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A divorced janitor, a 27-year employee and the mother of a seventeen-year old son with the mental capacity of an 18-month old, fails to report for mandatory overtime one Saturday when her son’s caregiver could not work because of a sick child. She calls twice and leaves a message for her manager. She gets fired.
As I read about this woman in Reshaping the Work-Family Debate: Why Men and Class Matter by Joan Williams, I wondered what this mother’s take would be on Jonah Goldberg’s proclamation in the Los Angeles Times this spring that “Feminism as a ‘movement’ in America is largely played out. Continue reading
When my husband and I read The Wizard of Oz to our daughter several years ago, we discovered that L. Frank Baum wrote a sequel, The Marvelous Land of Oz, in 1904 and it was included in the old book we were using so we read that to her too.
My husband ended up being the one on duty the night he finished the last chapters of The Marvelous Land of Oz. When we woke up the next morning, he brought me the book and said, “You have to read this passage.”
Scene: Scarecrow, now the king, and his friends are returning to the Emerald City after a journey.
As they passed the rows of houses they saw through the open doors that men were sweeping and dusting and washing dishes, while the women sat around in groups, gossiping and laughing.
“What has happened?” The Scarecrow asked a sad looking man with a bushy beard, who wore an apron and was wheeling a baby-carriage along the sidewalk.
“Why, we’ve had a revolution, Your Majesty – as you ought to know very well,” replied the man; “and since you went away the women have been running things to suit themselves. I’m glad you decided to come back and restore order, for doing housework and minding the children is wearing out the strength of every man in Emerald City.”
“Hmm! said the Scarecrow thoughtfully, “If it is such hard work as you say, how did the women mange it so easily?”
“I really do not know,” replied the man with a deep sigh. ‘Perhaps the women are made of cast-iron.”
I laughed of course – and marveled at the way that short scene and bit of dialogue so masterfully draws attention to and challenges traditional gender roles.
Baum flips the roles and conjures an image of women sitting around gossiping and laughing and men wheeling baby carriages and sweeping. Readers laugh at the absurdity, but it is the fact that we find this absurd that shows us the real absurdity of traditional roles that have women doing a disproportionate amount of the family work.
Plus, Baum has the women staging a “revolution” in order to get their leisure time. More than one woman I know has felt she had to stage a “revolution” in her own home to get a fairer sharing of the family work.
Finally, Baum’s men, the stereotypically “strong” gender, are wearing out from the work and suggesting maybe the “women are made of cast-iron.” All of which draws attention to the fact that caring for family is really hard work that often goes unnoticed.
If Baum could think it up in 1904, by 2011 we ought to be able to conjure up a real-life Marvelous Land of Oz where mothers and fathers share the sweeping and minding of the children and both have some time to sit around gossiping and laughing too.
- Share the passage with friends or your spouse. What do you think Baum is trying to say here?
- Often the best way to break down our own subconscious stereotypes is to be exposed to people who are counter-stereotype, whether they are real or made-up. Can you think of other fictional characters that break the mold of the “traditional” father or mother?
Love Margaret Heffernan, and rarely have seen so much truth about organizations packed in so few words.
Published originally on BNet.com.
The dirty little secret of business today: there really are no agreed-upon ways of doing business anymore. Every company does everything differently, and you can’t really compare them because there are no controlled experiments. So it isn’t a science.
But here are five very old rules that I see successful companies breaking all the time. I thought they’d give you some food for thought – unless you’re already breaking all of these– which I very much doubt.
1. Set working hours
Forget 9 – 5. Try to get rid of face time. All your team should have goals they’re accountable for but when and where they’re achieved really doesn’t matter. Some people work well at night, some early morning, some don’t get up til noon. I’ve always told my employees that, as long as they didn’t mess their co-workers around, I didn’t care what hours they worked. No one let me down.
2. Limit vacation time
The communications firm Global Tolerance doesn’t give employees vacation allowances. They just trust people to manage their time on and their time off in such a way that co-workers and clients aren’t disappointed. With a 40% per year growth rate for the last 4 years, this does not appear to have hurt them. To the contrary, it’s one of the things that has provoked high levels of commitment.
3. Agonize over maternity leave
Everywhere I go, business owners tell me that, sure, they want to hire women – but especially in small companies, losing a key employee for weeks or months on end, due to maternity, isn’t feasible. In Europe, where there’s statutory maternity leave (actually there is everywhere in the world except Lesotho, Papua New Guinea, Swaziland and the U.S.), being required to give women time off enrages many men. Every woman I’ve ever employed wanted to come back to work and wanted not to lose touch. With each one, I reached a different agreement about how we’d manage the time off – and in no case was I disappointed. Some did a day a week all through their leave; some wanted to come back early and take time off later. All these formations worked.
By the way, individuals may choose whether or not to have kids but they can’t choose whether or not to have parents. So think about maternity leave as your rehearsal for the day when most of your workforce have elderly parents they need to attend to.
4. Fire slowly
Everyone makes mistakes hiring, whether they are quick and instinctive or slow and methodical. And usually that mistake is obvious in the first 6 months. Do not think you can turn this around. It’s distracting, time-consuming and you will fail. If you goofed, ‘fess up and move on.
5. Skimp on severance
This comes via Jonathan Kaplan, CEO of Pure Digital. “We gave our workers four to six months’ severance, even if they’d worked only four months. You might think that’s crazy. But it was our mistake to hire that person. And it’s not that much money, really.” Of course those employees left the company feeling pretty good about it – and spreading the word that it was a good place to work. Cheaper than headhunters!
Are there any old rules that you’re breaking? Would you try breaking these five? Why or why not?
A great read about Linked Learning in the latest Education Week.
With a program called Linked Learning, California educators show that academics and career and technical education don’t have to be mutually exclusive
To the national debate about whether students should pursue career and technical education or college preparation, a California program wants to add an emphatic declaration: Yes .
The refusal to choose between one instructional emphasis or the other symbolizes the work being done to build career pathways in nine school districts as part of Linked Learning , an initiative cited as a national model of career and technical education.
One of the places the project is unfolding is in a cluster of high schools in a district that serves a predominantly Latino, low-income community here among the Central Valley’s…
Important information for parents and educators!
by Lori Takeuchi, Ph.D. | June 2011 | View Bio
Families Matter focuses on two complementary studies that document how families with young children are integrating digital media into the rhythm of daily life. Results from a survey of more than 800 parents of children ages 3 through 10 reveal how parents nationwide feel about raising children in a digital age. In-depth case studies provide further insight into these statistics, probing how parent attitudes toward technology, along with family values, routines, and structures, are shaping young children’s experiences using digital media. This research assumes an ecological view of development and learning, which considers the many different spheres of influence — from parents to peers to the social and economic context — that a child now must navigate while growing up.
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This is definitely NOT the direction we want to be heading. From Business Insider:
Fast Company magazine published online an article on education reform How to Spend $100 Million to Really Save Education. An article I appreciate because it challenges the popular narrative around public education now such as “charter schools and strong MBA style leaders” are THE answer.
That same week I spent two full days in Los Angeles with committed teams of District and school site leadership from nine of eleven California Districts in the middle of implementing major transformation of their high schools as part of the California Linked Learning District Initiative. This initiative supports districts a system of college and career pathways in their high schools and is supported by ConnectEd The California Center for College and Career, The School Redesign Network at Stanford and The James Irvine Foundation.
The Fast Company article led to a Twitter conversation tagged #fixedu that I think is misnamed given the spirit of the article. The popular narrative is all about “fixing” and it frustrates me, especially given my time with these nine California districts this week. Here’s why. Continue reading
“This generation, we’re fighting for the right of men to be equal parents and still feel like real men. Our children are going to take that for granted.”
Here’s to all the fathers I know and love who are making that prediction truer every day!