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Earning Power!: October 2005

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Yale's "Secret" Motherhood Path

Louise Story of the New York Times recently published results of a Yale survey that had many women up in arms. E.J. Graff, who most recently co-authored Evelyn Murphy’s book “Getting Even” stated, “The elite media declare yet again that feminism is dead, and that most women yearn to stay at home and tend babies.”

The truth according to the census is 90% of American women do have babies before the age of 40, but it doesn’t preclude them from wanting equality with men.

Graff claimed women wereupset that the Yale study of 138 freshman and senior females revealed that 85, or 60% said they planned to cut back or quit work when they had kids. This would leave 40% of them responding with plans to work full time.

Incredibly, rather than being preposterous, this survey seems to accurately reflect the present workforce. According to Catalyst Research, about 38% of married mothers work full time. The others have cut back or live off of other sources of income.

What IS disturbing about the NYT article is the quote they used from a student saying, “My mother’s always told me you can’t be the best career woman and the best mother at the same time. You always have to choose one over the other.”

Just turn the quote around and try something no one was ever quoted as saying, “My father always told me you can’t be the best career man and the best father at the same time.” It sounds completely silly. Also, would really discourage or upset all of the great career fathers out there. No guy would get away with giving that advice to his son. What would the result be?

There is a disconnect between the idea that women and men can both be good parents and good workers, despite the fact that most parents have to work. Bringing home money is part of being a good parent.

The article doesn’t mention if the Yale women in question plan on returning to work after 4 years when the kids start school. But surveys show that even if women do leave work to give babies attention in the first years, the same intensity isn’t required in the later year’s child-raising. Most women return to combine work and kids quite well.

What women don’t choose is to be paid 2.5% less per child for the same jobs once they have children, to face speculation about their commitment to work (or their kids), to be penalized for asking for flexible hours while the kids were infants, or to be sidelined to less important positions because of bias.

The Congressional Budget Office found that women’s earnings were 98% of men’s when looking at people’s wages from ages 27 to 33 that never had a child. A National Center for Policy Awareness report says, “When women behave in the workplace as men do, the wage gap between them is small.” But having no children is NOT how men behave.

As a nation, we hold out the hope that someone will hold the raising of our children as a priority over career advancement. Historically, we’ve wanted that person to be a woman. But the truth is, when families insist the children come first, both men and women agree that they work to live, not live to work.

Pregnancy, having a child, and raising a child is a 50/50 responsibility of the mother and father. The wage gap cannot continue to be 100% blamed angrily on men, especially when human resource departments that set or monitor wages are made up predominantly of women. Nor can blame be shifted 100% to women simply because of the pre-knowledge that there is a bias against women with children that will affect their pay.

Instead, we can correct the bias through increased awareness and participation of both men and women toward eliminating the wage gap for the next generation.

See both stories at

Thursday, October 13, 2005

When Being a Man is Good for Women

Men matter because they are half of the solution to workplace equality. Statistically, men are clearly still in charge in Corporate America. But what can a man do for a woman as a mentor that a female mentor can’t?

Men are in a unique place because they hold more access to power in almost all industries except for those businesses that cater specifically to women and children. Because there is a wall between men and women at work, women sometimes need a push or pull to reach their potential when the place is dominated by men.

Here’s how just one man can change a woman’s access to the top and to the even the playing field toward fair pay.

1) Give permission. Women sometimes need a guy to give her permission to participate in the conversation, the meeting, and/or the decision. She doesn’t assume that just because she was hired that the guys will value her opinion or include her in the exchange. She's been rewarded in the past for staying quiet, out of trouble or out of the way. Instead, let her know she’s there because she’s valued, and that she should speak up or be overlooked.
2) Give invitations. Women need a formal verbal or written invitation to get-togethers, hanging out, meetings and after work sessions where many key business events take place in an informal setting. They assume incorrectly that work only happens at work, in the workplace. They also assume that they’d be uninvited if they invited themselves to tag along without you asking directly.
3) Give introductions. Once she’s been invited, stop the conversation to make sure people know her name and why you think she should be there. Open your rolodex and contact list. Empower her by being complimentary about her strengths to others before it’s assumed she’s just office decoration. Let them know why you trust her enough to let her join.
4) Give opportunities. When heavy assignments come up, don’t assume she wouldn’t be interested because it involves travel, longer hours, meetings over cigars and cognac or that there are no other women involved. Let her tell you, “yes” or “no”, and at least give her an opportunity for discussion.
5) Give resources. If she accepts an assignment, she may try to do it herself. Let her know what headcount she is allowed and if she can hire temps, contractors, or full time people from other divisions or outside to get the job done right. Many men know that a guy put in charge will start building his empire immediately, but women may try to prove themselves and fail because not being given a team.
6) Give a budget. Sponsor her projects based upon return on investment. Often women will not ask for additional money to get something done right, but will bend over backward, even spending their own money on supplies or gifts to make things happen, and the company never does learn the actual cost of getting the results. Also, if others see she has a team and budget, they are less likely to question her credibility and more likely to support her success.
7) Give coaching. Instruction is vital to success. Give her the same sort of insight you’d give your buddy about what the key people on a project are looking for to call the end product outstanding. Don’t laugh or let her flounder as a right of passage if you see her heading the wrong way. Remember if she fails so does the company.

In short, men in charge can give a woman a chance to make them proud by sponsoring her through some simple visible and verbal actions. This is also a chance for men to benefit financially by having women join the men in producing results that benefit everyone financially. The bottom line is that smart men sponsor smart women and get rich because of it. And that’s how taking charge and being a man is great for working women.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Paternity Power

If you haven’t heard, the percentage of men taking paternity leave has risen from 7% in the year 2000 to 16% in 2005, according to Working Mother magazine. Chances are if you are a working father, you may have missed the news. In some companies, like KPMG, as much as 80% of new fathers take time off.

This trend is exemplified in a study of Generation X dads that illustrated they spend about an hour more per day than their fathers did. It took a little digging, but a Mothering Magazine 1980 study of working fathers revealed that they spent an average of 38 seconds per day of quality time with their children. Adding up the hours over weeks, months and years, there has been a quantifiable difference in quality time with dad nowadays!

This is great news for working women. Why? Because, quality time with dad means relief for mom. Being a mother has been strongly linked with the wage gap. If men can hold their salaries and still get more time with the kids, we are on the right path toward work-life balance between the sexes.

How strong is the link? The wage gap between working mothers and working fathers is seen unexplainably widening in US Bureau of Labor statistics. However, this month a University of Michigan study revealed that housework specifically has an adverse effect on women’s wages.

Could something as mundane as housework be causing a gap in wages? In part, yes. But more specifically it is the amount and type of the work. Obviously guys are putting in hours on home maintenance, yard work, auto repair, even loading the dishwasher. Something else is going on at home that is no secret at work. Women are still the primary child raisers.

Women between the ages of 20-49 do twice the housework as men their age, but the true cause of the wage effect is “child care in conjunction with household duties.” This is because, as U-M economist Paula Malone says, “Child caretakers cannot postpone care until the weekend or convenient times.”

The Journal of Contemporary Economic Policy calculated that each hour of housework reduces women’s wages by 0.1 to 0.4 percent. A University of Toledo study shows women did 10 hours of housework weekly, so this would mean up to 4% less pay per week for working moms. According to both studies, number of housework hours does not affect wages of women over 50 (who put in more hours of housework than younger women, but not child care). Nor did housework affect wages for men of any age.

If the difference between men and women’s housework is twice as important as job tenure, market hours, or education level as indicated by these studies, then men have a key role in raising women's wages by starting at home. Men participating more in fatherhood can not only have an invaluable impact on their own quality of life and the lives of their children, but it can inadvertently raise their household income level through more effective management of the working mother’s time and therefore, family income.