I recently blogged about how I thought women should not hide the fact that family commitments had made them late for work commitments. This is based on the view that only by changing attitudes in the workplace towards family and work will we be able to make the environment easier for women and parents generally to navigate.
This was also the message that came across in the fantastic recent article in The Atlantic Magazine by Anne-Marie Slaughter “Why women still can’t have it all” http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/07/why-women-still-can-8217-t-have-it-all/9020/
In her article Slaughter suggests three key changes which she sees as crucial to the path forward for women with families to be able occupy key leadership roles, (1) changing the culture of face time – by this she means that we should no longer see the default position as being working “in the office” or having meetings “in person” but instead simply schedule those working conditions only when necessary. This avoids persons with caring responsibilities (as Slaughter rightly points out it is not just parents who have caring responsibilities) being made to feel as if they are pulling favours or not working as hard as everyone else. (2) Revaluing family values: Slaughter uses a brilliant example of the employer who sees an employee who is a marathon runner as extremely disciplined and committed and therefore a very valuable employee, whilst the employee who manages the demands of running a household and young children, whilst often would have put in many hours before and after work and would be extremely organized and disciplined, is rarely seen in the same light. (3) lastly, Slaughter encourages the redefining of the traditional career path from one which is a straight upward slope, to “irregular stair steps, with periodic plateaus and even dips” when one takes time for family commitments.
In my opinion Slaughter has identified some crucial changes which must take place in our attitudes before workplaces can enable women to reach leadership roles. It is only by women leading by example that this can happen. So again, next time you are late for that meeting because of the school run or you want to be home for dinner time, wear your commitment to your family proudly and encourage others around you to do the same!