Family-friendly work


I started reading Of Boys and Men by Richard V. Reeves, and, as a man and a father who recently went part-time so that my wife could go to work full-time, there is a lot here that resonates, especially so the discussion around balancing work and family.

“…the goal of public policy often seems to be to create work-friendly families, rather than family-friendly work. […] …our work and care structures are relics of a past when only men had both careers and families.””

I’m the main caretaker of our kids these days. My wife and I certainly share a lot of duties at home (she does a LOT). However, she is in what the author describes as a “greedy profession”. I’m lucky enough to not to be in that anymore, but it still feels like one of us needs to make this sacrifice, and usually it’s been men who do it. Is it good that she earns more than me and has a great career? Yes, on so many levels, but it shouldn’t be required for one of us to do this at all, and yet it feels impossible to see any other option.

“As well as more flexibility in the day-to-day nature of jobs, career ladders need to be modernized. For many parents, scaling back on paid work doesn’t just mean a temporary dip in income, it can also result in permanent damage to career prospects. This problem is worse in what Goldin calls “greedy jobs,” which offer big financial rewards for putting in long and unpredictable hours. Law, finance, and management consulting are good examples.

If you want to move up, you cannot take time out. In these circumstances, it makes sense for one parent to stay on the ladder and maximize income, while the other steps back to do more on the home front. Usually that is dad and mom, respectively. The career structure of these occupations doesn’t just incentivize a sharp division of labor between parents, it virtually imposes it. It should be no surprise, then, that these are also the professions with the widest gender pay gaps. Women working in law and finance earn just 77 cents on the male finance dollar. Fifteen years after graduating from the University of Michigan with a law degree, four out of five men are working at least 45 hours a week, compared to only half the women. Almost one in four of the women were working part time, compared to just 2% of men.”

So far, the book offers many great insights into problems (like what is outlined here) and solutions (which I’ll note down as I process them more).

2 responses

  1. Looking forward to solutions if you get time to publish them!

  2. Yes, I’d love to see family-friendly work. I think that has to be a fundamental belief of life, but in our current capitalist model, which seems to worship profit above all else, it’s not going to happen without some serious legislation.

Comments welcome!

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