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Selena Rezvani

Selena Rezvani

Selena Rezvani is author of the new book, The Next Generation of Women Leaders: What You Need to Lead but Won't Learn in Business School and co-president of Women's Roadmap. Follow her on Twitter at @NextGenWomen.

Where are men in the work/life conversation?

If you want to have a truly unsatisfying conversation, try talking about how to find work/life balance. With around-the-clock, "anytime, anywhere" work models serving as the norm today, many of us want the elusive answers for making it all happen. Why can't the solutions be neatly wrapped in a simple how-to manual, checklist or training class?

The reality is, integrating work and life is―and will always be―a highly personal pursuit, fueled by one's own values and circumstances. One person approaches their time management judiciously while another takes each day as it comes. What works for me may not work for you and hence, the dialogue can easily become fruitless.

Women, however, have a commonality that does unite--they still shoulder the bulk of caretaking and home-management domains, while also comprising the majority workforce. It comes as no shock then that in a recent study, What Holds Women Back?, by the UK's Opportunity Now, female managers report that work and family responsibilities are their main barrier to advancement, followed by childcare restrictions. What's more, more than half of female managers studied think they are perceived as less committed to work because of family obligations.

These data do not necessarily uncover earth-shaking, new perceptions―but the difference in male and female respondents' answers is striking. Only 54 percent of male managers agree that juggling work and family poses an issue, in contrast to 82 percent of women. Similarly, only 20 percent of male managers hold the view that women's commitment level is questioned at work, while 57 percent of women believe it to be the case. The disparities here beg for more dialogue, hinting that men have been left out of (or have served as non-participants in) some of the conversations to date.

One woman I interviewed, Erin McGinnis of the Society of Women Engineers, discussed what we've come to expect from women noting, "The biggest challenge women face is the high expectations people have of them in all aspects of their lives. People expect women to be successful in the same ways men are at work, to be traditionally good mothers, and to take care of all the other loose ends in life--from getting your dry cleaning--to trying to stay healthy--to preparing food every night. All of these commitments take time and happen throughout our entire lives. There is really no ideal time to focus on your career." It seems that the pervasive "You can have it all" message often plays out in reality as "Go ahead and do it all."

Many businesses today are making "allowances" for women, without framing flexibility as a total workforce issue and showing its benefits to all workers. This trend persists despite considerable research that shows positive support, regardless of gender, for more flexible work arrangements. A Boston College Center for Work & Family study of six large companies revealed that 70 percent of managers and 87 percent of employees say a flexible arrangement had a positive or very positive impact on productivity; 65 percent of managers and 87 percent of employees say a flexible work arrangement had a positive or very positive impact on the quality of work; and 76 percent of managers say flexible work arrangements had positive effects on retention.

One unexpected bright spot in a sea of archaic companies can be found in our own federal government, through the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). Showing major commitment to work/life matters, OPM has installed a fully staffed office to support individual agencies and to design new, forward-thinking work/life policies that meet the needs of each. Along with their host of flexible benefits, OPM isn't afraid of lofty goals--their objective is for the federal government to be America's model employer for the 21st century.

Shifts toward "extreme work," as economist Sylvia Ann Hewlett has called it, may not cede anytime soon. But neither will pressure for better, more agile working conditions. Those who see women as a special interest group seeking unusual accommodation will be caught by surprise when male and female members of Generation Y begin demanding similar flexibility in greater numbers. Until the old regime of rule-makers wakes up, we'll continue squandering American "people" resources and fighting a talent war with one hand tied behind our back.

By Selena Rezvani

 |  February 4, 2011; 10:42 AM ET
Category:  Corporate leadership , Organizational Culture , Women in Leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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this isn't an article that actually addresses the headline.

this headline seems like a "bait" for people.

After reading through the entire article, it's more of the same feminist pap, just it included the word 'men' a few more times than usual, and this time it's not joined with things like men SUCK, or men DIE, or men are CRUEL, or men are USELESS, and my favorite, ALL MEN ARE RAPISTS.

no, that didn't make it in here.

but you really didn't discuss the message of the headline at all.

you probably SHOULD.

Posted by: pgibson1 | February 8, 2011 7:53 PM
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the moment the pen wrote the phrase "women leadership", instead of simple "leadership", in your effort to "equalize" your plight in life as women.

Men never really needed to exclude so much as women do.

and let's face it, you exclude, every time someone qualifies some thing as a "woman's" meeting, or a "woman's day of..."

so you're asking and I'm telling you.

now go make some brownies.

Posted by: pgibson1 | February 8, 2011 7:37 PM
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It's because in general, women worry more.

Posted by: duhneese | February 8, 2011 4:14 PM
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Having a supportive and involved spouse (husband or wife) makes all the difference. Most women do not, however.

In the meantime, at work and school, some people see other people's family obligations or juggling as a way to "leg up on the competition."

As for women, go find a rewarding profession and company with shared values. They ARE out there.

Posted by: SamRon1 | February 8, 2011 3:07 PM
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Men...don't get married...don't even bother...why torment yourself with indentured servitude mortgaged to the ever waning 'American Dream'. Be single and happy. Be yourself on your own time and dime...come and go as you please when and where you want.

Posted by: oceancrest67 | February 8, 2011 12:23 PM
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Women are man killers. The life of men is shorter than that of women. Boys are born more often than girls, but by marriage time the women and men are about equal. Women tend to shun heavy work, outdoors work, and riskly work. This all falls to men.

A woman office assistant may have more education and better skills than a man who clears underbrush from a line of electrical towers in the outback, but doesn't get paid as much as the man. I wonder if this is sexist, since the women who do the same work as the man gets paid more than the man, but few women apply. Men die more often, or are handicapped more often, in this kind of work, than women are.

In other blue collar jobs, women fare better than men. Policewomen partnered with men often find the man will position the police car in such as way that the man's side will first take a hit. Even crooks are less likely to shoot women cops than men.

Now those blue collar men are having their jobs taken over by illegal immigrants who are paid less than American men and women. There are more male illegal immigrants than female, and more men than women who die in the deserts trying to break into our country. Those jobs aren't counted in comparing men's wages to women. And American women shed few tears on the immigrant man's behalf.

Few women are on the boards or are the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. However, few women's owned companies ever make the Fortune 500 list, which is based soley on wealth, not sex.

Men can marry women below them in status, and this is often a fun plot for movies and books; but families bewail the fact when women marry down from white collar to blue collar.

67 women died in Viet Nam, of which 8 were military. Over 58,000 men died there. I don't see many women in offices clamoring for sexual equality in draft or equality in fighting alongside men in the US Armed Forces.

Women b*tch and whine about being treated differently. Men get hernias for heavy lifting. Men die more often, and earlier than women do.

If we want true equality, then let's have true equality. Unfortunately, few women really want that. They use rationalization instead.

Posted by: LeeH1 | February 8, 2011 11:18 AM
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And then there are folks like me--single parents--who do it all: raise a child on our own, advance in our careers and have a personal life. It's defintely meant I've had to bypass professional and personal opportunities that would throw my "balance" out of whack, but I've managed to find that balance and be happy in my world. At the end of the day, that's what it's about--finding the balance that works for you personally. Your balance and happiness may be a job that demands 80 hours/week from you and you may thrive on that--and that's fabulous. Your balance may be a flexible career that allows you to work from home or work part-time--that's fabulous. It may be a married couple where the wife earns more and therefore continues to work and the father stays home with the child. That, too, can be fabulous for that couple. No one way is right--it's just as the author noted: it's a very personal choice.

But I do resent those who comment that working mothers are slackers. I've been in working situations where I had to pick up the slack for singles who stayed out and partied too hard and were too hung over to get to work the next day--or if they did show up, they were useless. Having to feed a family is quite the incentive to show up and earn a paycheck.

Posted by: pepperjade | February 8, 2011 11:16 AM
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I do sympathize with women. They do have it tougher than men in some regard in part because women cover traditional roles of care taking the children - held over from the days when men used to hunt and fight for the tribe and women used to stay behind in the camp tending the 'flock'. So, in this case the writer is lamenting the traditions that have long since been supplanted by our modern view of 'equality'.

In keeping with that modern view, let me make the following points;
1) Women come complete with uterus and seem to feel the compunction to use said uterus. If you want a career, you need to go Martha Stuart. If you have kids, you have to realize that 'someone' has to raise them and yes, that takes time from your day - and your career plans - YOU make that choice
2) Are employers conscious of that fact? Why yes, they're not stupid. They know that kids get sick and they need mommy at school sometimes.
3) Should employers care? Absolutely NOT. Let's be real - this argument by American women that the business world should embrace their urteran ambitions is without reality. You can clearly see I suppose that corporations are shipping jobs offshore at an alarming rate. They are running to countries that have NO protections for women's rights. There are ladies working in factories in Indonesia while nursing their babies. Corporations don't care, and don't want to be made to care about the fact that American women want to make motherhood a corporate issue

I'm not saying that because I agree with it. I'm saying it because it's a fact. Your Utopian dream of the American ideal of two cars in every garage, a nice 4/2/2 in the burbs, 3.2 kids and super woman as mom is under attack and you maybe can't even see that. Asking companies to make concessions to the fact that you want to have kids and sap time away from their precious bottom line is wishful thinking at best. They have no heart dear Selena, and you will not be able to guilt them into it.

They will just move your job to Somalia where women are just glad to be able to eat. Look around, you will see what I am saying. Companies don't like rules or behavior or conscience. Yes some companies are cool. But what do you do if you are cool and your competition is heartless and making better profits? The board fires the cool CEO and gets a heartless one...

Posted by: BrownShoedSquare | February 8, 2011 10:38 AM
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Men keep their heads down and their mouths shut. To do otherwise risks being called insensitive or gender biased by the women. Women have invaded all our man caves and taken over many of them. There is no place to go to hide from them anymore. That's just the way it is. Society has become feminized. Take it or leave it.

Posted by: bandcyuk | February 8, 2011 10:12 AM
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The question is, when women get their flexibility, who picks up the slack? This flexibility quickly becomes an excuse for a decreasing contribution to the work load.

Posted by: hipshot | February 8, 2011 8:55 AM
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Those with families are always going to be at a disadvantage in the workplace. They cannot compete with single professionals or married professionals without children who are free to devote 60, 70 or even 80 hours a week to the job. They can’t spend the weekends on the golf course with the boss, take clients out at night or pick up and relocate to a different city at the drop of a hat. If only there were some sort of bargaining mechanism or process that would allow workers to compete fairly while at the same time securing the right to a standard work week, then people could obtain work-life balance.

Posted by: codexjust1 | February 7, 2011 3:23 PM
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One reason many liberal women hate Sarah Palin so much is that she has achieved a great working partnership with her spouse in family and work situations. They may vote against Sarah Palin for policy reasons, but their vehemence and name calling is personal.

Sarah and Todd married young, apparently for love, not as a negotiated merger to implement a business plan like so many two earner couples. Imagine marrying someone you had the hots for even though they were blue collar and didn't go to the right schools and ending up having it all?

Libs just can't forgive a conservative woman for being wildly successful where so many libs fail.

It must be especially galling to liberal women that someone they say is "dumb" has achieved what they canot achieve. What does that make Sarah Palin's liberal critics?

If you want the answer to a happy and balanced life, ask Sarah!

Posted by: jfv123 | February 7, 2011 3:05 PM
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A new study found that women only do 10% of the outside yard work in a family home. Men continue to do their 90%. Several men's organizations have formed in an attempt to find ways to equalize the heavy work. "Women just do the simple indoor work where it is heated and air conditioned," an organizer said. "Men have to go out and mow lawns, shovel walks repair stuff and rake leaves in all kinds of weather." Women's share of inside chores has been shrinking year by year for the last 30 years, but the ratio of outdoor work hasn't changed. "We hear all the complaining about indoor chores," one man said, "but those studies showing women now do less than 60% of the indoor chores exclude outdoor tasks because women do so little of it and it messes up the story line to include all home chores." Health experts say that if more women pitched in and did their share of outdoor chores that the average size of women's slacks would decrease because women would be getting off their ever expanding rear ends and would be doing something besides complaining and moaning about men all the time.

Posted by: beachbum09 | February 7, 2011 1:36 PM
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Having it all, definitely doesn't mean doing it all! Career women need to free themselves of these unrealistic expectations on what they are responsible for - if they are making an economic contribution (perhaps even as co or primary breadwinners) why do they feel they need to carry all of the burden at home? Step Aside Super Woman! You will exhaust yourself by trying to do it all and is that why you worked so hard to gain an education and advance your career? Let others share the domestic responsibilities - partner and kids - and spend money on outside help if needed - it will be worth every penny.

Posted by: ChristineBrown-Quinn | February 7, 2011 1:13 PM
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Society still holds up the stereotype and the expectation that men are supposed to be hard working bread winners. Men are still expected to play a certain role, to be a certain way and to deal with the work-a-day nonsense to bring home the bacon.

At the same time, there is still a pervasive societal myth and ideology among women to seek out and marry somebody rich...many women simply want to be taken care of while spending a man's hard earned money. How equitable and fair is that?

As a man, I have nothing against successful women in the work place. I have nothing against having a female boss...but she better show some fine leadership qualities...I have worked under my fair share of duds...both men and women.

The idea that one ought to go out and do it all or have it all is a misnomer. Time constraints will play into everything and finding a happy medium will mean giving up on some things.

Life is about choices and challenges no matter what gender or career path...or generation X or Y or whatever. You can have all the studies and seminars till your blue in the face...life is still unfair.

Posted by: oceancrest67 | February 7, 2011 9:47 AM
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Mark0004 said: "All of this complaining is simply to justify women not having to make the same sacrifices required to advance as men have had to make over the years."

Mark0004, you're missing the point. The point is that women who work long hours also have to do the majority of the child-rearing, the majority of the cooking and the majority of household maintenance tasks. Many men do not. Of course, that is changing, and many men do equal work in all of the above categories. However, the point should not be ignored that, in many households, women have to take on burdens men do not, while at the same time pursuing a career in competition with men.

Posted by: northernharrier | February 7, 2011 8:58 AM
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The men have given up. Like everything else, the women have nagged and kvetched to the Point of driving men crazy. Me would rather go out drinking with the rest of the guys.

Posted by: adrienne_najjar | February 7, 2011 8:51 AM
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Can't answer all these questions, but as a man, my observation is that women seem to buy into "you can/should have it all" more than men. It is not universal by any means, but it appears to be a truism. I think it is some how related to "if a little is good, more has got to be better." You have to make choices. Sometimes it's as simple as if you turn left at the corner, it is impossible to have turned right. Other times, if you choose to have both the chocolate pie and the cheese cake you get fat. A big part of the problem is that instead of trying to have it all, women need to choose what they want and let go of what they don't choose.

Posted by: duright | February 6, 2011 6:31 PM
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A motion should be called to end all economic gender disparities: pay inequity, as well as divorce court order rulings.

Sabatini referred to the study of: The New Dad: Exploring Fatherhood within a Career Context.

We are making the error or leading with gender in mind. The arrangement to facilitate WLB, (if indeed the purpose is to enhance harmony, work performance/satisfaction, relations, commucations and trust) must embrace both sexes at once.

You CANNOT have a meaningful discussion on WLB exclusively, one geder at a time. It will function successfully only as an alliance. The aricle really tore away the subjec.

Posted by: mars11 | February 6, 2011 5:49 PM
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As a federal employee, I can tell you that OPM may be at the forefront of work-life flexibility, but not all agencies are interested in playing along. My agency (which shall go unnamed, for obvious reasons) is kind of schizophrenic in this way - some subcomponents are pretty flexible (e.g.,my old subcomponent) and others are famously rigid (my present subcomponent). As for where the men are in this discussion, some are here and some are not. It's like a lot of things. Having more women might help, but it's also generational - in my experience a lot of women who came up during the 70s or earlier take a fairly hard line attitude. Like "I did it all, so you should too."

Posted by: kgirl2 | February 6, 2011 12:21 PM
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Where are men in this conversation?

Funny you should ask as I’m working on a project that asks just that.

In the working dad focus groups I’ve been facilitating, I’m finding the answer to the above question is: They are working busily with their heads down because they still feel immense pressure to be breadwinners.

The dads I’ve interviewed all seem like great men and caring, involved fathers. They communicate well with their wives and try to clear time on the schedule for dance recitals and parent teacher interviews. However, many feel that the gender neutral policies around leave/flex time, etc still favours women, and that there is a stigma attached with taking advantage of said policies.

When I asked how many of them would cut back on work to care for family if their wife had an incredible chance at career advancement, most were taken aback. Some said they loved their work too much. Others said they didn’t have the temperament to be at home with the kids that much, and a few had the courage to admit it would be a hit on their identity as breadwinner. None of them said they’d do it.

At the crux of this discussion is what you noted when you wrote “more than half of female managers studied think they are perceived as less committed to work because of family obligations.” Men have seen women’s careers suffer from being on the “mommy track” and as long as they feel that pressure to be first and foremost a breadwinner, they aren’t likely to rally en mass for more opportunities to stand out and appear like they aren’t serious about their jobs.

Another vastly overlooked part of the equation is that society has set the bar woefully low when it comes to expectations around fatherhood. We still see a mother’s love as more vital, more nurturing and ultimately, more important to a child. Pop culture still continues to use fatherhood as a punch line, with the tired old stereotype of incompetent dad (who is incompetent simply based on his gender) who has to be rescued by slightly frustrated-yet-loving wife. The message we send to young boys—you better be powerful and wealthy because you aren’t cut out to be a dad. And the message we sent to young women is “expect to take on the burden of the parenting because men are well-meaning-but-inept fathers.”

My company, (www.bettermensolutions.com), is designed to help companies improve retention, recruitment and production by recognizing the changing needs of men’s work life balance. Though the study to which you allude states the contrary, the Work Family Institute survey found that more men than women are struggling with WLB. Not surprisingly, I’ve been getting a lot of interest from companies headed by women. Many of them are married to stay at home dads, or part time working husbands. As CEOs and presidents, they realize that we won’t see more women shatter the glass ceiling until we make it more acceptable for men to take on a greater role at home.

Posted by: Bettermen_Solutions | February 5, 2011 11:51 PM
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There's no law requiring you to get married and have a family. And if you do decide to make that commitment, perhaps you should discuss family responsibilities with your partner before hand.

Posted by: dmblum | February 5, 2011 10:36 PM
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There's no law requiring you to get married and have a family. Life is about choices.

Posted by: dmblum | February 5, 2011 10:35 PM
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I think everything depends on the personality and his/her value. If you know your way, what and how you need to reach it, then it is not so dificult to find perfect balance between work and life.
yours DISORO

Posted by: womanwithreason | February 5, 2011 2:06 PM
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They went to the bank instead.

Posted by: brng | February 5, 2011 11:20 AM
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These arguements about women not advancing fast enough. Women doing all the work at home while working and men doing nothing do not tell the whole story. Different people are in different situations and treat work and home with their own situation. We all know some women advance quickly in the workplace because they are smart, put in a lot of hours and grind it out to make their way. We also know some women work less hours than others at the same pay level and have child care issues, work attitutes and hours that do not lend to being a success at work. Men fall into the same category, work does not really get done with efficiency drunk on the golf course contrary to what some mid to upper level managers try to say. More hours are not more productivity especially if they consist of lunch, golf, baby showers, birthday parties, internet surfing and fantasy football. Both men and women make choices daily at work that seem to make them successful or not. Some people are more connected due to background, threatening, legally entitled due to equal opportunity, or independently wealthy and able to hire out work at home so they have advantage in the workplace. Saying being male of female is the only factor is just not accurate.

Posted by: confussed | February 5, 2011 8:53 AM
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The plain old simple fact of the matter is less time at work, less productivity, less respect. Lets not sugar coat the fact that these liberal work allowances for women with families is any more productive than a man who spends the bulk of his time at work. In my workplace, the women who have advanced have had to work the same hours as men traditionally have. These women are are very good and even more important well respected simply because the time devoted to the organization. All of this complaining is simply to justify women not having to make the same sacrifices required to advance as men have had to make over the years.

Posted by: mark0004 | February 5, 2011 6:51 AM
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GABSDAD: I think I hear a whip being cracked

Posted by: taonima2000 | February 4, 2011 10:50 PM
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Thank you for referencing the Boston College Center for Work & Family Study on workplace flexibility. I wanted to also bring your attention to a more recent research report entitled "The New Dad: Exploring Fatherhood within a Career Context" which begins to document men's changing experience with work and life through interviews with new fathers. We are continuing this line of inquiry with a follow-up quantitative study as we do believe it is important to learn more about men and have men become more involved in discussions about how we all successfully integrate our work into our lives. We invite you to learn more by visiting www. bc.edu/cwf
Jennifer Sabatini Fraone, @BCCWF

Posted by: sabatinj | February 4, 2011 7:32 PM
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Oh give it a rest. Some of us are really getting tired of hearing how bad you women have it when it is not, and has not been reflected in the business world we see every day for some time. My boss is a woman. There are many women working in my office at different levels of responsibility AND PAY. Both my wife and I work. I get the kids dressed, fed and off to school each morning. I grocery shop on Saturday and take my daughter to viola and soccer on Sunday. It’s not a burden and I don’t whine about it. There are many men like me. The difference is we go about the business of work and family without constantly complaining about how unfair we have it. For women, that battle has been fought and won so stop it.

Posted by: GabsDaD | February 4, 2011 2:32 PM
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