No doubt you can guess who are the most tired of all.
But first, courtesy of a recent column by Boston Globe columnist Ellen Goodman, an update on the current economy’s creepy underbelly. Underneath the myth of the “grateful workers” — the folk happy to have a job, any job — lie the legions of gratefully employed who are nonetheless overworked, possibly underpaid, and powerless to complain. Not only when they are asked to work harder, longer to pick up the slack left by all the empty desks — but when they face discriminatory practices, too.
And those paying the biggest price, Goodman suggests, are women, especially those with kids:
The most immediate effect is on families. The dirty little secret is that workers with families – make that moms – are still seen as “less productive.’’ “Discrimination against mothers is still the strongest and most open form of discrimination,’’ says Joan Williams at UC-Hastings College of the Law. “When employers have to cut, they turn to the underperformers who may be readily confused with mothers. People who see them targeted are afraid.’’
It’s not a coincidence that the number of pregnancy discrimination complaints went up by 12 percent in 2008. For that matter, the number of workers calling the Hastings WorkLife hotline with stories of being targeted for caregiving has doubled. We have even seen a decline in births in California and Florida, where the housing crisis hit hardest.
The talk of work-life balance has fallen as fast as a 401(k). There is still a stigma attached to flextime, and only half of workers get a single paid sick day. As Debra Ness of the National Partnership for Women and Families says, worried workers are “less likely to ask for benefits and less likely to use them if they have them.’’ Indeed, if fear is more contagious than the swine flu, what’s going to happen when workers choose between putting their health on the line or their jobs?
The irony is that, as we reported earlier, by October or November, women may represent the majority of the workforce — but not the payroll or, for that matter, the boardrooms (or anywhere close). And with that inequity and lack of parity come the sounds of silence: Complain? Who me?
Add to that the idea, that somehow, mothers are somewhat less-than when it comes to the workplace (newsmommy, anyone?), and you have the fodder for a darn good riff, if not a rant.
Recent polls by the Sloan Work and Family Research Network at Boston College are also pretty revealing. Here are just a couple of examples:
When asked: With the current downturn in the global economy, do you think that employers are more supportive or less supportive of flexible work arrangements? 70 percent answered less supportive.
When asked: Have you ever used the Family Medical Leave Act? The majority (36 percent) answered no. But what was most telling was this comment:
“I used the FMLA after the birth of my first child, I had income from short-term disability insurance, and it worked well. But for my second child, I wasn’t eligible because I hadn’t met the hours threshold, and for my third child, I wasn’t eligible because my employer had too few employees to be covered. Like a lot of women, I took these ineligible jobs because they offered flexibility. So I’ve come to think of the FMLA as the ‘Firstborn and Medical Leave Act’ – because you’re most likely to be covered at the point where you’ve been the ideal full-time worker BEFORE you’ve started your family.”
Clearly, this all comes under the heading of women’s work. Ever heard of business-daddies dealing with any kind of discrimination when their wives are pregnant? Or worrying about what taking time off to care for new babies or elderly parents will do to their careers? Or, for that matter, even considering the need for work-life balance or flextime? Yeah, didn’t think so.
And yet and still, people wonder why career decisions are tougher for women. Sigh. We’ll bring home the bacon. We’d even fry it up in the pan (If only it weren’t so high in fat. But that’s for another post.) It’s just that many of us are too darn tired. “Why women” indeed. Insert rant here.