This has been a busy time for the Women’s Movement. Today happens to be International Women’s Day 2013 which has “thousands of events are held throughout the world to inspire women and celebrate achievements“. The documentary “Makers: Women Who Make America” debuted February 26. The blog All Things D broke the story about Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer Now Requiring Remote Employees to Not Be (Remote) and the commentary has been all over the map. Lastly, Sheryl Sandberg’s new book, Lean In, continues to be a hot topic.
Many of my friends and social media colleagues expected me to come down hard one way or the other on Mayer’s requirement calling employee’s back to the office. However, from my perspective, what should be the topic of conversation are policies including family leave, job training, childcare and other economic issues that are holding back women from reaching their full potential. Taking on these categories of public policy is the next phase of the women’s movement.
In the “Makers” documentary, Karen Nussbaum highlights that “despite the gains, the failure to win childcare options was a major failing of the women’s movement…“. For companies, developing appropriate family leave policies and flexible work arrangements (i.e. telecommuting) for “relevant” jobs will enable primary caregivers of children to care for them and still work. Other options include companies that either have their own childcare center or have agreements with local childcare centers. What about women who work for small businesses or have their own business? What if public and private resources could be pulled together to offer more options for health insurance, job training and childcare? This would allow women more flexible job options while supporting the environment of entrepreneurship.
Technology has enabled the flexibility to not only work at home but also work from anywhere (mobile) – so businesses should incorporate telecommuting for relevant jobs. At the same time, some jobs require being in the office for collaboration. A safety net would give women the options to choose jobs that fit with their flexibility needs or even work for themselves. Better yet, why not use the power of online networking to help communities find and hire their local resources? What if every community had the match-making resources to really place businesses with women who have specialized skills, as contractors or employees?
Currently there are numerous email groups, websites and online social networks that list jobs and those looking for jobs. But sifting through all of the information is overwhelming. What if a localized system of matching jobs with those looking for work not only allowed them to pick jobs to fit with their “flexibility” needs but also showed information on what type of job skills are needed and what job training is available?
Now that there are so many educational resources online, job seekers could even find economical ways to get training if they need to revamp their skills. If I had my wish (and a magic philanthropy wand to wave) I would use the power of local communities to support women helping each other. Local community centers could be used for job training in addition to sports and hobbies. Those with technical skills (like me) could be part of a volunteer effort to help train women in need of technical skills. In my fantasy, local communities could recycle older technology to those in need and get donations for new technology.
My personal story is an example of the tough decisions women need to make. I worked hard to earn my role as Senior Manager at one of the top consulting firms in the world and was on Partner track. This firm was so supportive of my work/life balance that they gave me a flexible work arrangement after I came back to my job with my first son and then moved me into a job where I worked mostly at home when I was on bedrest at the end of my pregnancy with my twins. I had a company that not only had family friendly policies – but also wanted to work with me to find the right job for me as my family situation changed.
But after I delivered my twins (yes – the picture above is the view I had from my hospital bed), I realized I needed to step down from my job because the amount of money I would need for childcare of three kids would be either equal or less then my salary. I tried to find a economical sitter that worked into my family schedule but could not. I talked to other working moms who interviewed 50 or more childcare resources, and with three kids (2 of them being twin newborns) – I did not have time.. or the energy. I also realized that my job required travel and I was not able to do that anymore.
It was one of the hardest decisions I had to make. But my precious little boys were worth it! I even had (luckily still have) a husband that is a 50/50 partner in raising our kids and a company willing to work with me on job flexibility. I grew up with a single mother so I also knew first hand that childcare is an even greater challenge for single moms (parents). But I left my “company” job over 14 years ago when the online network of women was not as powerful or prolific as it is now. Over the years I have met other women who shared their childcare solutions with me to similar problems.. If only I had that information years ago!! I adapted by creating my career 2.0 online, so now I want to use that power for social good.
There is already an amazing revolution of social good that exists online for moms with sites such as Mom Bloggers For Social Good, The Motherhood, One Mom Bloggers, Go Mighty, The Mission List, BlogHer coverage of social good and BlogHer’s Mission of creating creating greater exposure and economic empowerment (and their powerful network of women) . There are women’s centers and organization looking into ways to develop solutions to fix the women’s leadership gap such as the Bentley University’s Center for Women and Business. And of course businesses like Clever Girls Collective that are women owned and have a network of women. On International Women’s Day I am announcing my social good project. I will be on a mission to help connect women (and working mothers) to the resources and networks they need for their careers by sharing this information online. I have some fun ideas which I will be announcing soon… This will support the next phase of the women’s movement by having women HELP other women to find the resources they need to work.
If each woman can help just one other women find work resources the “pay it forward” will be exponential. Of course, this includes moms supporting other moms who are trying to do that elusive work/life balance that in reality does not exist. In a perfect world this model could also translate to women helping other women worldwide, such as the organization Global Good partners that was profiled on Katie Couric show. Global Good Partners is a “a nonprofit organization that sells handmade, fair trade products in order to improve the economic status of women in marginalized communities around the world.”
So instead of marching, this new phase of the women’s movement would be for women to help train other women with job skills, help them find work related resources, share information about women owned businesses/marketplaces and enable women to get the technology they need not only for job skills but to help manage their families.
Women, it is time to power up our network to a new level! If you have any ideas, please do share! If you have favorite sites that support women’s work efforts, please also share.