||The Brazen Careerist
Disrupting 'Take Our Children to Work Day'
April 24 is the Ms. Foundation's
Take Our Children to Work Day. Hundreds of companies across the
United States, including many of the Fortune 500 will participate
in this event.
I wish I didn't have to bash the Ms. Foundation because
it takes action where no one else will, but I'm afraid that this
newest event is a little misguided. When it was Take Our Daughters
to Work, the goal was to get more women into the work force. Girls
went to work for a day to learn about workplace opportunities so
they could make good choices for themselves.
Today, women comprise 50 percent of the work force,
but they make up less than 10 percent of senior management. This
falloff is due to, in general, when women have kids, they drop out
of the fast lane, and when men have kids, they have a woman to raise
Take Our Children to Work Day attempts to draw attention
to this problem. The Ms. Foundation says that the presence of kids
at the office will draw attention to corporate policies that do
not accommodate people who care for kids.
So basically, it's like having a war protest that
gridlocks San Francisco, except instead of lying down in the street
yourself, you tell your kid to lie down. And bonus: The kid gets
to miss a day of school.
The new Take Children to Work Day in effect uses kids
as a means of protest and activism. I hope that this year millions
of kids flood the halls of corporate America in a sort of sit-in
(play-in?) that halts business for a day. But I hope that future
protests do not require such blatant co-opting of kids.
In fact, I have a new idea for a Ms. Foundation
event: Take Care of Your Kid for a Week. It's an event for CEOs.
Their wives (it's a wife, in almost all cases) take a holiday (maybe
a Ms. Foundation cruise?) and the fathers try to balance kids and
work for a week.
Co-workers can help by calling meetings for kid-unfriendly
times such as 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. -- something that surely the CEO
has done himself.
All those new, corporate governance boards can help,
too. While reformers are ranting and raving about CEO compensation,
they can also get in a jibe about this new Ms. Foundation event.
The reformers legitimately can put pressure on CEOs to participate
in Take Care of Your Kid for a Week because studies show that companies
that enable women to move up in the management chain are companies
that perform better for shareholders.
Surely after a week, these CEOs will have a little
more insight about why there is no diversity in their senior management
teams. And maybe, after a few years, CEOs will start making it possible
for women to raise kids and stay on the fast track.
There is no easy answer, but there are other countries
trying to come up with answers. The French workweek is legally shorter
than the U.S. workweek. The Norway gender wage gap is almost non-existent
because of national day care. I am not saying these are solutions
for our problem, but they are places to start. We need to start
trying something new before another generation of women is locked
out of the corporate power seats.
So this year, take your kids to work and hope they
disrupt the workplace enough to call attention to the goals of Take
Our Children to Work Day. But next year, let's hope for a better
plan of action.