Category Archives: Articles

Gloria Steinem with Patt Morrison

Love this Patt Morrison interview with Gloria Steinem in today’s LA Times, Gloria Steinem: The Founder. Agree or disagree, she’s honest and doesn’t have rose-colored glasses on when it comes to the status of women in this country.

Favorite quote, “The big step for this coming generation is to get to a place where men raise children as much as women do.”

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Can you have a flexible schedule in a recession?

By LA Telecommuting ExaminerKristen Todd

Flexible work schedules are easier with computer-based work

Whatever your reason for wanting a flexible schedule, whether it be family, continuing education or it’s just the way you are wired, convincing your employer that you can manage one is difficult. Furthermore, a rising unemployment rate and a dire outlook for the creation of new jobs makes your 9-5, punch-in-and-out, cubicle jockey job seems just fine. But it is not! Flexible schedules can work for many employees and can even produce a more efficient workplace for an employer.

How can that be? Flexibility allows for employees to work at their optimal times throughout the day and is an incentive that costs employers nothing. When raises and bonuses are meager or non-existent, flexible schedules can reward employees and in many cases produce better output.

The issue with a flexible work schedule is convincing your manager that you should be considered for one. Before requesting a flexible schedule, you should honestly answer the following:

  1. Are you the face of the office or do you manage a reception or intake area?
  2. Have you worked for your current supervisor for less than a year?
  3. In previous performance evaluations, has it been suggested that you work on time management skills, meeting deadlines or productivity?

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Poll Reveals Trauma of Joblessness in U.S.

Feeling anxiety in our house & all around even with jobs. How about you? A New York Times Poll Reveals Trauma of Joblessness in U.S.:

By MICHAEL LUO and MEGAN THEE-BRENAN

More than half of the nation’s unemployed workers have borrowed money from friends or relatives since losing their jobs. An equal number have cut back on doctor visits or medical treatments because they are out of work.

Almost half have suffered from depression or anxiety. About 4 in 10 parents have noticed behavioral changes in their children that they attribute to their difficulties in finding work.

Joblessness has wreaked financial and emotional havoc on the lives of many of those out of work, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll of unemployed adults, causing major life changes, mental health issues and trouble maintaining even basic necessities.

The results of the poll, which surveyed 708 unemployed adults from Dec. 5 to Dec. 10 and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus four percentage points, help to lay bare the depth of the trauma experienced by millions across the country who are out of work as the jobless rate hovers at 10 percent and, in particular, as the ranks of the long-term unemployed soar.

Roughly half of the respondents described the recession as a hardship that had caused fundamental changes in their lives. Generally, those who have been out of work longer reported experiencing more acute financial and emotional effects.

“I lost my job in March, and from there on, everything went downhill,” said Vicky Newton, 38, of Mount Pleasant, Mich., a single mother who had been a customer-service representative in an insurance agency.

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Trade-Offs When Mom’s the Primary Breadwinner

By John Edwards of the Wall Street Journal’s The Juggle Blog:

The Mr. Mom scenario: much less unusual since the movie’s 1983 release.

With nearly a third of American households having a sole or primary female breadwinner, the issues those families face are far from a niche matter. But how do the women, in particular, feel about occupying what’s still seen as an unusual role?

A recent study from the University of Missouri tries to answer that question. Rebecca Meisenbach, an assistant professor of communication, conducted close interviews and follow-ups with 15 women who were their families’ main earners and published her findings in the journal Sex Roles. Ms. Meisenbach identified six common elements, positive and negative, in the women’s experiences: “having control; valuing independence; feeling pressure and worry; valuing partner’s contributions; feeling guilt and resentment; and valuing career progress.”

The broad societal expectation that men are primary breadwinners and that women attend to the home sphere—even when they work outside the home—is where many of the negative feelings come in, Ms. Meisenbach found. Says a university release about her research: “These societal expectations and gender norms can leave the female breadwinner with feelings of worry, pressure, guilt and resentment…. For example, female breadwinners experience moments of guilt about care giving, pressure to perform at work and for their families, and occasional resentment at the demands of their multiple and atypical roles.”

On the brighter side, says the release: “The negative effects for female breadwinners are balanced with opportunities for control, independence and ambition. The study found that while some of the women did not want the control, they all did enjoy a sense of independence based on being the main source of income in a family. Most of these women also identify themselves as having strong ambition regarding career success and goal achievement.”

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Four Flawed Assumptions of School Reform

Astute observations given my work with school districts over the years. “Those who hold out hope that a few successful “turnaround” efforts, model schools, or charter schools can quickly spawn a legion of more effective schools…fail to recognize that improving many schools at once takes a vastly different set of skills.

Thomas Hatch of Education Week writes:

The good news: Despite the economic downturn, the U.S. Department of Education is stoking the development of a multitude of initiatives that might help improve schools.

The bad news: Many of those initiatives still focus on the same flawed assumptions that have undermined education reform efforts for years. These assumptions reflect a simplistic view of what it takes to improve schools, and they contribute to the repeated failure to address the basic conditions needed to sustain long-lasting improvements in schooling.

Assumption One: We have the capacity to significantly improve the performance of all students; we just need to put in place the goals and incentives that will encourage teachers and schools to do it.

Schools do not have all the knowledge, expertise, and resources needed to address many of the basic challenges of teaching and learning across multiple subjects on a large scale. This flawed assumption was reflected in some of the initial efforts to implement systemic reform in the 1990s, and continues in many current calls for “national standards” that imply creating common goals and aligning policies, incentives, and supports can unleash some previously hidden capacity to dramatically improve educational performance.

The same belief underlies many of the recent initiatives that suggest that producing smaller schools and smaller classes, or establishing rewards and penalties based on student test scores, will suddenly equip struggling teachers—in every subject and at all levels—with the knowledge and skills necessary to enable all their students to be successful in college and beyond.

Those who hold out hope that a few successful “turnaround” efforts, model schools, or charter schools can quickly spawn a legion of more effective schools embrace this assumption—and do so as well when they fail to recognize that improving many schools at once takes a vastly different set of skills, structures, and resources than transforming one school at a time. Ultimately, improving schools depends on working harder, increasing efficiency, and building capacity for more powerful instruction.

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What is ‘woman’s work’ really worth?

This is a great article on that invisible piece of the economy, the work of caring for others.

Ruth Mantell of MarketWatch.com writes:

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — Workers who have lost their jobs and stay home to raise the kids have no value, according to government economists.

Our hulking gross domestic product excludes family caregivers across the nation. So are the leagues of recently unemployed workers who are now helping out at home worthless?

“They believe they are making a contribution, and in fact they are because that’s work that would have had to be done by somebody else,” Kim Gandy, a fellow at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics and past president of the National Organization for Women, told me last week. “Work is work, and it’s a contribution to the economy of the country. Homemaking and care giving of children and elders contributes dramatically to the nation.”

Although many economists recognize the importance of nonmarket household production, the value of the undeniably worthy work of family caregivers is excluded from GDP. Care giving of family members is excluded, in part, because the work tends to be self-contained and has “limited impact on the rest of the economy,” according to the Department of Commerce. There are also “practical considerations” about accurately measuring such productivity, according to the government.

This isn’t just an economic debate, though, as any stay-at-home parent can attest. But it’s precisely all the intangibles that make it such a sticky issue. It can be tough to estimate the value of looking after our loved ones given that such work is about more than compensation, said Claudia Goldin, an economics professor at Harvard University.

“Much of what we do with our children is not work — it’s love, education and the instilling of values. It is often not something you could ever farm out to anybody,” Goldin said.

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Flexible Alternatives to Layoffs

Jobless Claims Rise to Record Levels, 20 Reasons to Promote Flexible Alternatives to Layoffs

This recent article published by Fast Company expert blogger, Cali Yost, has me wondering if school districts can use same strategy.

Cali writes:

Today, the Department of Labor reported that first time jobless claims not only rose faster than expected but they were 72% higher than this time last year and reached levels not seen since October, 1982.  With this news as a backdrop, it’s fortuitous that Marci Alboher, one of my favorite career experts, interviewed me in her new Working the New Economy blog on Yahoo! Shine for a post entitled “Negotiating an Alternative to a Layoff: 5 Questions for Cali Yost.

Unfortunately, some layoffs are unavoidable.  But if leaders considered flexible alternatives as part of downsizing, they would lower costs while retaining as much valuable talent as possible to work through this great recession.

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New Research Shows U.S. Economy Will Grow by Billions of Dollars if High School Dropout Rate is Reduced

The impact of dropouts on local economy is huge.  I’m feeling fortunate that my new job allows me to work on this by supporting schools in building pathways to college and career that are relevant and engaging to students.

Published by news release by the Alliance for Excellent Education:

If just half of the dropouts in an average year graduated, additional tax revenues and increased wages would substantially buoy the local economies of the nation’s fifty largest cities

Washington, D.C. – New game-changing research conducted by the Alliance for Excellent Education (The Alliance) released today shows that the U.S. economy would grow significantly if the number of high school dropouts was cut in half.

Nearly 600,000 students dropped out of the high school class of 2008 in the nation’s fifty largest cities and the surrounding areas. The Alliance’s research shows that, if just half of those students had graduated, on average, they would have earned more than $4.1 billion in additional income every year. In addition, in these areas, state and local tax revenues in an average year would jump by a total of nearly $536 million.

“In these lean economic times, local businesses and governments are looking for any way they can to improve their financial situation,” said former West Virginia Governor and Alliance for Excellent Education President Bob Wise. “These numbers demonstrate clearly that every consumer, business, and taxpayer benefits dramatically when we do what it takes to increase the number of students who graduate from high school with the skills they need to succeed in life. Indeed, the best economic stimulus is a high school diploma.”

The AEE study also found that 65 percent of the additional high school graduates would continue their education with many earning a PhD or other professional degree.

“As a business leader I’m committed to a quality education for all children and to strengthening the vitality of our communities,” said Edward B. Rust Jr., Chairman and CEO of State Farm®. “The new Alliance for Excellent Education model conclusively demonstrates that graduating from high school has significant positive economic and financial consequences for the business community and not just for the individual getting the education. Assuring that all of our students graduate from high school with the skills necessary to compete in a global economy is something all businesses-small and large-should see as a priority.”

While it is impossible to forecast precise values of economic benefits, the Alliance is confident that these figures fall within the range of benefits that each region could expect to see. The economic model used to estimate these economic benefits was developed by the Alliance for Excellent Education with the generous support of State Farm® and in partnership with Economic Modeling Specialists, Inc.

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Remodeling Motherhood to Enjoy the Holidays

I am entering the holiday season feeling particularly grateful this year. Since the October 6 release of my book, This is Not How I Thought It Would Be: Remodeling Motherhood to Get the Lives We Want Today,  so many people have been so good to me that I get choked up just thinking about it.

As I travel and fit book related activities in around my job, both my husband and daughter have put up with my absences and demands on my time, plus my husband has taken on the bulk of the family work and daily logistics. The people I met on my travels  let me sleep in their homes, bought me dinner, picked me up at the train station, dropped me off at bookstores, sent out press releases and called on friends to come out and see me, and even gave ME gifts for coming to visit when they were the ones who put in all the work to make it happen.

This busy period of my life foreshadows the craziness many of us feel as we enter the holiday season. Plus, the holiday season often kicks a couple of my outdated assumptions, or mental maps,  into high gear:

  • Mother is responsible for and naturally better at caring for family and home.
  • Mothers who pursue personal fulfillment are selfish.

I know that even before Thanksgiving, I’m already starting to think about good gifts for our daughter, which holiday rituals we can fit in when, what favorite foods to have for special days because that’s what a “good mother” would do. Yet my husband probably isn’t. I know that with my to-do list longer than usual,  I am likely to try to manage every minute of every day more closely and set aside taking care of myself. I know that I am less likely to ask others for help because I assume they must be busy too. Fortunately, the last eight weeks have reinforced for me a few Remodeling Motherhood tips that I think are especially important for all of us to remember during the holiday season.

ASK FOR HELP

When I talk with groups about how outdated assumptions keep mothers from taking time for themselves or asking for help,  I often pose this question to the group, “So if a friend called you tomorrow and said I need to (go to a professional networking event/have an hour to myself/fill in the blank), can you watch my kids for a couple hours, how many of you would do it?” Of course, every hand  in the room goes up. Then I ask, “And how many of you have ever asked?” Usually only a hand or two goes up. We think it’s not okay to ask, that we’ll be adding to the burden of someone else, that we ought to be able to do it all on our own. I learned once again on my trip that it is okay for me to ask and that I couldn’t do it on my own. Perhaps more importantly, I was also reminded that the person providing help feels fulfilled and energized, and that asking and receiving help creates rich connections between people.  So this holiday season, ask.

MANAGE ENERGY NOT TIME

This busy period in my life also reminded me that managing energy is more important that managing the minutes of every day. As I made my way through my whirlwind schedule, always having more to do than the minutes in the day, I made time for exercise and getting enough sleep. I knew those two things would give me the energy I needed to both get things done and enjoy them as they were happening. So ask yourself, what gives you energy and how will you make room for those activities during this busy time?

SHARE RESPONSIBILITY

I’ve also realized it is time for my husband and I to talk about who would do what for the holidays. I’ve already begun in my head to take on responsibility for the perfect holiday. Unless we talk about it, I’ll assume that as the “good mother” I have responsibility for the gifts, the food, the rituals, the calendar. I know if I continue down this path without pausing for us to get on the same page, I’ll get so tired and resentful that I won’t enjoy the season myself and no one will enjoy me!  Plus, I’ll rob my husband of the chance to share the responsibility.  So it’s time for us to talk about what we want the holiday season to be like, what’s important to our family, and how we’ll share responsibility for making it what we want.

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Mom’s Pressure Cooker

Screen shot 2009-10-19 at 10.48.46 AM

Read this Star Tribune article mentioning me and my new book, This Is Not How I Thought It Would Be: Remodeling Motherhood to Get the Lives We Want Today. Journalist Julie Pfitzinger writes:

When her daughter Kate was 5 years old, Kristin Maschka experienced an epiphany courtesy of a toaster waffle. Rushing to get ready for work, she asked her husband, David, to fix a waffle for Kate, which he did, causing his preschooler to burst into tears and his wife to start scolding.

“I told him she would never eat a waffle like that because it was crunchy from the toaster and I always put them in the microwave,” said Maschka, author of “This Is Not How I Thought It Would Be: Remodeling Motherhood to Get the Lives We Want Today.”

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