by Jo Keroes
Here’s the truth: I’m getting a little tired of everyone out there trying to solve our problems – the problems of working women with children, that is. Work/life balance, opting out, opting in, juggling, woman power, why we should rule the earth and why if we have kids that’s really impossible – it’s all seeming like old news. Every time I look, there’s a new book or article whining about how the business world doesn’t appreciate us or claiming to have the solution to what we know is really an insoluble problem. It’s enough to make a reviewer shout “enough, already.” But if a reviewer finds the content of these books a little too familiar and maybe a little boring, it’s certainly not so for the women wrestling with the problem. Change only happens when people generate a lot of noise, especially articulate noise, about a vital issue, so it’s good that these books keep coming.
The latest, Womenomics , comes from Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, two talented and prominent T.V. journalists. With "you go girl" optimism - the book’s subtitle is “How to Stop Juggling and Struggling and Finally Start Living and Working the Way You Really Want” – the authors promise to give women the tools to transform their lives, to “shake the stress but keep the income and clout” to figure out what they value most in their work and private lives and how to get those things guilt-free. Well, almost. By being fearlessly strategic about what we want, they say, we can actually structure our own time.
Kay (mother of four and BBC reporter) and Shipman (mother of two, reporter for Good Morning America) have in mind something other than the traditional mommy track. Instead they propose a new All, in which women make their own rules for what constitutes “enough professional success balanced by time and freedom.” Building on the premise that working women want more time – for their kids, family, community, themselves – and that “kicking down the corporate ladder,” needn’t result in a loss of status or pride, they cite research showing that companies want women in their higher ranks and are getting wiser about how to accommodate and keep them. Now, they say, when a majority of women are demanding more flexibility and when women are the “hot commodity” in today’s workplace, women can demand greater options in the way they work. They can say no to assignments that keep them from their families or require them to spend too much time in the office; they can wean themselves from the tyranny of technology. One of the best sections in the book is the “Gut Check,” a list of questions aimed at confronting what really matters to each of us and asks the reader to imagine “Nirvana,” the ideal life. Success, they argue, isn’t necessarily about earning top dollar or the highest status but “a complex, nuanced web of personal and professional goals.” Even the recession is on our side, they say, since our need for more time matches companies’ need to adjust as well. Just figure out what you want, go in and negotiate firmly for it, and there you’ll be.
Well, maybe. This book is aimed at highly educated women in mid to upper management positions, those who may already have acquired sufficient professional clout to do that negotiating in the first place. Too many women either work in situations where such flexibility is impossible or haven’t achieved the status necessary to negotiate in the first place. It also dismisses a little too readily the idea that issues of childcare and domestic equality aren’t really solutions. Perhaps not if one can afford them. Still, Kay and Shipman do point out that when 78% of couples in this country are dual-income earners, a good number of men as well as women want and need more time and younger workers insist on flexibility in their working lives. Womenomics makes a powerful argument for figuring out what we really want and offers useful strategies for how to begin to get it.
Related on Mommy Track'd:
* Newsdesk New Book, Womenomics Addresses Different Approaches to Work, Family. 
* The authors' No -- Just Say It. 
* Leslie Morgan Steiner conducts her own Womenomics research in Soccer Field Statistics