The first of three excerpts. The next two will focus on the impact of work-family conflicts on children and proposals for easing the
strains of balancing these areas of their lives.
Work and family -- the dominant life roles for most employed women and men in contemporary society -- can either help or hurt each other.
People find it increasingly difficult to cultivate pursuits outside work that enhance their quality of life. Parents find themselves working
more and more hours -- with significant implications for nurturing the next generation. But time isn't the only problem. Something runs much
deeper: The psychological impact of work on home and home on work.
The conflict between work and family has real consequences. It affects the career attainments and quality of family life of men and women.
From our in-depth examination of 861 business professionals, several themes emerged. These themes, outlined below, have significant
implications for future efforts to achieve greater integration between -- and hence make allies of -- the two worlds of work and family.
1. We can have (much of) it all, but it's especially tough for working mothers. What are the challenges of having it all? One
obstacle is that traditional values continue to shape the division of labor at home. As a result, working mothers are the most vulnerable to
suffering career penalties and work-family stress. They are generally less satisfied with their personal growth and their careers. They earn
less than women without children, in part because they work fewer hours. Motherhood turns out to be a career liability.
For men, however, fatherhood is a career asset. Fathers have more authority on the job than men without children have. This is the major
reason why fathers are more satisfied with their careers and why they achieve more.
Tradeoffs between the conflicting demands of work and family are inevitable. Unfortunately, women feel forced to make more of these
tradeoffs than do men. They spend more time on household activities and far more time on children, and they make more adjustments to their
schedules. To create options that help make allies of work and family -- so more of us can have (much of) it all, we need to change the
traditional gender roles. Mainly, men must take up more of the child-care and household responsibilities. This, of course, might well benefit
men by increasing their satisfaction with their family lives.
2. Work and family can be allies. There are many ways that work and family can help each other. For instance, women build close ties
and acquire useful information and support for managing family issues from their social networks at work. The enhancement of self-esteem that
comes from work is another potential asset for life beyond work. Family-friendly employers provide additional assets. There is less of a
career penalty on mothers in these organizations, and they are better able to enjoy the benefits that a satisfying job has on parental
performance. Those of us in family-friendly firms do spend less time on work and more on life outside work -- but our job performance is no
different than those of people in nonsupportive organizations, and we are more committed to our organizations.
3. Time is not the major problem. The time bind is real, but a more subtle and pervasive problem is the psychological interference
of work with family and family with work. This reduces family satisfaction and satisfaction with personal growth, and diminishes parental
performance. Kids rarely miss picking up on the psychological absence of a mom or dad who's with them but whose mind is elsewhere.
4. Authority on the job is essential for work-family integration. Authority over work -- when, where, how, and with whom it gets
done -- has a major impact on careers and satisfaction with life beyond work. It will be increasingly important that employers give employees
autonomy. This is about more than flex time and telecommuting. Employees are best able to figure out new and creative ways to get the job done
that fit -- and support -- their lives outside of work.
5. Women may be better adapted for the jobs of the future. Success in the brave new world of 21st century careers will require the
ability to handle ambiguity, manage multiple tasks, and build networks of support at work and in the community. Each of us needs to be adept
at juggling career, family, and other commitments. Women seem to be more skilled at this than men. Employers should be willing to invest in
women as leaders of the future and to create a work environment that values their particular skills.
6. Kids are the unseen stakeholders at work. Parents' work experiences and career values influence children's health and welfare in
significant ways. The issue is complex, however, and plays out differently for men and women. Children whose mothers are highly involved in
their careers experience relatively few behavior problems. Why? These mothers have greater self-esteem and competence, providing a positive
role model. A child's mental health is also positively affected when a father is satisfied with his job. In contrast, less career involvement
makes fathers more available psychologically to their children and results in kids with fewer behavior problems.
What's the bottom line? Corporate responsibility to kids and parents must go beyond providing child-care facilities and benefits. Work
needs to be designed so parents can be available -- behaviorally and psychologically -- so they can focus on their children.
Stewart D. Friedman (email@example.com) is currently director of the Ford Motor Co.'s Leadership Development Center in Dearborn, Mich.,
while on leave from his faculty position at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. He has also been an advisor on work and family to
Vice-President Al Gore. Jeffrey H. Greenhaus (firstname.lastname@example.org) is professor of management and William A. Mackie Professor of Commerce and
Engineering at Drexel University in Philadelphia. He is the author or co-author of three books.
The authors' research on work and family has been widely profiled in the media and academic journals.
Reprinted and excerpted with permission of Oxford University Press
Copyright 2000 by Oxford University Press, Inc.
Published by Oxford University Press, Inc.
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