Anne-Marie Slaughter, Bert G. Kerstetter ’66 University Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton and former dean of Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, writes about the challenges of work and family balance in a recent piece in the The Atlantic, Why Women Still Can’t Have it All.
The article presents several observations, which echo the Future of Children’s Work and Family issue findings:
–The rising shares of women in the workforce and of families headed by single parents have made work-family issues especially prominent and challenging, as more employees face care responsibilities at home and fewer have a stay-at-home spouse to manage them.
–For high-income families, often the problem is too many hours of work; for low-income families, the problem is often too few hours of work, too little control over those hours, and insufficient income. Families in the middle not only face insecurity about their jobs and financial situation, but also have limited resources to meet their families’ needs. Their incomes are too low to purchase high quality care for their dependents, but too high to qualify for help from public programs.
–Workplace flexibility is a promising approach to easing work-family conflict. For employees, it is linked with job engagement, satisfaction, retention, and better health; for employers, with higher productivity.
–School-aged children require care and supervision before and after school and during school vacations. Schools, out-of-care providers, and employers can ease work-family conflicts by taking account of changes in working families. In today’s economic climate, workplace flexibility options may have the most potential for meeting families’ diverse scheduling needs.
As Slaughter urges, “ultimately, it is society that must change, coming to value choices to put family ahead of work just as much as those to put work ahead of family. If we really valued those choices, we would value the people who make them; if we valued the people who make them, we would do everything possible to hire and retain them; if we did everything possible to allow them to combine work and family equally over time, then the choices would get a lot easier.”
For more on work and family, go to the Future of Children’s issue on Work and Family.