Women's participation in the workforce has been steadily growing. The U.S. Department of Labor reports that women make up 47% of the total workforce and will account for 51.2% of the increase in total labor force growth between 2008 and 2018. While it is now 2011, one of the biggest challenges for women in the workworld has not yet been adequately addressed nor resolved - balancing work and family.
Women are only partially kidding when they lament that what they really need is what a lot of successful men have - a wife. Who wouldn't want someone to ensure that the children are clothed, fed and transported to school on time, take care of necessary errands (grocery shopping, picking up the dry cleaning, getting the cars tuned up on schedule, ad infinitum), and ensure that all the friend and family birthdays and anniversaries are not only remembered on time but are sent a card or gift?
The tasks of maintaining hearth and home continue to be - tacitly or not - left to working women to accomplish. It is no wonder that women find themselves burned out as they work toward that promotion or go broke trying to finance surrogate help to ensure that the unspoken standards of family life are upheld. Their "To Do" lists are endless and leave them perpetually "whelmed" with scarce time to take care of themselves, reduce stress or reenergize.
Strategies for Improving Women's Workplace
Companies unconsciously make the workplace more difficult for women in a variety of ways that have simple, thoughtful resolutions.
- Many companies forbid employees from making personal phone calls at work. Wouldn't allowing a parent to make a quick call to their latch-key child/children make for happier employees and children? For less than five minutes, a parent could check in on Susie, remind her to make sure her homework is done first and that there's a cut apple in the fridge for a quick snack - reassuring the parent and giving the child/children the feeling that they're cared about.
- Why do schools all start at different times? For a parent who has to be at work at 8 am sharp and who is also responsible for getting children to school on time, having varying start times is maddening. Driving like a bat out of hell through the drop-off at school with no "Have a great day, Joey!" isn't conducive to positive parent/child engagement. What an amazing display of not only understanding but also of community support it would be if school boards worked on having school start times more compatible with today's work requirements.
- And speaking of that support, companies would gain considerable points by working with employees with school-aged children to be open to flexible start times or even taking the bold step of adjusting their hours. So long as the employee works the required hours, how refreshing it would be for company leaders to say, "We value our employees and their families. We're not starting our business day until 8:30 am to allow our parents to safely get their children to school.
There are low-cost and reasonable ways to help parents - mostly working women - meet the everyday challenges of creating a work/family balance. With a little effort and creative brainwork, we can - as a society - resolve this extra burden.
We're smart people - we can do this.