Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In takes a lot of flack for being a privileged woman’s guide to becoming CEO. My own take is that a privileged woman’s guide is much better than no guide. I’m a fan of Sandberg, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t more to the story of how women can get ahead in business. This article at Business Insider has another very interesting perspective. Sabrina Parsons (CEO of Palo Alto Software) writes:
What needs to change is how and when women work. Being told to “lean in” by itself is not useful. Instead, women need to come together and demand that we are given the flexibility to excel in our jobs; to admit that we have kids and not hide that fact in fear that it will stunt our career opportunities; to occasionally bring a child into the office to quietly do homework on a day when school is out or daycare is unavailable.
Let’s demand that corporate America’s norms change to accommodate women — those who want to have families and realize that having a family does NOT make us work less or achieve less.
I’m still leery of these arguments because I don’t like the rationale that we ought to try and legislate until we reach the arbitrary goal of equal pay without consideration of individual preference and choice. That’s bad policy.
But you know what else is bad policy? Continuing to push the same antiquated practices for business that have been around since the Industrial Revolution. I think that for most white collar knowledge-based workers you would get far more productivity per day if you got 4 hours (or even 2 or 3) of really concentrated effort then you do out of the 8 hours of procrastination and avoidance that is common today. Fewer hours would be beneficial for employers directly, and also indirectly by making your employees hate work a little less. (In my experience at several large companies in a variety of industries: everyone in a cubicle hates their job and everyone in an office hates their job too, but lies about it better.)
Formal regulation is probably not the answer, but I sure would love to live in a world where, when both parents worked, they were doing offset, flexible 6-hour days. And, while we’re at it, it would be nice if people didn’t expect for me to foist off all family obligations on my wife because (1) she’s just as busy as I am and (2) I actually want to be an involved father. When I reschedule business to go to my daughter’s drop-in day at school it’s not a chore. It’s what matters most to me. When I can’t be with my kids for something they are doing it isn’t because I love my career, it’s because I have to balance my desire to be with them with our need to eat.