So a book publicist and an agent walk into a bar (okay not a bar, a reception area of a media conglomerate) and discover they represent the same issue du jour. “Bring it on,” says one in a clumsy attempt to appear secure (if not woefully out of date with her slang.) “This will be fun” says the other in what can only be called utter insincerity. They were clearly uncomfortable with confrontation and/or competition and poetically the issue du jour with which they’d been charged was women in the workplace.
The issue of work/life balance is not new, it’s been bandied about since women were told they could “have it all” (cue Veruka Salt) which would’ve been somewhere around the mid-to-late 1990s. There has been a push by women (that has buy-in from some men) to tailor the workplace to the personal needs of employees. There have been talking heads and studies supporting the edict that ‘happy employees are productive employees.” For the record you can always find a study to support your own position (e.g., divorce? happy parents make happy children. drinking while pregnant? a glass of wine makes the woman happy & calms her uterus. childfree? people without children are happier…) The fact that workplace balance is almost always a veiled reference to ‘women in the workplace’ is not a coincidence. Not since the industrial revolution has the workplace changed as dramatically as it has with the inclusion of women in real numbers and positions. But to somehow suggest that these employees work differently or need allowances to be productive is offensive.
Women (particularly post 1970s) do not need to be told how to conduct themselves in the workplace or boardroom. We’ve been doing it for decades thank you. The fact that some women are doing it in software (or other male-dominated fields) doesn’t make it uncharted territory. There was a time when everything (save teaching and nursing) was a male dominated field. So please don’t tell me to lean in and/or work harder. It’s called ‘work’ after all isn’t it? It’s really not all that complicated to get to the top (which isn’t to say it’s easy to do.) Please don’t suggest that those women who’ve made it to the corporate top can sprinkle their success fairy dust on the cubicles below. I don’t need special dust or treatment; I just need for you to be a good boss/leader. And while we’re at it, please keep my personal life out of the workplace. What I choose to do outside of work is just that; outside of work. I will choose a job and/or career that suit my personal needs. These needs will change over my lifetime, as will my work choices. I do not need or want the world of work to alter its nature to honor my personal life. It’s called work after all.
What I would like is affordable childcare (not for women or for men but for children.) I’d like reasonable family and medical leave time (for maternity, parenting or other personal needs.) I’d like flexible working arrangements when they either do not impede the work or in fact advance the work. I would like equitable medical and dental benefits and have people pay for the amount of coverage they need. I would like a workplace free of harassment and hazard. I would like fair compensation for the work done not the position held. And if I may borrow some fairy dust for a moment; I would like hiring and promotion tactics to occur on merit alone.
A little advice to that anxious publicist and agent; relax there’s enough 15 minutes of fame to go around.