I often call my journalism students “the architects of the change.” What I mean is that, as the whole industry transforms itself, it will most likely be up to those who are just entering the field to be in on the action of what the future of news will be.
(If you think this is shameless self-promotion for my journalism blog, well, you could be right. But keep reading.)
Lately, a few rumblings tell me that maybe there are more such architects out there, in a much broader sense: the twenty- and thirty-something women who may be agonized over their career choices today are the ones who will eventually get it right for the women of tomorrow. Maybe the men, too. Maybe feminism isn’t so much about playing the boys’ game — but changing the game itself.
One letter to the NYTimes in the wake of Maureen Dowd’s “Blue is the new Black” stated the problem thus:
Women have made tremendous material and emotional strides, but they feel torn among competing demands in a way that few men seem to feel torn.
All professionals have to make decisions — sometimes hard decisions — in the course of pursuing a career and raising a family at the same time. But women tend to perceive these decisions not only as time-management choices but also as existential choices.
Every hour spent at work or at home is not simply an hour, but a testament to what makes one happy — and what one is willing to sacrifice for that happiness. As long as women feel that their decisions carry such freight, it won’t be surprising if they continue to feel uneasy about making them.
So true. But here’s what I’m wondering. Are some brave young women starting to play it their way? Rather than following their fathers, their brothers, their husbands, their bosses into the trenches — while still in knots over what they’re leaving behind — it seems to me these women instead are standing up for something for along the lines of work AND life.
Often I hear young women lawyers– who love their work and are damn good at it — talk of the idiocy of prioritizing a partnership slot if it means having no life outside work. A family practitioner I know well told me about adding a woman doctor to his practice — part time. Great that he was looking for a woman, I said, but why part time? Well, he said, a lot of women docs go into family practice precisely because it’s one of the few specialties where you can have a solid practice — and still maintain a life outside it.
And there’s this: Fast Company reports on a new book (Upstarts – How Gen Y Entrepreneurs Are Rocking the World of Business and 8 Ways You Can Profit from Their Success (McGraw/Hill), all about the way that Gen Y entrepreneurs, in their quest for flexibility, are starting to transform the workplace. From an interview with the author, Donna Fenn:
CY: Welcome, Donna Fenn! One of the reasons I love your book is that I want business leaders to expand their understanding of work+life flexibility, or flexibility in how, when and where work is done and life is managed. Flexibility, in all of its forms, is a strategic lever that has broad application as a way to run your business. The Gen Y entrepreneurs in your book seem to fundamentally see flexibility as a way of operating. Here are some examples from the stories in the book:
- Cost Saving: Having all or part of your workforce work remotely to save overhead costs, such as real estate.
- Talent Resourcing: Using a combination of full-time, part-time, and “as needed” employees.
- Productivity/Engagement: Letting people flexibly manage their lives and work as long as they produce. This boosts morale and productivity.
- Marketing/Brand Development: Devoting a certain number of hours a month to community service to promote their brand and motivate employees.
Do you think these Gen Y entrepreneurs are applying strategic work+life flexibility consciously or intuitively? What do they “get” that many business leaders over 30 years old struggle to understand?
And this: A new study shows that recent college and MBA grads prioritize work-life balance over, gasp, money:
Students about to enter the workforce are more interested in a good work-life balance than they are in money, a new study says.
The Universum Student Survey 2009, which polled more than 60,000 students in American undergraduate and MBA programs, found that 67 per cent of undergraduates and 58 per cent of MBA students consider work-life balance to be their No. 1 career goal, more important even than compensation.
Even a hard-boiled feminist private eye hints at a sea change, according to a review in the Washingon Post. In her newest V.I. Warshawski mystery novel, Sara Paretsky introduces a millenial kid, her cousin Petra, representative of “young women who would never dream of identifying themselves as feminists, but who regard their lives as a delicious menu of choices.” Note the word “delicious”.
Where do all these signs point? Who knows. But I have to wonder sometimes that, as we slowly begin to carve out our own paths, the payoff for all these choices that are making us so crazy is that, ultimately, we sisters are becoming more evolved than our brothers. Or at least, we’re on our way. Growing pains, indeed.