Moms don’t opt out; they’re pushed out

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News flash: working moms don’t quit for no reason.

I write this in the spirit of an Onion headline Gerry just sent me:

Study Finds Working At Work Improves Productivity

According to new analysis by sociologist Pamela Stone appearing in the fall issue of Contexts magazine,

Professional women aren’t quitting their careers solely because of babies and family, but because too many workplaces are not fostering an environment that allows them to keep working once they become mothers.

Excuse my English. But no sh*t, Sherlock.

Stone studied 54 women in-depth from a variety of professions (e.g., law, medicine, business, publishing, management consulting, nonprofit administration) living in major metropolitan areas, roughly half in their 30s and half in their 40s. The women were highly educated, affluent, mostly white, married with children, who worked as professionals or managers and whose husbands could support their being at home. More than half had graduate degrees in business, law, medicine, or other professions; they also had thriving careers in which they had worked for about a decade and had strong incentives to continue with them.

Stone determined that workplace pushes were a significant reason women opted out, and ”all but seven women cited features of their jobs—the long hours, the travel—as motivation for quitting.” Those who tried to rearrange their work schedule “felt like they were being given special favors.”

What am I missing here? Did anyone think that working professionals, once they popped out a puppy, immediately laid down the briefcase just because? For most of the women I know, leaving their hard-won jobs is an agonizing decision they feel forced to make because they simply can’t meet all of their employers’ unbending demands and still raise a healthy, happy family.

And they don’t toss that briefcase in the laundry chute (does anyone have laundry chutes anymore?). They trade in for a different, more flexible job that best utilizes their talents and skills while still allowing the flexibility to grow children.

I’m sure Sherlock, I mean Stone, thinks she’s furthering the cause of working women by browbeating employers into offering kinder, gentler workplaces for parents. It ain’t gonna happen, sister. I don’t think any boss who demands new mothers take frequent business trips and work late hours is going to smack his forehead after reading this report and say, “Gosh dangit! So that’s why all these women are leaving me!”

I admit I think about this all the time. When I confided recently in a colleague that I feel pressured to show up at the office nearly every day for meetings, he responded that it was up to me to change that. He’s right. We have to alter the paradigm. No boss is going to stand up and say, Heck, ladies, just work from home, why dontcha. I don’t need to see your face here at 10 p.m. Well, I take that back; according to the Wall Street Journal,

Sun Microsystems Inc. is particularly aggressive about flexible work styles; the computer maker estimated that about 55% of its employees work from home or a remote office as many as two days a week.

But I don’t work at Sun Microsystems. I work for an old-world media organization. It’s up to me to insist that the powers that be redefine worker productivity. Doing my job means doing my job, no matter from where or when. What’s it to you if I do my reporting from home in my pajamas, so long as I turn in my story by deadline?

Here’s my version of the Onion headline:

Study Finds Working At Home Improves Productivity

Now that would be a study, Sherlock.

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