For a Member of the Creative Class, Space Is a Luxury Just Out of Reach
In May 2015, my husband and I moved from a one-bedroom in the Adams Morgan neighborhood in Washington to a one-bedroom in a Southwest neighborhood known as the Waterfront. Our rent increase was minor, from $2,000 a month to $2,100 a month, putting us squarely in the median price range for a D.C. one-bedroom as described by a study conducted that year by the online rental site Zumper. I embraced the better view and made peace with the fact that, once again, the kitchen table would serve as my desk.
Many days I wake up around 3 a.m. to work. The work varies: drafting an essay, editing a poem, fellowship application, paid manuscript consultation, preparing for class. I work for several hours, then fall back asleep. That way I feel at least a little refreshed when my second round of work for the day starts. Making my way through the world as a writer, I enjoy a tremendous amount of flexibility. But the work never stops.
In 2015, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that the D.C. median household income was $75,628. We don’t earn that much. In order to convince owners to rent apartments to me, I’ve pled my case with unconventional documentation, including a publishing contract, a grant letter from the National Endowment for the Arts, and a fistful of 1099s. Many urban centers supposedly value their creative class but, according to computer algorithms looking for 1-to-3 ratios of rent to income in order to approve our application, we don’t belong here. Yet we choose to be here. And with four books behind me, an anthology due out next year, and two manuscripts in hand, I’ve realized: I need a room of my own.
What could that room look like? Many local office hubs target entrepreneurs. Base rates for WeWork or The Hive exceed $300 per month for access to a desk, and perks such as meeting spaces and digital projection are lost on me. The Writer’s Center and D.C. Writers Room use modest rates to target literary communities but are clustered in Northwest. Although 24-hour access is a standard amenity, I’m reluctant to drive there in the middle of the night—my critical creative window—and a locker won’t hold all the reference materials I might need. As part of my revision process, I read aloud. Repeatedly. Hard to imagine doing that in an open-floor plan.
My autocorrect in email keeps changing coworking space to cowering space.
You need a home office, a little voice keeps saying. My work is the primary engine of our income, a determining factor for our household schedule. My next career breakthrough won’t come about through $200 freelance assignments taken on to pay off a monthly “all-access” Cove workspace membership, or an adjunct class that gives me a shared cubicle at a local university. The writing that matters is big, stressful, book-length projects that delve deep, can’t be scheduled between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., and are almost entirely uncompensated up front.
My husband knows this. He does what he can to give me the creative space I need, but there are not many places to hide in 900 square feet. Some days he gets up right as I come back to bed, trekking to sites around the city where he is paid by the hour to install rain barrels. Some days he heads to his studio to paint. My husband’s “room of his own” is part of a bargain struck over a decade ago, when a longtime friend moved his family to Spain. He gets a raw space to make art in that friend’s row house basement, in return for keeping an eye on the upstairs tenants. Without that grace, finances might have driven him out of the city before we ever met.
Many think of Washington as a town with high turnover. I get that—the politicians, the diplomats, and, frankly, the friends who show up to one or two events, burn out after a year, and move. But D.C. is filled with good people terrified of losing the security of their place: the artist whose management company renegotiates her lease every time she takes on a new roommate; the poet with disability who needs an accessible building with two working elevators; the musician who doesn’t have a guarantor waiting in the wings. If we save money by moving to the edges of gentrifying neighborhoods, we spend more money on transit. That sidewalk cafe, the one where I’m supposed to camp out and write in my notebook? They now charge $4 for a cup of coffee.
I brew perfectly good coffee. When I first brought up the possibility of a second bedroom, my ace in the hole was the tax deduction—not for coffee, but rent on square footage—associated with a home office. But the far-reaching tax bill waiting reconciliation between the House and Senate leaves me wary of counting on any particular tax provision, especially as the resident of a city without voting representation. Because we’re outside the umbrella of traditional full-time employment and under the mandate of D.C. Health Link, my household is looking at 2018 insurance rates of $750 a month for two adults with no dependents. A year from now, we may decide we cannot afford to live here. But I don’t want to be haunted by what I could have done, had I claimed the space I needed.
The application has 10 sections. Under “Employer,” I put my largest income source, a school that isn’t even in D.C. I add a forward slash, and write “self.”
My Self is the true earner: hustler, poet, boss who gets up at 3 a.m. to get work done. The Self could charge more for manuscript consultations but is wary of contributing to the class barrier facing many aspiring writers. The Self insists on alternating between applying for grants and volunteering to judge them. The Self says yes to events that don’t pay because they foster our arts scene. The Self donates $30 she can’t afford to a literary organization she believes in. The Self always buys a book when she walks into a bookstore. The Self has $4.39 in her checking account. The Self looks okay on paper, but not great. The Self is the one who deserves a room of her own.
We hit “Submit” on the application for a bigger apartment, with a $150 nonrefundable fee. We wait.
They call. They ask if we want to apply for a one-bedroom instead.
The Tax Plan May Keep This Deduction for Teachers, but Their Financial Woes Continue
In Eliza Harris’ seventh-grade classroom, one can hardly tell that it resides within the poorest ZIP code in San Antonio, Texas—a city with one of the largest income inequality problems in the country.
A large poster hangs above the whiteboard with the words “Growth Mindset” boldly stamped in silver bubble letters. A cursory glance to the right reveals an aged shelf jam-packed with books—among them, countless volumes of the much-requested tween comedy novel Diary of A Wimpy Kid. And on her desk, there is a predictable assortment of goods: pencils, markers, a pack of Elmer’s glue, a foot-high stack of lined paper.
Like many other teachers across the country, Eliza spends a significant amount of money every year preparing her classroom to meet her students’ needs. In addition to what is visible within the room, she also pays out-of-pocket for afterschool tutoring snacks, instructional materials to compensate for outdated textbooks, and tissues and Lysol wipes to keep widescale contagion at-bay. She estimates that the sum of her yearly personal expenses is a whopping $800.
When asked why she chooses to personally finance her classroom, Eliza is frank: “I do it because it’s my job. Without essential items like pencils, pens, notebooks, glue, and books, learning wouldn’t happen. It’s my job is to ensure learning happens.” She is not alone; 99 percent of teachers do the same, according to a nationwide Scholastic survey.
The same survey estimated that teachers spend an average of $530 out-of-pocket for classroom supplies per year. Teachers who work in high poverty areas shoulder a larger burden—spending about 40 percent more than their peers in wealthier areas. This comes as no surprise when per-student spending has dropped steadily in the last decade and in some states has slid below the amount spent before the Great Depression.
For their sacrifice, our current tax code allows teachers a $250 deduction. Teachers can deduct this amount from their total earned income for covering necessary materials regardless of whether they itemize their deductions. The fate of teachers like Eliza who take advantage of this tax deduction year after year were recently put on the chopping block in the GOP tax bill.
The tax bill House Republicans passed last month eliminated this small tax break for teachers completely. The Senate version of the bill, by contrast, expanded the teacher tax deduction to $500—an amount more in line with teachers’ real out-of-pocket spending.
When asked how she felt about the potential elimination of the tax break she uses every year, Eliza put her reaction simply: “I’m angry.” We all should be too. That House Republicans chose to include teachers in their ensuing tug-of-war between Senate Republicans reached a new level of moral turpitude.
On Wednesday, House and Senate Republicans reached an agreement a consensus tax bill they hope to send to the president’s desk by next week. The official text of the final bill has not been released yet, but sources have reported Republican lawmakers chose to keep the $250 deduction for teachers.
Such a decision is a small victory for teachers and female teachers especially, who would have borne the greatest negative impact had the tax deduction been scrapped. Currently, women comprise 76 percent of teachers in K-12, and 80 percent in elementary and middle schools. Of female teachers, women of color would have likely been hit the hardest, as they are more likely to work in the most needy and hard-to-staff schools.
But this victory will be short-lived for many teachers who still face a host of other challenges. With an average salary of $58,000 per year, teaching is not paid nearly as well as professions that require similar schooling or professions more populated by men. Moreover, statistics show that teacher wages are actually decreasing, even as cost of living continues to rise. Across all states, teachers earned 1.6 percent less on average in 2015 than they did in 2005, after adjusting for inflation. In some states, the drop was even more pronounced: Illinois teachers made 13.5 percent less in 2015 than they did a decade earlier.
It’s no surprise then, that the nation is facing a serious staffing crisis. In 2017 alone, thousands of positions went unfilled across the country according to a list compiled by the U.S. Education Department. In Arizona, the number of unfilled position was as high as 1 in 5. The profession is also experiencing a high level of attrition, with 8 percent of teachers leaving every year, according to a 2016 Learning Policy Institute report. And our ability to recruit and keep more teacher candidates is severely compromised by efforts to take away already-scarce benefits.
Our task now should be to elevate both the status and compensation of the teaching profession so that we can recruit good teachers that are a critical investment in our country’s future and who are educating the students who need good teachers the most.
Gender Discrimination at Work Is All Too Real, With 42 Percent of Women Experiencing It
Think problems in the workplace are limited to sexual harassment? Think again. New data from a nationally representative Pew Research Center survey out Thursday show upward of 4 out of 10 employed women report experiencing at least one kind of gender discrimination, not including sexual harassment, at work. A separate question found 22 percent of women have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. The findings are especially significant because the survey was conducted between July and August of 2017, months before reports of sexual harassment and abuse across industries could have impacted perceptions of the questions.
The survey asked both men and women to report whether a series of incidents had happened to them because of their gender, including whether they had earned less than a woman/man doing the same job; were treated as if they were not competent; experienced repeated, small slights at work; been passed over for the most important assignments; felt isolated in the workplace; or been denied a promotion.
Black women were more likely to report at least one kind of gender discrimination (52 percent) than women who were white or Hispanic (40 percent for each). Perhaps the most surprising finding in the survey is that less educated women are less likely to report experiencing gender discrimination than their more educated peers (those with bachelor’s degrees and more): “Roughly three-in-ten working women with a postgraduate degree (29%) say they have experienced repeated small slights at work because of their gender, compared with 18% with a bachelor’s degree and 12% (of women) with less education.”
This finding seems counter to recent reports emphasizing high rates of harassment and workplace abuse in the lowest paid professions where the least educated women have very few labor protections. A 2014 report from the National Women’s Law Center suggests the 17 million women in low-wage jobs are especially vulnerable to harassment by low-level supervisors. One might guess this high vulnerability to abuse would be correlated with overall gender discrimination.
However, the lowest educated and lowest wage women are concentrated in “feminized” pink-collar jobs. They are overrepresented as child care providers, maids and housekeepers, home health aides, personal care aides, cashiers, and in food service. A side effect of this concentration: There may just be fewer men around to discriminate against women in “feminized” professions or for women to have other professional experiences to compare it to. Kim Parker, director of social trends research at Pew and a co-author of the report, notes that other studies have shown women in female-dominated workplaces don’t experience the same rates of discrimination as those in male-dominated workplaces.
Increased levels of education (and discrimination) may have more to do with different perceptions of discriminatory experiences at work. Women might learn about discrimination (as a concept) through higher education and secondly, believe that by getting an education, they should be able to overcome any barriers that exist in today's society. In other words, whether women consider discriminatory behavior like getting passed over for a big assignment to be normal or to be discrimination may vary by level of education.
But Parker wants to ensure that this question of perception does not mean we should assume the discrimination some respondents report isn’t happening, just because they’re more likely to report it than less educated peers. According to Parker, for more educated women, “There’s probably a greater level of awareness about these types of experiences, what they mean, and the broader conversation around gender and work.”
In addition, the structure of low-wage versus high-wage work might affect knowledge of discrimination: High turnover and income volatility might make it harder for workers to know things like whether their income is the same or less than that of co-workers of a different gender. Data from the Urban Institute show that “40 percent of low-income, working-age adults have household income that spikes or dips in at least six months of the year,” probably reflecting job instability. It’s possible that discrimination is more noticeable the longer you're in a job, up for promotions, and exposed to hierarchy in the workplace, which is increasingly limited to higher-wage work. Women with more education may have a leg up on learning about salary differentials, or other less visible forms of discrimination.
As for the sizable racial differences in whether they say they’ve experienced: In particular, while more than 1 in 5 black women say they’ve been passed over for the most important assignments because of their gender, less than half that number of white and Hispanic women report this experience. These claims bolster other findings reflecting worse incidences of most kinds of gender inequalities for black women compared with women as a whole (according to the NWLC, while women over all make about 80 cents to the dollar men make, black women make just 63 cents).
The study’s findings on sexual harassment are also somewhat low, just 22 percent of women and 7 percent of men, compared with other recent polls, though that may be due to the question design and the survey’s pre-Weinstein timeline. But in a different study that breaks down that harassment question to ask respondents about whether they’ve experienced more specific behaviors, such as “unwanted sexual attention,” that number goes up to 40 percent of women reporting harassment.
Parker says the number of men who reported experiencing one of the eight kinds of gender discrimination in the survey (22 percent) is similar to other studies on the question. She points to an October study from Pew that showed a significant portion of men, mostly white men, believe that women are getting preferential treatment in hiring, pay, and promotion. But, according to Parker, women respondents to the survey released today were more likely to have experienced more than one of the kinds of discrimination than men. “Among men who say they’ve experienced at least one of the eight forms of discrimination we asked about, 56% have experienced one and 44% have experienced two or more. Among women who say they’ve experienced at least one of the eight forms of discrimination we asked about, 37% have experienced one and 63% have experienced two or more.”
In the context of our #MeToo moment, they’re helpful in confirming what many have suspected: Sexual harassment and misconduct are happening in the context of larger patterns of behavior that create discriminatory and sexist work environments.
Advocates Have Found Five Qualities Associated With Sexual Violence. The Classical Music World Hits Four of Them.
Last week, the American sex abuse crisis reached the most elite and rarefied echelon of “entertainment”: the opera house. And while most Americans may never have seen The Marriage of Figaro, the classical music field is a surprisingly tidy case study in the environmental factors that make sexual abuse—and its cover-up—possible.
The conductor James Levine—who for four decades was the principal conductor of the Metropolitan Opera—has been accused of sexual abuse by four different men, whose claims date as far back as the 1960s. Levine has denied the accusations, calling them "unfounded." Within the tightknit professional music community, rumors of Levine’s alleged behavior had long been an “open secret.” Now, it appears the lives of at least four young musicians may have been permanently altered by his alleged abuse of power.
Although the stories about Levine’s alleged abuse are heart-wrenching, he’s not a figure that means much to most Americans. The average person isn’t wringing her hands about whether she can still ethically enjoy Levine’s recordings. But mainstream society, now awash in tarnished names much more famous than Levine’s, can learn something from the #MeToo moment at the opera.
Classical music institutions like the Met don’t have to dig very deep in order to understand where things went wrong. Through decades of research, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center—which rose out of the feminist rape crisis movement of the 1970s—has identified five problematic norms that contribute to an environment in which sexual violence takes place. As a workplace and as an art form, classical music is at risk in four of them. (The fifth one, normalizing violence, is less applicable—but tolerance of aggression and victim blaming make it a harder one to eliminate than you might think.)
Norms about women. Oppression, objectification, and limited roles for women are all markers of an environment where people of all genders could become victimized. While women have been winning orchestra jobs in increasing numbers (particularly since the advent of the blind audition), the most revered roles in the industry—composer and conductor—are still largely reserved for men. Of 103 high-budget orchestras in the United States, just 12 have female conductors at the helm. And when the Baltimore Symphony surveyed the 2016–17 programming of American orchestras, it found that just 1.3 percent of the selected music had been written by women. Classical music still hasn’t placed enough women in positions of true power, and that means all of its workplaces are at risk.
Norms about power. Where unequal power dynamics live, sexual abuse can thrive. Unequal power relations and strict hierarchies are deeply ingrained into the functioning of almost every symphony orchestra. In a typical rehearsal, the power of the conductor is absolute: He makes every artistic decision, is the only person who speaks, and in many organizations is still referred to as “maestro” (which translates roughly to “master”).
Michael Lewanski, a conductor and assistant professor of music at DePaul University in Chicago, has experienced firsthand the tremendous power and reverence given to conductors. “The concentration of power in the classical music industry serves everyone poorly,” he said. “It puts many musicians and students in positions where they are powerless—or rather, positions where they have given away the power they have as humans. That’s how a well-meaning, hard-working teenager [like Levine’s accusers] ends up in a position to be exploited, sexually or otherwise, by a figure they’ve been trained to deify. And the conductor’s training is very much the opposite. His worst behaviors are enabled and excused.”
Norms about masculinity. Traditional constructs of manhood are another risk factor for a culture of sexual violence. And perhaps the most significant trope in professional classical music is that of the genius—the male genius. Using data gathered from more than 14 millions reviews on RateMyProfessor.com, professor Ben Schmidt of Northeastern University found that students in music were more than twice as likely to use the word genius about a male professor than a female one. (Music students were also more likely to use the word genius than students from any other discipline.)
The trope of the genius conductor remains persistent—even in coverage of his demise. On Dec. 6, as readers began to respond to the Levine accusations, the New York Times printed some letters to the editor under the exasperating headline: “Artistic genius and sexual misconduct.” Continuing to use this language is a perpetuation of the problem: It was precisely this insistence on male hero-worship that led to Levine’s impunity in the first place.
Norms about privacy. Overvaluing individual privacy fosters a climate of secrecy in which abuse can take place undetected—and a great deal of classical music training takes place in an extraordinarily private setting.
“Musicians choose a conservatory based almost entirely on a mentorship with one teacher,” said Patti Niemi, longtime percussionist of the San Francisco Opera Orchestra. “We spend an hour a week behind a closed door. This teacher then has the opportunity to tell you he’s fallen in love with you, that you’re the first thing he thinks about when he wakes up, and to kiss you. With these powerful mentors, we have no options once the abuse begins.” Niemi’s book, Sticking It Out, chronicles the harassment and abuse she endured at the hands of her percussion teacher—and her ultimately triumphant struggle to continue her career.
Throughout his career, Levine too has appealed to the notion of privacy, deflecting questions about what he called his “private life.” In a 1998 interview with the Times, Levine said: “When you do your work in public, your biggest responsibility to that public is to do what is necessary to protect and develop your talent.” The idea here is that Levine’s talent—his genius—is a precious commodity that must be given quiet room to rest. But it was within this proverbial private space that Levine likely would have conducted his alleged abuse. By nurturing his and others’ right to privacy above security and scrutiny, classical music has likely lost a great deal of genius to unseen abuse.
The conductor of the Boston Symphony, Andris Nelsons, recently put his foot in his mouth when he asserted that sexual misconduct wasn’t a serious problem for classical music. Later, in some backpedaling remarks, he said: “Though involvement in music … can’t cure all the ills of society, I do believe [it] has the potential to help us reflect ... on the better angels of our natures. Or more simply put by Beethoven—the genius composer of the ‘Ode to Joy’ symphony, considered the universal anthem of brotherly/sisterly love—‘Music can change the world.’ ”
It would be nice to pretend that musicians worked in the same utopia Beethoven imagined centuries ago. But the workplace is not yet as beautiful as the art. Making the concert hall a more humane place will require a particular kind of creative work: the work of culture change. This is a task not for a lone genius, but for a symphony of ordinary human beings who choose not to avert their eyes or their ears.
Three Companies That Show Taking the Benefits High Road Is Good for Business
Not a day goes by where we aren’t hearing more about difficult and toxic workplaces. But what about the companies that are trying to get it right? During the Obama administration, the notion of improving America’s work culture as a means to higher profits generated a great deal of excitement at the Department of Labor and beyond. The DOL laid out the concept of “High Road Employers,” a 2013 white paper which outlined how companies can focus on people, the planet and profits as part of a successful business strategy. Under the current administration, the concept of High Road Employer hasn’t been front and center, and the American Sustainable Business Council has been one of the organizations left to carry the mantle of this work.
In October 2017, the ASBC came out with their own research showing that companies who invested in promoting family-friendly benefits, flexibility, fair living wages, cultivated inclusion, engaged with communities, for example, could improve retention of quality employees, earn better results from contractors and vendors, and attract fast-growing numbers of consumers who want to buy from values-based organizations.
Former Secretary of Labor Christopher Lu says, “The executives of these companies understand that their most asset is their workforce, so they’re rejecting the false choice between treating their employees with dignity and improving their company’s bottom line.”
Here are three examples of very diverse companies who are embodying some of these principles and reaping the benefits:
Badger Balm: “More than a dozen babies have come to work here.”
Founded in 1995, Badger Balm is a family business that employs 100 individuals (125 during peak sunscreen season) in their headquarters nestled in the woods of rural New Hampshire. Their earth-friendly products were born with a focus on environmental sustainability. The company is known for high standards through their entire process of product development, production, and distribution. They apply the same quality-focus on those who work with them.
Their daily organic lunch, for example, came about when the company was just a few years old. Back then, co-founder Bill Schwerin made soup for lunch for everyone on Fridays. The soup-making still happens, but now two professional cooks feed about 100 team members five days a week.
The whole of Badger Balm operation strives to create a supportive and family-friendly workplace where all employees are treated as valuable members of the community. Employees are encouraged to voice their opinions and make suggestions. Their production and shipping areas, are in light-filled, wood-beamed rooms: not the usual dark and dirty warehouse one might imagine. There, employees benefit from supports and policies including 40 hours of paid health time for themselves or to care for a family member, flexibility programs (think sick child or school conferences), paid leave for primary and secondary caregivers (applies to adoption or foster parenting as well), extended parental leave (where someone’s job is held for up to six months), $800 in annual wellness funds, and child care reimbursements.
Their “Babies-at-Work” program allows employees to bring their babies to work after their family leave for the first six months of life and care for them while doing their jobs that gets the most attention. Deirdre Fitzgerald, marketing and PR manager shares, “more than a dozen babies have come to work here.”
Badger is located in rural New Hampshire, so the area doesn’t have a huge pool of potential employees to pull from, making retention a crucial part of the company’s success. When asked how these commitments have played and paid off, Deirdre said, “Badger has always been a family-friendly workplace, and our policies around flexibility play a big role in how people feel about working for the company and how long they stay. This has led to virtually zero recruitment costs, and in a recent employee survey, 100 percent surveyed felt their manager respected their work-life balance, 82 percent reported feeling highly engaged, and more than half plan to stay at Badger for more than five years. People seek us out, and once they join the team, they remain because of our unique culture and approach to business.”
TCG, Inc.: “The cost of not doing something is bigger than the cost of doing something.”
Daniel Turner, father of four, runs the Washington, D.C.–based TCG, a 23-year-old Federal IT services company with nearly 150 employees. He participates in ASBC events and is active in the local and national fight for Paid Family Medical Leave. Why? His “do the right thing” attempt to cover leave for his employees out-of-pocket several years ago nearly destroyed his small business. Out of his 28 employees at the time, 12 took the 6-week parental leave TCG offered, at a cost to the business of hundreds of thousands of dollars - well more than TCG’s profit for the year. Turner took took a step back and recalibrated. Instead of six weeks of leave, TCG now offers three. He is hoping the government will provide the support needed so he can offer a good amount of paid parental leave. “This is what my organization stands for, caring for the team we have built. Not being able to offer what I know is right is extraordinarily frustrating,” says Turner.
Over the years, while TCG has not been able to increase the parental leave amount for fear of a similarly fertile year, Turner has been able to add other benefits. Ultimately, Turner shares, “It’s an economic challenge. Happy employees are more engaged, more committed, and that results in a higher level of work output and loyalty.” TCG now offers a wide range of “soft” benefits like tickets to the Kennedy Center or to Washington Nationals games, fitness contests and gym reimbursement, and even financial education. The workplace is highly flexible, which can increase worker happiness and productivity and costs the company nothing—and more than half of employees work from home. Those who do come to the office, are reimbursed for paid metro passes, bikes or even walking shoes. ($75 two times a year!) New employee integration is another commitment Turner takes quite seriously. “I will lose them quickly,” he notes, “if I don’t take the care necessary to integrate them well.” That translates into a three-month program to on-board including items to be completed three weeks prior to the employee’s start date. And for Turner, the payoff is in finding and retaining outstanding, committed talent.
TCG has won numerous awards for being a great place to work. What else is TCG good at? Per Turner, he’s also proud of winning and retaining contracts.
“Our reputation is what propels us forward and that is all about our people, I believe that the people part of equation, the whole person, is not only what differentiates us. It is what keeps us successful—being recommended over and again,” he says.
Levi Strauss & Co: “Profit through principals is in the company’s DNA.”
Levi Strauss launched his business in 1853, that year he donated a percentage of his first-year profits to a local orphanage. The company’s commitment to community and the greater society has continued since.“A profits through principals approach to doing business is in the company’s DNA” boasted Amber McCasland, Senior Director, Corporate Affairs. They are proud of the ways they regularly step-up long before they are mandated. For example, Levi Strauss & Co. desegregated all factories in the 1940’s long before any laws were passed, developed an HIV/AIDS education program to help avoid stigma and prejudice as early as 1983, and even offered domestic partner benefits starting in 1991.
In 2011, The company saw an opportunity to go beyond compliance and invest in programs that focused on improving the lives of supply chain workers through their ground-breaking Worker Well-Being Initiative. The program which applies to factory workers all over the world, like India and Egypt, focuses on financial literacy, health education and services, and has even piloted childcare programs. Its goal is for the education they are providing to also be spread through the larger community where their garments are made. “Worker Well-being was created as a proprietary program but we quickly realized that we could have greater social impact through transparency,” McCasland says. An ongoing research program in conjunction with Harvard School of Public Health has been measuring the impact of the program. It’s been successful at decreasing turnover and absenteeism while increasing engagement and productivity among workers. Factories are seeing up to a 4:1 ROI on worker well-being programs, meaning, for every dollar a factory owner puts into these programs they see up to a $4 return on the above metrics.
As for their supply chain, Target was influenced by LS&Co.’s Workers Well-being approach and has since set its own goals related to improving worker well-being for the people who manufacture products sold in Target stores.
LS&Co. is engaging with other brands as well—there is a collaborative effort to create a common roadmap for efforts to improve the well-being and engagement of factory workers.
Learning about the success of these employers makes taking the high road seem like an obvious, practical and simply smart business decision. These principles can clearly come through to employees, clients and consumers, and can define a company’s brand and future. And though the Obama-era culture of promoting high road businesses has past, luckily for us, these companies are still in business.
The GOP Respects States’ Rights, Unless Your State Gives You These Workplace Benefits
The GOP has already stripped you of workplace protections at the federal level, and now they’re coming after benefits your state has given you, too. The new Workflex in the 21st Century Act introduced before Congress by California Rep. Mimi Walters would create a voluntary paid leave scheme employers could participate in instead of complying with state and local laws and ordinances on paid leave. There’s precedence for this: Several states have recently (and quietly) moved to pass obscure “pre-emption laws,” which shield employers from complying with city laws such as paid sick days, paid leave, minimum wage laws, and fair work scheduling, that have only been passed to supplement the paltry unpaid offerings guaranteed by the federal government. Yes, the same party who used states rights arguments to pass gay marriage bans, oppose the Affordable Care Act and Environmental Protection Agency regulations, and refuse refugee resettlement are considering using the federal government to block state and local work-family legislation.
The 2017 Workflex Act would amend the Employee Retirement Income Security Act to create what are cynically called “flexible work arrangements,” which would allow employers to ignore their state and local requirements in exchange for voluntarily providing a small amount of paid leave (sick time, vacation time, time off—it’s not specified) to full-time workers. This paid-leave minimum would be anywhere from 12 days for smaller employers with new employees up to 20 days for workers with over five years of experience at the largest firms. However, employers are allowed to subtract six federal holidays from that compensable leave, and none of the benefits apply to employees who’ve worked at an organization for less than a year. Six days of paid time off for a new mom, father of a sick child, or cancer patient, is hardly a solution to the United States’ current last-place status among industrialized countries when it comes to paid leave.
So despite efforts by states like Washington to pass 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave, the Walters bill could pre-empt it or allow Washington state employers to provide those 12–20 days (to some, not all) instead. States are already well underway in pre-empting local efforts, from minimum wage and firearm laws to paid sick days. The state of Missouri now prevents localities from passing paid-sick-days legislation, for example. Dillon’s rule, which allows states to set health and safety standards that supercede local control (to learn more about your state’s pre-emption efforts, explore here), provides them grounds to do this. An August Economic Policy Institute report highlights 15 states that have passed 28 laws pre-empting local labor standards, specifically as they relate to paid leave, paid sick days, and the minimum wage.
The GOP says it’s bad for business, and therefore bad for workers, to have to comply with patchwork laws. This is the argument of the Society for Human Resource Managers. But there’s a better solution than letting employers opt out of better state and local laws: Pass sweeping federal legislation that improves upon each of these state and local laws so these governments don’t have to invent their own stop-gap programs and policies in the meantime.
At a hearing on Tuesday with the House Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions, Carrie Lukas, president of the Independent Women’s Forum, an organization aiming to increase “the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty,” spoke in favor of the Workflex Act: “Policymakers’ goal should be to help make it easier for workers to prepare for time away from work and for businesses to provide leave benefits but without discouraging hiring and innovative work relationships,” Lukas concluded. “However, the best way to ensure that workers have the benefits they need is for there to be a growing economy, which offers plentiful job opportunities and rising compensation.”
This means little in real terms other than a hope and prayer for trickle-down economics. Results from the National Study of Employers (ironically, released by the Society for Human Resource Managers, one of the supporters of the Workflex Act) show that most employers don’t currently offer paid family or medical leave. One of Lukas’ alternative suggestions to state and local attempts to remedy this is “personal care accounts”—or bank accounts where people can save their own money to take leave. But this is really only a way the more affluent could pay for leave (some of whom probably already get paid leave through their jobs). With stagnant wages and families unable to afford an emergency expense over $400, personal care accounts seem like a nonanswer to our workplace woes.
It’s unclear whether the GOP will jump on the Workflex bandwagon wholesale. Subcommittee chair Rep. Tim Walberg of Michigan said, “We have questions in this area and we have needs. Questions such as: Can employers be trusted to make good paid time off decisions for both themselves and their employees? Or can we develop productive paid time off legislation that fosters good relations between employees and employers while not violating our constitutional federalism in regards to the state and local primacy, and that is an important question to consider.”
The Walters bill before the House does neither.
#MeToo Is a National Security Issue
On Tuesday, a group of 223 women—former and current ambassadors, diplomats, and other ranking national security officials—became the latest group to shine light on an industry where sexual harassment and assault have been normalized and perpetuated for decades: the field of national security.
“Many women are held back or driven from this field by men who use their power to assault at one end of the spectrum and perpetuate—sometimes unconsciously—environments that silence, demean, belittle or neglect women at the other,” they wrote in an open letter to the national security industry that they titled #metoonatsec. “Assault is the progression of the same behaviors that permit us to be denigrated, interrupted, shut out, and shut up.”
Though this kind of abuse is destructive in any industry, these behaviors in the national security industry in particular could also make all of us less safe.
We know from research that women’s inclusion at all levels of national security policy and practice—as peacekeepers, in post-conflict reconstruction, as policy officers and policymakers—and their overall safety are linked to the security and stability of states. We also know that diverse teams make better decisions and function more effectively than homogenous ones and that male-dominated teams can make riskier decisions and may be more susceptible to abuses of power. And yet, while women enter many national security institutions at near parity with men, they hover at about 34 percent of senior leadership positions at many agencies. It seems pretty obvious that if we want to make smarter and more effective national security policy and decisions, encouraging more gender diversity—and figuring out why women leave—is a good place to start.
Jenna Ben-Yehuda, who co-authored the #metoonatsec letter with Ambassador Nina Hachigian, recalls a moment a number of years ago when she shortlisted for a role in the National Security Council. Ben-Yehuda, who spent more than a decade as a State Department official, came in to interview for the NSC role prepared to answer questions about her background on multilateral negotiations and human rights. “Among the first questions I was asked was, ‘What are your child care arrangements?’ ” said Ben-Yehuda. “I was flabbergasted, and mumbled some semicoherent response, that I had really excellent child care and it wasn’t going to be an issue. They said they heard I had children. And I said, yeah, I’d love to tell you what I’ve done on human rights.”
Later, the interviewers told Ben-Yehuda they didn’t think the position would be a good fit because the hours were so long, and they didn’t want to put her in that position. To her, it felt like an abrupt 180-degree attitudinal shift. It was hard not to question how and whether Ben-Yehuda’s role as a mother—and the assumptions the interviewers carried about what that meant—factored into the decision.
And then there were the mornings earlier in her career as an intelligence briefer. Ben-Yehuda would come into the office at 6 a.m. and prepare briefs for the senior State Department officials, all of whom were male. As the men strolled in at 7 a.m., they’d start to discuss who they found most attractive in the office and who they most wanted to pursue, treating Ben-Yehuda to a dialogue of salacious, obscene comments about her colleagues.
“That kind of workplace behavior creates a permissive environment for more severe and inappropriate behaviors to take hold,” Ben-Yehuda said. “People don’t wake up one day and decide to assault people. They’re constantly looking for what would be tolerated within a context. In an environment where people bring the personal to the professional, it erodes those lines.”
Which is in part why she and the other letter authors explicitly called out toothless policies and the cultures that erode their power. “The institutions to which we belong or have served all have sexual harassment policies in place,” they wrote. “Yet, these policies are weak, under enforced, and can favor perpetrators. The existence of policies, even good ones, is not enough.”
And because sexual harassment policies are severely under-resourced, there’s an extensive backlog of pending cases, which can mean that victims work alongside their abusers for months, said Ben-Yehuda.
That seemed to be the case for one midlevel female foreign service officer, who shared her story with me recently. This woman, who preferred to remain anonymous because of the sensitive nature of her current post, was sexually harassed twice while on overseas tours and sexually assaulted a third time when she was forcibly kissed by a man who played a key role at a Middle Eastern embassy. She decided to formally report that third incident. About two months later, the State Department’s Office of Civil Rights deposed her and her assailant. Months went by. She assiduously steered clear of the places where she knew her assailant would be present—the cafeteria, social gathering spots—but it was impossible to avoid him entirely.
Six months later, she finally had a verdict: The case was inconclusive. Her assailant claimed that she’d kissed him, and there was no proof to suggest otherwise. The outcome of the case was one reason that she left the post shortly thereafter, deeply disappointed by a group of people who she had trusted. “The State Department didn’t protect me when I was trying to protect the American people,” she told me.
And so she and the other #metoonatsec authors are pushing for a conversation shift away from outcomes to prevention and constructive solutions. They suggest, for instance, multiple channels for women to report incidences without retribution, mandatory exit interviews for all women leaving federal service, and a clear message from leadership that these behaviors won’t be tolerated.
The attrition of women due to sexual harassment represents “a loss to our ability to craft thoughtful, creative, comprehensive solutions to some of the world’s most complex problems,” said Ben-Yehuda.
To a casual observer, it may have looked like the national security industry was starting to take these issues seriously earlier this fall. Indeed, research about gender inclusion and security underpinned the bipartisan Women, Peace, and Security Act, which President Trump signed into law on Oct. 6. Among many of its objectives, it mandates that the Department of Defense, the State Department, and U.S. Agency for International Development all prioritize women’s inclusion in overseas conflict prevention, resolution, and post-conflict recovery efforts, and to ensure incoming diplomats are trained in the research on why inclusion is an issue not just of social justice but of national security and policy effectiveness.
But what the #metoonatsec letter makes clear is that policy change without accompanying cultural change doesn’t drive real, sustainable change. How can the U.S. become “a global leader in promoting the meaningful participation of women in conflict prevention, management, and resolution,” as stated in the act, if it’s failing to promote and respect women inside its own institutions?
“This nation’s ability to solve hard problems rests on bringing all of the talent that we have to bear. Understanding harassment and assault as being a part of why women leave is really important,” said Ben-Yehuda.
After all, national security is just an illusion if half the population is unsafe.
Survey Finds Many Harassers Are Under 40. We Shouldn’t Be Surprised.
Alicia thought she was just being friendly. She’d stopped by the desk of another co-worker at the startup she worked at—an “oddball.” She’d thought to say hello and get to know him. He was a subject expert she needed to interview as part of her job.
But soon, the “oddball” started stopping by her desk often, suggesting they go to Paris together, making romantically suggestive comments, and inviting her to lunch, even though Alicia repeatedly turned down his invitations. “I figured I could ignore it,” she said. But then he started sending her sexually explicit poems, followed later by apologies over Gchat.
“He knew it was inappropriate,” said Alicia, who asked that her last name not be used for the story. She knew she should probably report him, but she didn’t. “I remember thinking, I don’t want to be the person that has to teach him a lesson.” She was new, she wanted to be liked, she worked predominantly with guys, and she wasn’t sure that sexually explicit poems rose to the level of harassment. This guy wasn’t a superior, and he wasn’t in a position of power over her or her career. He was no Matt Lauer or Harvey Weinstein. He was only a few years older than she was, somewhere in his mid-30s.
Though we simply don’t have big data on who harrasses most, a new online survey from Fairygodboss, a website offering job and company reviews directed at women, found that it’s not just the men in positions of power who harass women but oftentimes younger men who are colleagues and not bosses or supervisors.
From a pool of its members, Fairygodboss surveyed over 500 women employed in a variety of different industries and job types and found that nearly 43 percent of the women who responded have experienced harassment at work, and over 70 percent of those they describe as their perpetrators are reported to be 40 or younger. Only 7 percent of harassers were over the age of 60.
The survey also found that the women who reported being harassed were more likely to experience harassment from a colleague rather than a direct boss or management, and about 50 percent of women said they did not report the harassment when it occurred because they did not want to be perceived as a “troublemaker.”
The results were surprising, said Mary Pharris, director of business development and partnerships at Fairygodboss, both in that the harassers were colleagues, not bosses, and younger. “Perhaps it’s because of the narrative you’re seeing play out in the media, particularly among older men who occupy positions of power,” said Pharris. “It creates the perception that harassers would be older, and their direct bosses.”
These findings suggest it is not simply a generational problem that we should expect to decline as baby boomers retire. “Harassment isn’t exclusive to one age bracket or where you rank in a company. I think it just means that harassment can be more pervasive than some of us originally thought,” said Pharris.
“We know sexual harassment does happen to all generations, and it does happen a lot with colleagues as well,” said Brenda Russell, a professor of applied psychology at Pennsylvania State University at Berks who studies tolerance of harassment.
And despite the hopes of many that the #MeToo moment reflects a changing of the guard and a last gasp of the gender dynamics that were permitted in the workplaces of yesterday, there’s good reason to think our culture is producing future harassers even before they start their professional lives.
Vanessa Grigoriadis, author of Blurred Lines: Rethinking Sex, Power, and Consent on Campus, believes that the American college campus has become a breeding ground for the misogyny that runs rampant in certain workplace cultures. A lot has been said about the high rates of sexual assault on campuses, but this trend reflects a more general culture of misogyny and toxic masculinity in college life.
“We don’t know exactly what leads some men to harass or assault,” said Grigoriadis in an interview with Slate. But two of the factors, Grigoriadis said, are the feeling of entitlement and misogyny. And colleges, specifically the four-year residential colleges attended by many affluent Americans, are perpetuating this culture.
Universities, said Grigoriadis, have become nervous about litigation around drinking, and binge drinking numbers have been high, so they feel “legally covered” if students go off campus to drink in fraternity houses rather than dorm rooms. “Fraternities control the social scene in colleges,” she said, with misogynistic themed parties such as “pimps and hos,” where women are encouraged to show up in scantily clad attire for heavy drinking in an unsupervised environment.
“It’s not a surprise that kids who come out of normal American pop culture and this skewed college system that reinforces these beliefs—they get to professional life, and they don’t know where the normal boundaries are,” said Grigoriadis.
Age may also be a factor in how women react to sexual harassment. Russell points to research from the ’90s that shows younger and older women were both less tolerant of sexual harassment by men, but current research shows that it’s younger women who are more tolerant than the older women. “[The older women] have more job security, experience, and confidence. They may be in supervisory experience. It’s hard to look at age. There is so much more with regard to sexism, confidence, and maturity that plays a role that we have to statistically try and control for to get to specific generational differences. That is why there is not a lot of research on the topic,” said Russell.
Proposals to institute mandatory sexual harassment training, like the program the U.S. Congress has implemented in the wake of allegations of leniency, show that workplace cultural change is possible. Colleges are encouraging more affirmative-consent practices, replacing the no means no slogan with yes means yes, and Grigoriadis believes such affirmative-consent practices could be good in the workplace too. “We know that guys aren’t always the greatest at reading signals,” she said. And when there’s a culture of fear, women aren’t always great at speaking up.
The Fairygodboss report included suggestions for fixing the problems too, including encouraging women to speak up, instituting protections for those who do, and creating the option for anonymous reporting. Nearly half the women polled also thought the increased media attention on sexual harassers would help reduce the number of future incidents.
Grigoriadis agrees. “Things like what is happening right now are going to be what is making a difference: speaking out, bringing it into the light. This boldness has gotten a lot of guys’ attentions.” Whether men are finally understanding why harassment is wrong or they’re just newly afraid of the repercussions is a different question. “Whether they are afraid or empathetic people, I don’t know, but it’s got their attention. That is for sure.”
“I’m Pregnant.” Why Your Boss’s Reaction May Matter More Than You Think.
When Jen approached her boss about her pregnancy, she expected something like a tepid congratulations. Instead, her female boss turned to their male colleague and said: “See, this is why you can’t hire women, or at least not ones of childbearing age.”
“I was anticipating an ‘OK, then. Congratulations,’ ” said Jen, who, like nearly all of the women we spoke to for this story didn’t want to use her last name in case of repercussions to her professional relationships. “I wasn’t expecting a joke. I wasn’t expecting a joke at my expense or at the expense of other women.” Jen actually liked her boss and her job, but this dig has stuck with her over the years.
New research in Organization Science by Laura Little, Amanda Hinojosa, and John Lynch shows that when managers responded positively to a pregnancy announcement, the employee was found to be more engaged and committed to their job and supervisor more than a year later.
After working with hundreds of new parents and their managers, and interviewing hundreds more, I know that the significance of the announcement story in shaping the transition to parenthood at work. I hear these stories most often from women, not expecting fathers, perhaps because women’s careers are more likely to be at risk after becoming pregnant, and concerns about stigma are top of mind.
A positive interaction does truly pay off. When Sarah Kaufman, assistant director for technology programming at the NYU’s Rudin Center, shared her news, her boss was almost gleeful with his congratulations. “When you said you had to tell me something I thought you got a new job offer,” he explained, “but this is fantastic news.” Kaufman continues to work with her boss four years after the birth of her son. His reaction is consistent with his management style: He’s given her the space to grow in her career while making time for her family, and Kaufman’s career has benefited.
Then there are the bosses who make it clear that they view their employees’ major life events as huge inconveniences. One salon owner responded to a pregnancy announcement by telling the pregnant stylist and her colleagues that he wished he didn’t have to hire employees with working uteruses.
When Emily announced her pregnancy to her supervisor at a nonprofit, he didn’t look up from his computer. “So are you going to be coming back or staying home and having a bunch of kids?” Suzi, a marketing executive, had just received a glowing performance review a week prior to her announcement. Her boss responded by pointing to her stomach and telling her that with all she had going on in there she may no longer be right for the job. She could barely contain her shock. Each of these stories ended with the employee’s eventual departure.
Both the employee and the manager bring a lot of baggage to this interaction. Research shows that managers’ own work-life conflict may result in negative work behaviors. When one employee announced she was expecting, Ilana, a Rabbi, admits that she was secretly less than thrilled. “I feel terrible about that reaction,” she confessed. “To her, of course, I was happy and excited—but you can't help but have a feeling of ‘What am I going to do?’ when someone who works for you announces a pregnancy.”
Given the work and life factors at play for both employees and managers, the timing and circumstances of the announcement may have a lot to do with the likelihood that all goes well. When Rebecca, a public school teacher, announced her first pregnancy, she was one of the first of her co-workers to have children. At the time of her first announcement, her principal was excited and supportive. In June, when Rebecca announced she was pregnant again and would be out for the fall, one of the busiest and most stressful times of the school year, her principal “basically cried.” In short, it’s easy for managers to miss the chance to respond positively when work and life are overwhelming. It’s also common for employees to draw the wrong conclusions about their manager because of one thoughtless reaction on a bad day.
Managers should recognize that these interactions, however brief, matter a great deal. Be prepared. Your employee doesn’t necessarily need a hug, but he or she wants to feel emotionally safe and informed. A warm congratulations is sufficient. Focus on framing this new phase the right way, as an opportunity for collaboration, a chance to open the lines of communication and to plan for the changes ahead together.
Employees can also help create conditions for a successful conversations: Don’t just drop the news and wait for a reaction. Be proactive about setting the tone for good communication. Leave the meeting prepared to start planning for the road ahead—delegating work, clarifying expectations, while keeping your manager informed and engaged in the process.
Both parties need to cultivate empathy in these moments. When Abby, an investment banker, announced her first pregnancy, her boss put her head in her hands, despairingly. She then told Abby how hard it would be to cover for her, and detailed the barriers to advancement as a mom in investment banking. When she became pregnant with her second child, Abby tried a different tactic. She went into the same boss’s office and said: “I’m going to tell you something. Then you are going to say: ‘Congratulations! Let’s work together to create a plan that will work for both of us.’ ” Her boss looked across her desk, paused, and smiled. “Congratulations.”
A new baby is just one of the many moments when work and life collide for manager and employee. It’s a rare moment, when both bring personal values, experiences, and expectations into the workplace. How managers choose to react in that moment leaves a lasting impression—make it a good one.
What the “Trailing Spouse” Teaches Us About the Stickiness of Gender Inequality
Sarah Stevens married a fellow grad student right as she was finishing a Ph.D. in Chinese. Together, they decided they would go wherever one person found a good job. Her husband got an offer first. “I feel like it’s always the way it turns out—the guy getting the job,” she said. Though she was not able to get a tenure-track offer in Oregon where her husband was, she was pleased to take a half-time position as the associate director for international programs that allowed her flexibility with child care.
Then her husband’s program was cut, and he was moved into a department where he was far less happy. Something had to change, so he found a job at a university in rural Indiana, and the whole family moved. Suddenly, Stevens found herself unemployed in a new town. With a deteriorating marriage, two kids, and a quickly approaching 40th birthday, she filed for divorce.
Like Stevens, about 70 percent of academics face the “two-body” problem, where both members of a couple have graduate degrees and wish to pursue tenure-track academic careers. Finding an arrangement where both people get to make equitable strides in their careers in relatively close geographic proximity (without moving to, say, Malaysia) is akin to winning the academic lottery.
Absent such luck, one half of the couple has to become what is referred to as the “trailing spouse,” whose career goals take a back seat to their partner’s. This is where the most entrenched gender tendencies of our job market—where women put their partners’ careers first for the good of the family, ultimately sacrificing potentially high-paying work for years to come—haunt even the U.S.’s most educated cohort of women.
Stanford’s Clayman Institute for Gender Research launched a large-scale study of dual-career academic couples in 2006. The results are alarming: “68% of all male survey respondents report that they consider their own career more important than that of their partner. Less than one-third of women did so.” Similarly, women list their partner’s careers as their No. 1 reason for turning down tenure-track positions. It may be tempting to write off female academics’ lesser career prospects as entirely self-inflicted. But academia is saddled with norms that disadvantage women, and it’s impossible to judge women’s choices without taking this context into account.
Being married and having children compounds an already-existing gender disparity in academia wherein women, despite earning more doctoral degrees than men, are underrepresented in all but the lowest-ranking academic positions. While women are 7 percent less likely than men to get tenure-track positions, women with children under the age of 6 are 21 percent less likely than one without to be hired onto the tenure track. Similarly, a woman who is married is 17 percent less likely to be hired into a tenure-track position than an unmarried woman.
Some women with Ph.D.s opt to become the trailing spouse in hopes of avoiding the “quiet desperation” of life as academic women. Chief among their concerns is work-life balance. Even when a university has family-friendly policies in place, female academics are sometimes reluctant to take advantage of them because they are fearful that asking for flexibility will make them look less serious than their male colleagues.
This hesitation is not unfounded. In their 2013 book Do Babies Matter? Gender and Family in the Ivory Tower, Mary Ann Mason, Nicholas H. Wolfinger, and Marc Goulden found that “men who marry and have children are considered more mature and better able to handle their work, while women are considered less serious.” A recent study shows other biases hiring committees bring: women who have male partners are believed to be less committed, less willing to move, and thus less viable candidates than those without.
The pressures for women to follow their spouses can come from their partners, too. In some cases, the choice women face is making a career sacrifice or sacrificing a romantic relationship. One friend of mine who is now a law school professor had firsthand experience with this: “I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m happier than I’ve ever been right now, but dang, a lot of relationships have ended due to my career demands.”
Stevens still lives in Indiana and works in an academic administrative job she loves. However, she admits she sometimes gets “really full of resentment and bitterness” at the fact that her ex-husband makes significantly more than she does, and she’s now stuck in a town that might not necessarily afford the best professional opportunities due to child custody arrangements.
Angela Ellis, an adjunct assistant professor in New York, found herself trailing her Ph.D. husband. They’re still happily married, but the pressure and responsibilities associated with her husband’s position have left her handling the bulk of domestic labor: “We're both equally bright, our Ph.D.s are from the same school, but I'll never have a tenure-track job. Maybe I could have written two books, too, if I weren't always putting another load of laundry in the washing machine or mentally keeping track of whether we have food for our son's packed lunch the next day.” Her husband has offered to go back on the job market, but they are comfortable living where they do, and unconvinced that such a plan would lead to a positive outcome.
Despite years of commitment to their chosen fields, these rigorously trained women are still putting their careers behind their male partners’ at disproportionate rates, and at great, long-term cost to themselves (not to mention at great cost to their disciplines, which will never benefit from their potential scholarly contributions). Though this “mommy-tracking” can appear as sheer “choice” (as the sole male respondent to a survey I put together about this topic insisted), gender bias leaves even the most educated women with few options.
These patterns have a powerful pull even on women who consider themselves committed feminists. Ellis laments, “I've fallen right into the conventionally gendered patterns that I say that I oppose." And without a profound workplace culture shift, academia will keep dragging women like Ellis and Stevens onto the well-worn trail where women’s careers are forever yoked to their husbands and children.