because we valued our time with our kids more than a mercedes or mcmansion. I can't say I feel sorry for the gentleman you encountered, but I could not lead his life.

This goes to what sunflower stated, we all have to make our own decisions and be ready to pay the consequences. Our consequences are we will most likely not be large income earners (won't have all the stuff), for others the consequnces are they will not spend enough time with their children. I won't be thinking about my glorious career on my deathbed, but I have a feeling that those that value the "stuff" over their time with loved ones will have some regrets, you can't make up time.

It all relative too, the truly selfless are those that spend years away from their families to serve and protect this great nation. Thankfully we have such men and women in our country.

Posted by: cheekymonkey | June 3, 2009 10:43 AM | Report abuse

Bubba, thought the same thing - ironic, isn't it?

Posted by: cheekymonkey | June 3, 2009 10:50 AM | Report abuse

sunflower:Maybe I did not word it right. My point wasn't to suggest that every one should do it. My point is the same people that want flexibility etc do not want to give up something to get it. The Europeans value time over stuff. But they are willing to give up the stuff to get the flexibility. The problem is that the most vocal Americans who want flexibility are not willing to give up security, advancement or stuff to get the flexibility they want. Why should someone who is willing to be a slave to the corporation not advance further than the person who wants to clock out at 5 PM every night. That was my point. Sorry if that was not clear.

AB: Sure jobs are lost over seas and the Chinese and the Indians are willing to work harder because they have to. But eventually they too will demand better pay and working conditions. They already have.

Also for all the jobs lost overseas, new jobs are still created here. The problem is they are different types of jobs. We may loose more manufacturing but we gained in the service sector. It is like family farming. Why should we give huge subsidies to family farmers if they are not needed here. I am not saying we don't need manufacturing. But the days of well paid US auto makers may be over. McCain had it right when he told the Detroit people, some jobs are lost forever. But they need to focus on retrainig and reeducating themselves to meet the jobs of tomorrow.

Posted by: foamgnome | June 3, 2009 11:13 AM | Report abuse

I apologize for this being totally off topic but this is a message for Billie (and any other stepparents out there)---you must read the new book Stepmonster by Wednesday Martin! It's by far, above and beyond, the best stepfamily book out there. I can't recommend it highly enough.

/end hijack, my apologies!

Posted by: auntieW | June 3, 2009 11:21 AM | Report abuse

well said foamgnome

Posted by: interestingidea1234 | June 3, 2009 11:23 AM | Report abuse

foamgnome, not to tar you with a particular brush but your post reminds me of Greenspan's book, which went on and on in the theories of how the most productive world involves each sector/country doing the work and making the products that it can do most efficiently - e.g. if the Chinese manufacture things cheaper, then they do the manufacturing. The one thing Greenspan never addressed was - what is it that the US does most efficiently?

(My brother told me about a conversation he had with the German corporate treasurer about the plant closures/moves. The treasurer said to him "someday the Indians and Chinese will wise up and demand better working conditions, but until they do we're going to make as much money as we can. If that involves putting thousands of people here out of work and 'abusing' thousands of people there, that's not my problem.")

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | June 3, 2009 11:33 AM | Report abuse

The one thing Greenspan never addressed was - what is it that the US does most efficiently?


That is easy: Ans: CONSUME :)

No seriously, I just think people stand around whining about the way things used to be instead of working hard to adjust to the current and future situation. If you learn anything at all in school, you should learn that the economy and the labor force is dynamic. The job you training to do now may not exist in 10 years. But you should be learning how to think and be adaptable.

Case in point, BIL was a mortgage broker that sppecialized in subprime mortgages. He was out of work for 9 months and now has a pretty crappy job as a student loan collector. There is current legislation in Congress to require a 5% holding on all loans. This would pretty much put his old industry out of business. A good law by the way.

Instead of considering retraining and reeducationg for the definite possiblity that even when the economy picks up, his job may be obselete. He is sitting around believing that the good old days will start up any day now. If they do, good for him. But a reasonable person, would be considering what is the next reasonable step. Of course with the power of lobbyists, the law may fail even though it is in the best interest of most Americans to pass.

Posted by: foamgnome | June 3, 2009 11:48 AM | Report abuse

"Of course with the power of lobbyists, the law may fail even though it is in the best interest of most Americans to pass."

much easier to blame lobbyists than the elected officials -- you know, the people who actually vote on the legislation.


Posted by: NoVAHockey | June 3, 2009 12:23 PM | Report abuse

You got that right, Novahockey.

Posted by: cheekymonkey | June 3, 2009 12:40 PM | Report abuse

AMEN Novahockey. What the lobbyists have working for them is organization. They are organized and have connections, and quite simply, we don't. It's time women, families, dads, etc., banded together to demand change. I wish there was one unified voice for us that would lobby on our behalf. I would gladly donate money to fund a lobbyist.

Posted by: cantwaitfor08 | June 3, 2009 1:11 PM | Report abuse

demand change? what kind of change?

personally, i'm pretty happy with the status quo: people who work harder excel professionally. seems pretty fair to me.

Posted by: interestingidea1234 | June 3, 2009 1:16 PM | Report abuse

I agree with interestingidea1234-work hard and get rewarded.

Posted by: sunflower571 | June 3, 2009 2:11 PM | Report abuse

Terrific title. Dr. John Goodman, author, Leaving Women Behind, wrote about these issues years and years ago. Unfortunately, most of the labor laws that are in effect today were made in the 1930's, when women were not supposed to be a part of the workforce. In other words, women are working in an environment that was not built for them to be there. This has resounding negative repercussions. A married newly working American woman pays taxes at the same rates as her husband, regardless of the difference between her salary and his, even if she earns only the minimum wage. She must also pay Social Security payroll taxes up to the same maximum as her husband, even if he has maxed out on his. When all is said and done, the average married woman keeps about 35 cents of every dollar she makes. In a world that is beginning to embrace "womenomics," this needs to be one of the first changes made. Women are moving up in the workplace, and we need to reconstruct the workforce to allow them to be a part of it. And flexibility in the workplace? Don’t get me started on that one. At the NCPA we are working hard to make the workplace fair! www.familyissues.ncpa.org

Posted by: TerryNeese | June 3, 2009 3:37 PM | Report abuse

Terrific title. Dr. John Goodman, author, Leaving Women Behind, wrote about these issues years and years ago. Unfortunately, most of the labor laws that are in effect today were made in the 1930's, when women were not supposed to be a part of the workforce. In other words, women are working in an environment that was not built for them to be there. This has resounding negtative reprucussions. A married newly working American woman pays taxes at the same rates as her husband, regardless of the difference between her salary and his, even if she earns only the minimum wage. She must also pay Social Security payroll taxes up to the same maximum as her husband, even if he has maxed out on his. When all is said and done, the average married woman keeps about 35 cents of every dollar she makes. In a world that is beginning to embrace "womenomics," this needs to be one of the first changes made. Women are moving up in the workplace, and we need to reconstruct the workforce to allow them to be a part of it. And flexibility in the workplace? Don’t get me started on that one. At the NCPA we are working hard to make the workplace fair! www.familyissues.ncpa.org

Posted by: TerryNeese | June 3, 2009 3:38 PM | Report abuse

Don't have anything new to add to the discussion. It is nice to see the rest of the country is catching up to me and DH, though. I've been a wage-earner for more than 30 years. The last 17-plus, I've been the *only* wage-earner in our family, while DH has been the SAHP.

Posted by: SueMc | June 3, 2009 5:27 PM | Report abuse

foam..and others...

What the US has been good about, until, I think, recently, is innovation. Is creating new companies - the ideas, etc.
We are, however, losing that...and quickly.
I overheard a conversation the other day. One woman was complaining to another about how her child was sick, but she didn't have insurance, and to go to the clinic down the street it would cost her $100. We've somehow come to believe (as foamgnome alluded to above) that we are entitled to everything, but shouldn't have to work for anything.
It's a shame, really. We have been good at creating companies/businesses/giving people jobs. But now, well, we're good at trying to figure out how to get so much and do so little (lawyers/law suits...). How to find ways of getting our 'fair share' whatever that means.
It's really sad. Those who achieve, well, they're likely to go elsewhere, and we'll be, well, I don't exactly know.
I also have a neighbor who said: why do people need so much money? What could they do with it ? (with regards to some people earning ung-dly sums of money). He just thinks they should pay 90+% of the money that they have in taxes. Well, the question I have is: what happens when someone knocks on your door and says *you* have too much money? That day is coming my friend.

In any event, I do think that more flexibility in the workplace is a great thing. What I *do* think Europe has correct is that they do value part time workers. We don't seem to do that here, and it's a crying shame. We are no longer a two income family because of that (or partially because of that).

Posted by: atlmom1234 | June 3, 2009 5:55 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 

© 2010 The Washington Post Company