The Market That Loses Moms.

by Leslie Morgan Steiner

 

Mid-August compromises the dog days of summer for news headlines (witness the front page froth over the JetBlue flight attendant) which may be why the editors at the New York Times chose mid-August as the ideal time to publish David Leondhardt’s "Economic Scene: A Market Punishing to Mothers." Despite being buried in August amid the Business section, the article makes excellent points. In case you are a tad time-pressed by the demands of your kids, job and husband, Mommy Tracked called out a pithy synopsis on NewsDesk. However, to get the gist of the New York Times piece – and perhaps most of our entire culture’s view towards working moms – just read the subtitle carefully:

 

"The next step toward workplace equality begins with acknowledging that most parents can't have it all, as long as flexible schedules and long leaves damage careers."

 

Before I dismember the subtitle, I’d like to pause to give thanks:

 

* A mainstream, respected newspaper read by millions has devoted several inches to a hidden reality that has plagued, frustrated, and perhaps ruined the professional lives of an entire generation of extremely well-educated, committed, ambitious women, including most of the women I know from Harvard undergrad and Wharton business school.

 

* The article was written by a man, rather than the rabidly angry feminists -- whom Leonhardt helpfully points out have contributed to bias against working moms by focusing on women’s equal rights instead of family policies – thereby increasing the chances that men who have the power to hire, retain and promote women will actually pay attention.

 

* Solid, unbiased points are made about the gender pay gap, workplace prejudice against mothers, and the reality that most women do not have any real “choice” between work and family (since most of us want and need both).

 

Now onto the heart of the miasma. The problem with our society is not that working moms want “it all,” or that “flexible schedules and long leaves” damage careers, as Leonhardt’s subtitle states. The problem is that neither our country’s policy makers nor our private sector leaders understand how easy it is to offer flexibility to employees, and the vast improvements to morale, loyalty and productivity that result. Moms (the “parents” in the subhead strikes me as politically correct code) should not be blamed or punished for wanting to combine working and care giving through flexible work schedules and maternity leaves. Despite thousands of genius-level economists at the nation’s universities and think tanks, no one has quantified the tremendous national loss caused when well-educated, brilliant, hard-working, ambitious moms leave the workforce for good.

 

geekymummy
08.29.10

Spot on again, Leslie. I love my job, but if I could work part time and not lose any respect or too much money I would do it in a heartbeat. There is just no precedent in my industry for it.

geekymummy
08.29.10

Spot on again, Leslie. I love my job, but if I could work part time and not lose any respect or too much money I would do it in a heartbeat. There is just no precedent in my industry for it.

Michi
08.26.10

I actually find the original wording to be accurate. I know men who have similarly stunted their careers by daring to take the parental leave offered, suggesting that making their child's baseball game was important, or daring to want a life outside of the office.
Yes, mothers currently bear the brunt, but it is actually more likely to change if you get the fathers involved in the fight.

vlarson
08.23.10

I like your last rewording, however, I would like to do a mash-up of yours and Leonhardt's:

"The next step toward workplace equality begins when employers understand that giving parents flexibility in their careers, work schedules, and maternity and paternity leaves is often free to companies, priceless to employees, and transformative to the American economy and potentially the entire world."

I am the mom of two sons who most likely will be dads one day. I would like to see a world that allows them to stay at home if they wish full or part time, and I'd love to see women who will encourage and embrace them doing so.

The goal is for workplace flexibility, and that can — and should — benefit both genders.

zbraithwaite
08.18.10

I'm always grateful to you, Leslie, and Mommy Tracked for bringing to my attention articles of interest that I would otherwise miss as I run around shuttling kids to and from activities. I think this is such an incredibly important issue and Mr. Leonhardt identifies the various culprits and consequences of our how our economic system fails women succinctly and clearly. However, I think it bears pointing out that these are the same points that Ann Crittendon pointed out in her book, "The Price of Motherhood" years ago. This issue should be raised over and over again to garner as much attention as possible. I hope, for my daughters' sake that things will change so that they won't have to make the same heart-wrenching choice that I did between career and family.

zbraithwaite
08.18.10

I'm always grateful to you, Leslie, and Mommy Tracked, for bringing to light thought provoking and interesting articles scattered throughout our media. I know I would have otherwise missed this piece as I run around helping with homework and shuttling the kids here and there. The article and your commentary are a great read. However, Mr. Leonhardt doesn't seem to be saying anything that Ann Crittendon didn't already point out in "The Price of Motherhood" years ago. I'm certainly grateful to David Leonhardt for raising the issue again because I think it cannot be said enough how unfriendly and damaging to women and families the work culture is in our country. Any and all attention this issue can get is sorely needed. I hope for my daughters' sake that things will change and that they won't have to face the heart-wrenching choice between career and family that I did.

themommymarch
08.17.10

another great article!!! I agree that the work place if giving up a lot if they aren't flexible.

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