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.