Work-Family Balance and Gender Lines

Five points that Courtney E. Martin made in her article, Fighting Apart for Time Together: Why is all the activism for work/life balance split along gender lines?” She took the issue of work-family balance activism that tends to be complicated and made it understandable.

Courtney E. Martin has an interesting article over at The American Prospect titled “Fighting Apart for Time Together: Why is all the activism for work/life balance split along gender lines?”

Ms. Martin takes the very complicated issue of work-family balance activism and makes it understandable. Here is how the discussion shakes out:

  • The perception exists that many avenues of support and numerous resources exist for women searching for work-family balance, but not so many for men.
  • This is due, in large part, to the fact that these support groups have sprung from women’s and mother’s movements, and are named accordingly.
  • Are these groups with names beginning with “Women” and “Mothers” concerned that about excluding half of the parenting population? Ms Martin says: “they essentially responded that this kind of advocacy work has always and continues to be done by women, and that men are welcome to join.”
  • Ms. Martin then asks: “But are men really going to join a revolution that doesn’t have their name on it?”
  • A recent poll conducted by the Opinion Research Corporation for Work+Life Fit, Inc., concluded that though mass media continues to frame this as a “woman’s issue,” more than 90 percent of full-time employed adults believe work/life balance is “[a]n issue for everyone.”

So Ms. Martin asks the question: “So why is the majority of the organizing around work/family balance still not crossing gender lines?”

And here’s what we know, or suspect, all to well:

“Even if the mother’s movement manages to get federal laws enacted that require parental leave, there’s still much work to be done in dealing with the messy cultural issues underlying many men’s largely unspoken desire for balanced lives. Already many of the nation’s largest corporations have paternity leave options for their employees that go unused by men afraid to appear uncommitted to their work, “whipped” by their domineering wives, or “soft” for wanting to spend time changing diapers instead of making dollars.”

I think we’re all trying to broaden this discussion, bit by bit, and on many levels – changing societal expectations – from empowering men to choose to do caring work to offering them safe environments to talk about their desires to creating corporate cultures that not only talk about these issues but live them and embody them from the CEO to the entry-level hire.

Well framed, Ms. Martin.

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