Originally Published: October 31t, 2013
But men and women sharing power at work and at home, putting equal value on two careers — and equal value on each parent having time with the kids? Well, he has a point: that can sound like a pipe dream.
Yet, we've seen the reality. In our own lives, in social science research, and in countless anecdotes we’ve heard in talking to hundreds of men and women. The reality is this: If women are willing to change the way we perceive our choices — in our careers, marriages, and childrearing — we can have much more of what we want. 50/50 is about practical steps to stay engaged with your family without sacrificing your career.
First, we need to acknowledge that we’ve come a long way, baby, but have a long way to go. This weekend at a book talk, a young woman from Walmart.com told me both how much millennial men are changing things. And how much help we all need to change faster.
“We used to work 80-hour weeks; that was really unsustainable,” she said. “Then lots of us had kids.” She said the guys got more efficient and cut their hours, along with the women. But the big problem: “Most of us grew up in more traditional homes where the mom did everything. We need a different model — where both parents work.”
“It’s a question of not so much pushing the boys out of the picture,” Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, said recently, “but making the whole frame bigger so that both men and women access the labor market, contribute to the economy, generate growth, have jobs, and so on.”
Here's the trick: If we build a bigger-picture workplace, one that is truly gender-neutral, women are going to win (jobs, promotions, the directorship of the IMF) 50% of the time. That's new. But then, in addition, men will win a greater role at home. If we could all get comfortable with this — really comfortable, in practice not theory — there is huge upside. For everyone.
The place to start is, perhaps contrarily, at home. Get comfortable sharing roles at home, and parity in the workplace will come faster. Here are four top tips on how to do that, from the 50/50 trenches:
Be unabashedly nosy. When we first got married, my husband and I met a 50/50 couple at a party. She was a technology exec, he a senior lawyer. They had two kids and were warm and amazing. We stalked them all over the party asking way too many personal questions. Surprisingly, they seemed to like it, and they gave us great tips — and great confidence.
When I got pregnant, I invited a woman I barely knew to lunch. She was an investment banker with five kids, her husband a partner at a big consulting firm. I still have notes from the lunch. They became the blueprint for our family. It’s a lot easier to do 50/50 if you dare to learn from those pioneering it.
Skip balance; seek control. “Work-life balance” is a bad catchphrase for what we want. Let’s do as one senior executive at Google does, and call it what it is: “work-life free-for- all.” Happy dual-career families embrace this chaos and try to control only the small number of things that really matter — at home and at work.
Thankfully, as a large Harvard Business School study at Boston Consulting Group shows, if you control time and focus on what matters, that provides far more benefit than the sheer volume of hours you spend at your desk. Top-performing teams create structure to share information and candor about personal commitments. That drives unique levels of cooperation, predictable time off, and better results for clients (and families).
Keep passing the baton. My husband likes to say we’re a family of four alpha males — two of us are female, and our daughter is only 9. All that leading with little instinct for following can make things difficult. Creating fairness takes real effort, whether it’s about who works late, travels for business, or plans the family weekend.
When I worked at Goldman Sachs, we came up with a simple way to think about this. “Don’t take a job you wouldn’t want me to have,” we agreed. Instead, we make deals. How many nights away is OK or too much? How many dinners a week do we need with our kids? On weekends we take turns. When my husband leads, we are punctual and orderly; when it’s my turn, count on more museums and mess in the kitchen.
When one senior partner at a large DC law firm was a young lawyer, he cut back his hours to make room for his kids and be supportive of his wife's career. “It does have a cost,” he says. “The peace of mind you get from doing things like everyone else.”
Ah, and there it is. The data shows only small career costs for people who take control of work hours to make room for family — a couple years in the speed of job progression. But the bigger cost may be the psychological one: The fear of being different. Fear feeds guilt and the sense that husbands and wives happily acting as equals must be fiction.
What we’ve learned is that there are many practical steps to getting rid of this guilt, doing right by our kids by letting go of what doesn’t matter (to focus on what does), and helping men play bigger roles at home so women are free to lead larger lives at work. Strong and successful family life requires nothing less — so does the economy, as even the IMF now says. That’s what 50/50 is all about.
Read the original article from Business Insider here: