If you’re a working parent (or know a working parent), you may have seen a New York Times article shared in the past week or so titled, “Women Did Everything Right. Then Work Got Greedy.” The gist of the article is that even as women are more prepared than ever, they’re increasingly underrepresented at the top ranks of their professions and underpaid overall.
“Just as more women earned degrees, the jobs that require those degrees started paying disproportionately more to people with round-the-clock availability…But parents can be on call at work only if someone is on call at home. Usually, that person is the mother.”
While this article covers some of the same territory, it isn’t a retread of the old “Mommy Wars” stories about “opting out” or “leaning in.” These women aren’t leaving their professions or stalling out in the middle ranks by choice. Societal factors, like mobile technology that makes us always “on” and global connectedness, are converging to make it untenable to work the number of hours that are being demanded while raising a family. That’s especially true for people who are in what the article calls “greedy” professions, such as finance, law and consulting. (All of us who have ever worked for a client-billable-focused creative agency raise our hands here, too.)
“But unpredictable hours also pose challenges for others, including same-sex parents, middle-class families and low earners. Researchers have focused on college-educated women because they’re most prepared to have big careers, yet their careers flatline. Across American life, decision-making power rests mostly with men.”
In case you haven’t already noticed, Spool’s team of marketing and PR experts including our strategic and creative leaders, are all women (though we’ll welcome any man who’s brave enough). Many of us are moms, and most of us boast previous leadership roles at other agencies or in-house at major companies. We were drawn to Spool by the chance to work with some of the brightest minds in the business and deliver stellar creative campaigns at a new agency where our ability matters more than our availability to put in tons of hours.
Around the same time as this article, I was in a group text with a few friends – one an epidemiologist and one an immigration attorney (I’m the slacker of the bunch) – about feeling guilty about taking time off for anything personal. We’ve been in the workforce for 15-plus years, and the number of times we’ve “played hooky” are nominal. The pressure to be present as much as possible for both our employers and our families is intense, even though we’re all fortunate to have great jobs and supportive partners.
The truth of the matter is, this problem isn’t easily solvable. If I could give all the parents I know the best Mother’s Day gift, it would be systemic changes like paid family leave (both for taking care of newborns and for sick or aging family members), subsidized childcare, well-funded public school systems with accessible, affordable before- and after-care options, and high quality healthcare coverage that’s not linked to where you work. Until then it’s going to take more employers realizing that working MORE isn’t the same as working hard or, even more importantly, working smart.
Aleks Walker is an editorial and content director at Spool and a mom of two.