Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Fork in the Road

The Fork in the Road: Can Women and Wall Street Live Together? By Jenny Anderson (B1, NYT, 8/6/06)

The cover story in the Times’ Sunday Business section focused on the work-life balance dilemma playing out on Wall Street. Not surprisingly, it’s the same story, different location - successful women at the top of their game, opting out to raise families, leaving an industry willing, but unsure how, to modify a 24/7 workplace.

The protagonist, one Elizabeth Stoeber, formerly of Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, is trying to carve out her own solution. In anticipation of “on-ramping” when her two sons are older, Ms. Stoeber is “absolutely determined to stay professionally attractive.” She started a consulting company, works for a boutique investment bank and is shopping around a proposal to job-share a full-time position at a major bank.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that Wall Street’s current environment doesn’t really support part-time work or flexible hours, despite good intentions to accommodate these arrangements. Countering this reality is evidence that the workforce of the future simply won’t bite at the tempting apple of huge salaries in exchange for unlimited hours of work.

The entire piece is well worth the read, but here are a few favorite quotes to whet your appetites:

“The first generation was about access of opportunity. It worked. It got us here. Now we have to learn how not to lose that talent at 35.”
Sylvia Anne Hewlett, President, Center for Work-Life Balance.

“The work force of tomorrow is at home. They are not old or retired. They are in their 40’s and 50’s.”
Patricia David, Global head of diversity and talent management of Citigroup’s investment banking unit.

“The real difference between today and 5 or 10 years ago is that now everyone recognizes that there is a true business case for having a diverse workforce. You don’t have to justify that diversity is good.”
Alice Wang, a managing director at J.P. Morgan who has enjoyed both flextime and telecommuting during her career there.

Here’s a final hopeful note. Lucia Bonilla, a superstar Princeton grad, will start her career at USB this fall because:

“ I saw pregnant women on the trading floor, three or four of them. . . . Not all women want to have children, but in the future I may want to and it was reassuring to walk around the floor and see that it was possible.”

It’s all about those precedents I mentioned in my last post, “Pay it Forward.” Those of us who can stake a small claim toward increasing flexibility in our own workplaces inspire and embolden those coming along behind us.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Flexibility: Pay It Forward

A couple of years ago, the American Association of Law Libraries published profiles of several librarians as a recruitment tool for the profession. I was among the librarians profiled in a piece entitled, “Change is Good . . . Even if You Love What You Do”. In it, I described my decision to balance my family and career by switching from a full-time law firm career to a part-time academic one.

As a result of this profile, other librarians contact me for advice on this option. Clearly, this is a very personal decision working women need to make with their partners, but I’ve always encouraged those who call to at least consider trying meaningful part time work for one simple reason:

Whatever we do to increase flexibility in today’s workplace will make it that much easier for our daughters and sons facing these decisions in twenty years.

In last December’s American Prospect, Linda Hirshman published an article, “Homeward Bound,” in which she revealed the results of her research on couples whose weddings were announced in the “Sunday Styles” section of the New York Times in 1996. To her horror, she discovered that the vast majority of these highly educated, elite women were home raising children. She criticized this “opt-out phenomenon” and set off a firestorm that continues to play out in the media. (See Judith Stadtman Tucker’s “Everybody Hates Linda”, “A Working Girl Can Win” by Meghan O’Rourke, and Ms. Hirshman’s own account of the last few months in “Unleashing the Wrath of Stay-at-Home Moms”) The original research is now a controversial new book, Get to Work: A Manifesto for Women of the World.

I’ll be taking this book to the beach with me, but from what I’ve read so far, some of Ms. Hirshman’s real message may have been lost in the backlash. The choices educated, wealthy women make have repercussions beyond their own circles. They have the power to serve as role models for their less-privileged peers as well as for their successors. By opting out, these women diminish the contribution women can make to improve the world.

That sentiment is, in part, what motivates the advice I give the librarians who contact me. I believe that the workplace can change, but not without guidance and definition from the women with the most at stake. Those of us who reach certain professional levels have the power to negotiate for flexibility, and although it means endless juggling and constant vigilance, I feel we owe it to the past and the future to do so. These small contributions can have a profound effect over time because they set precedents in individual workplaces.

Ms. Hirshman is not enthusiastic about part-time work, stating, “If my interviewees are working, they work largely part time, and their part-time careers are not putting them in the executive suite.” However, she acknowledges that many women had become so alienated by a workplace designed by and for males, that “[n]ot surprisingly, even where employers offered them part-time work, they were not interested in taking it.”

I think that’s where librarians are lucky – and why we should work toward creating meaningful part-time library employment. We really like what we do. Yes, there are difficult bosses and colleagues, threats of downsizing, and incursions from other professionals, but most of knew we were choosing careers burdened by such problems. We did so anyway because librarianship is fulfilling, and it is that fulfillment that can support the creation of small, but satisfying, work along the entire continuum of a librarian’s career. If we embrace the notion that flexibility in the workplace is for everyone – parents of young children, children of aging parents, women, men, old and young – we can have the opportunity to do good now and in the future.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Less Money + More Time = Happier Working Moms

If you've watched any NBC news program in the last 24 hours, you probably saw the story by Dawn Fratangelo on what working women want - more time! The piece is based on a Career Builder survey released in May that reveals that fifty-two percent of working moms would take a pay cut to spend more time with their children. That figure stood at 38 percent last year. Dissatisfaction with the work-life balance seems to have taken a marked leap up this year!

According to the survey, more than half of the women interviewed said their companies offer flex time, but as one flex-time taker in the NBC piece pointed out, "Not a day goes by that someone's isn't saying ‘Oh, nice of you to show up today’ or something." Implementing company policies that support a more sane work-life balance is only part of the solution. It's going to take a paradigm shift in attitudes to ensure that our kids don't face the same insanity we do!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Scant Research on Work Life Balance

The Career Journal, the executive career site of the Wall Street Journal, has released its 2006 Best Careers report, which identifies eight careers that offer high job satistfaction. The top attributes of winning careers include:
  • Good intellectual stimulation;
  • Strong job security;
  • High level of control and freedom in what to do;
  • Extensive direct contact with customers/clients.

Think librarianship rates inclusion? Join a discussion on the topic.

In a subset of the report, Career Journal editors list careers by the qualities that matter most to employees, such as autonomy and work-life balance. According to the editors, there is insufficient research on careers that offer a work-life balance to recommend any one in particular, however, they do advise avoiding law firms. Carol Evans, founder and chief executive officer of Working Mother Media Inc., says few law firms have made her "Working Mother" annual list of best employers because, "They don't have the policies in place, they don't do the work, and they stop trying after a while." Ouch!

Sunday, June 25, 2006

The Balanced Life, a free ebook

I just stumbled across a great resource, Clay Nelson's free ebook The Balanced Life. It contains short, inspiring articles on finding professional and personal fulfillment and having fun at the same time. Wish I read the article entitled "Vacation Time - Don't Waste It" last Sunday! Oh, well!

Download your own copy at this link before you go on vacation!

Friday, June 23, 2006

Blueprints for Plugging a Brain Drain

Lisa Belkin, whose column about the intersection of jobs and personal lives appears every other week in the New York Times, recently covered the Hidden Brain Drain Summit (Blueprints for Plugging a Brain Drain, June 18, 2006). A project of Sylvia Ann Hewlett's Center for Work-Life Policy, the summit brought together representatives from major companies to discuss strategies for retaining female and minority employees and facilitating re-entry for those who left and are ready to return. The momentum for flexibility grows . . .

See this link for the article itself.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Flexible Work Arrangements Word Templates

If you're considering discussing a flexible work arrangement with your boss, you might want to prepare a written proposal, if for no other reason than to help clarify your own thoughts. The Microsoft website contains all sorts of sample documents for business, academic and personal writing, including this nifty Flexible Work Arrangement Proposal form at Note: You need Word 2003 or higher to use this template.

For more information, follow the links from the template to Microsoft's Work & Family Connection page at You'll find links to an article, another template on work-life balance and the Work & Family Connection home page.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Work Place Flexibility

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation is supporting the Workplace Flexibility 2010 campaign to support the development of a comprehensive national policy on workplace flexibility at the federal, state and local levels. Their website contains useful information about the campaign along with links to information on work and family, including webcasts of events sponsored by the campaign. There's also a handy list of laws that impact workplace flexibility. Each law is summarized and linked to legal memos, checklists and other tools prepared by the campaign to assist companies and individuals investigating flexible options for workers.

Check out their website for inspiration. Good people are making good things happen!

Workplace Flexibility 2010:

Monday, June 05, 2006

Work Space Flexibility

Jenny Levine's (aka The Shifted Librarian) comments on retaining our profession's best and brightest struck a chord with me. In her post on April 10, 2006, Jenny said:

Ask yourself what your library is doing to value your top staff (all of them, not just the traditional, stereotypical functionaries), to create a collaborative environment (especially between generations and between various job roles), and to let your employees color outside the lines a little in order to draw the big picture.

Her post was in response to Rachel Singer Gordon's observation that more than a few librarians no longer actually work in libraries, yet still do library-related work. See her post Neither Fish Nor Fowl ( for more.

Craving order is part of our nature as librarians, but are we too wedded to organizational structure and job descriptions to nurture the work space flexibility we need to keep the creative and energetic librarians redefining their roles respected and rewarded?

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Balancing Life and Librarianship

The first thing you should know about me is that I'm the daughter of a librarian. Mary Lillian Howley Callinan is the original Callinan the Librarian. She inspires me personally and professionally - and has a fan club of former colleagues across the Northeast. Growing up as the daughter of a librarian made me pretty passionate about the profession.

My mother received her undergraduate degree in librarianship from Marywood College and had a choice of positions upon graduation, unlike many of her classmates in the late 1940s. She worked in a variety of libraries for the next 12 years as a reference librarian and a library manager. She met my father at Fort Monmouth, where he was the editor of the base paper and she was the helpful librarian who tracked down the facts he needed for articles.

On the first Friday in October in the last year of the fabulous fifties, Mary Callinan closed up the lovely public library in Red Bank, NJ, went to the beauty parlor to have her hair done on Saturday, went to mass Sunday morning and to Riverview Hospital that afternoon. The future Callinan the Librarian was born shortly after midnight, arriving exactly on her due date. My brother Denis arrived two and a half years later, a few days early - show off!

Mom did not return to librarianship until I was five and Denis was three when we moved from New Jersey to New York and found ourselves a few miles from St. John's University. St. John's needed a rare books cataloger, and thanks to her solid liberal arts education, Mom had enough knowledge of Latin, French and German, combined with her library training, to convince St. John's to hire her on a part-time basis. Callinan the Librarian was back.

Now mind you, this was 1965. The women's movement was barely beginning to percolate. Many women were at home, working women were single and, to the extent that there were some women balancing work and family, they certainly weren't talking about it! Mom was no exception. Because her work was so independent by nature, she could work flexible hours and still be around when we weren't in school. Then there were Saturdays.

Mom put in a good chunk of hours on Saturdays. Some weeks that meant Daddy was Mr. Mom for the day. Other weeks, we went to work with Mom. As much as we enjoyed adventures with Daddy, the Saturdays we went to work with Mom were my favorites. We'd head to the children's literature floor in St. John's library, where Mom would deposit us in adjoining carrels, find a nice education major studying in the stacks, ask her to keep on eye on us, and then descend to the bowels of the library to catalog rare books. She'd come back up to check on us a few times and take us to lunch. The hours I spent in those carrels or sitting on the floor between the stacks, feet up on a shelf and nose in book, remain among the fondest memories of my childhood.

I understood that what Mom was doing was unusual, and as my awareness of the world grew, I realized that she was able to be a working mother, in part, because of her career choice. Librarianship offered the kind of flexibility that supported balance.

Becoming a librarian was always in the back of my mind, but I was a good student at a women's college at a time when good students were pushed into law and medical school. The week after I submitted my law school applications, I realized that I didn't want to be a lawyer - I wanted to be a librarian. The following week, after my last final, I went to my college library, found the books and journals about librarianship and discovered that I could still go to law school, quite a relief since I didn't really have a Plan B. I'd get my MLS after law school and become an academic law librarian.

Decision made, I spent the spring trying to explain my new plan. I got a lot of flak, but the winning argument was my expectation that librarianship would allow me to balance career and family in a way seemingly impossible in the law. I pursued my plan, with a lengthy, but happy, detour into private law librarianship, and spent the last eight years at Georgetown, raising children and working flexible hours.

My personal life experience serves as evidence that librarianship can be a career in which you can balance life and work. Unfortunately, I know other librarians who have not been able to achieve this balance and have been forced to chose life over librarianship. I also know a lot of librarians who are so swamped at work, they've essentially been forced to choose librarianship over life. I started my consulting company to try to address this imbalance by redistributing work and labor virtually and am optimistic that we can make a small contribution to the problem. But this is a bigger issue than a few librarians can solve.

So I pose these questions for discussion:
  1. Does librarianship still offer opportunities for the life-work balance we need and deserve?
  2. If not, how can we as a profession cultivate that balance to retain the current generation of librarians and attract the next?
  3. If we as a profession embrace work-life balance as a principle, how can we publicize this commitment to increase our standing in the marketplace?

Let the discussion begin!