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FCW : May 15, 2014
Your career 20 December 2013 FCW.COM 26 May 15, 2014 FCW.COM “Children have lost productive func- tion,” Senior told FCW. “I’m all for the revival of chores early and often. It’s a way of building family unity.” As for work/life balance, perhaps the first step is to count our blessings as white-collar workers with decent pay. “If you work in the federal gov- ernment, you’ve already got the luxury of thinking about work/life balance,” she said. “It’s a high-class problem to begin with to be able to contemplate getting work/life balance because it means you don’t have three shifts to worry about and an impossible commute,” Senior said. “You’re probably working pretty close to home, and you have your dental taken care of.” The next step requires a shift in perspective. Understand that you’re not alone in being challenged to meet family and work responsibilities, and let go of the expectation that the pre- cious, limited time you spend with your children will be 100 percent bliss. “All of us are dogged by the lives we didn’t lead,” Senior said, citing British psychotherapist Adam Phillips’ writing on the power of our imagined lives to cast a pall over the reality. “Our kids acting according to plan is a very real fantasy.” Senior said we should accept that our lives will be more lopsided than balanced and tilted in favor of work or family depending on our circum- stances and our own preferences. “Embracing lopsidedness isn’t bad,” she added. We should also recognize that home lives, especially with young children, will be chaotic, messy and not condu- cive to the elusive flow made famous by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his 1990 bestseller “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.” The satisfying feeling of solving a problem in several hours of focused work is unlikely to be replicated at home, Senior said. ‘What Works for Women at Work’ Every career woman could benefit from reading “What Works for Women at Work: Four Patterns Working Women Need to Know,” by academic Joan Williams and her daughter, Rachel Dempsey. And it would also be benefi- cial for men who hope to understand the gender bias that hinders women’s advancement and is often unconscious- ly perpetuated by men and women. Either way, the book’s plentiful examples and suggestions provide smart strategies for federal work- ers to find work/life balance without calling their commitment to career into question. Williams and Dempsey condensed 35 years of social science research into four patterns of observed gender bias that were confirmed in their interviews with more than 125 professional women. Not every woman experienced every pattern, but all rec- ognized at least one. • The tightrope. To succeed at work, women must display typically mascu- line traits such as assertiveness without being seen as too aggressive, and they must display typically feminine traits such as compassion without being seen as weak. Those who fall off the tight- rope are penalized for having “sharp elbows” or for not being leadership material. • Prove it again. Men receive the benefit of the doubt on performance, whereas women are only as good as their last win. • Maternal wall. Having children calls into question women’s commitment to their careers. • Tug-of-war. Women might be pitted against one another in workplaces per- ceived to have room for only a few suc- cessful women. Those are challenging patterns to recognize and acknowledge in our workplaces, which we may feel are gender-neutral and fair to all. But they have been documented by reams of research pulled together by Dempsey and Williams, founding director of the Center for WorkLife Law at the Univer- sity of California’s Hastings College of the Law. “You have to be aware of these prob- lems or you can’t strategize to solve them, but also, you have to have strate- gies that allow you to solve problem one without creating problem two,” Williams told FCW. ■ “You have to be aware of [gender bias] problems or you can’t strategize to solve them, but also, you have to have strategies that allow you to solve problem one without creating problem two.”
April 30, 2014
May 30, 2014