It's been sort of surreal going straight from a dad's conference to one that is focused on women. After listening to both groups speak pretty freely about the challenges they face within their communities, I've come to a couple of realizations.
At Dad 2.0 last week, I heard a lot of stay-at-home dads say that they deal with considerable consternation about the fact that they don't report to an office every day: they hear everything from "concerned" questions about how they "deal" with not "working," to overtly rude questions about whether they can consider themselves committed to caring for their families if they don't earn a salary.
At the Women's Leadership Conference here this week, I heard corporations lament that they are having a hard time retaining women employees and grooming them for high-level positions when so many leave their jobs after their families begin to grow with the addition of children; on the other side, I heard stories of women who felt that they were penalized for having children, and given the distinct impression that managers assumed that they were no longer serious about their careers once they became mothers.
Hearing all of these stories within the same week has me completely reeling. Couple this with my own experience in the corporate world that in order to excel, you are required not to just put in a few extra hours every week, but to make your job your priority above all others... well.
It seems to me that until Corporate America begins to value:
(a) the emotional health of their employees and acknowledge that cultivating a life away from the office is essential to that health; as well as
(b) the parental roles of their employees,
there is no way that we're going to have parity in the workplace.
In other words, when corporations not only make it acceptable, but encourage their employees to focus on their personal lives in addition to their professional ones, it can only help to enhance the productivity of its workforce. Moreover, when Corporate America finally makes it okay for ALL its employees to be parents, then no one will have to sacrifice career for family (or vice versa).
What do you think? Am I way off-base? Do any of you work for companies who you think make it easy for you to focus on all aspects of your life, including you personal well-being? How about those of you outside of the United States -- is your experience the same, or different?
I'd love to hear your thoughts.
Reminder: registration for the Spring session of the Path Finder ends March 21, 2012. You can read all about it here. I really hope you'll join me!