The Parenting Penalty, At Home

dad 2 collage

The Parenting Penalty (formerly known as the Motherhood Penalty, perhaps progress!?) is no longer just a workplace buzzword. Now both moms and dads are facing serious challenges at home when work culture does not align with familial expectations. Simply put, when work doesn’t cooperate, things can go bad fast.

We at It’s Working Project are hearing from parents that their workplace cultures are affecting their primary relationships at home. This was part of our discussion this past weekend at the Dad 2.0 Summit where I was part of a panel and shared new survey data from the It’s Working Project.

This impressive panel, “The State of Shared Parenting: So Much Done, So Much More To Do”  was lead by a journalist and author I have long respected, Brigid Schulte. Schulte, the author of Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play and Why No One Has the Time, has long talked about the need for work-life balance, and how workplaces and policies can shape what our work, home lives and successes look like. Schulte knows from her own experience: juggling two kids and a demanding job at The Washington Post. She shared her now-famous Thanksgiving anecdote of coming home ready to cook a big meal with her husband, only to watch him reach for a beer and announce he was going to a friend’s house. Even for those of us who live and breathe the work-life balance discussions, we still have moments that ask: How did we get here?

These unique personal experiences and professional priorities are what drives all of us, in different ways. Fellow panelist, journalist and radio host, NPR’s Guy Raz, spoke about his role in joint parenting. Josh Levs spoke about his book All In, and what it means to speak up for paid parental leave. Blogger Chris Roulty spoke about the changing language, and how “Stay At Home Dad” encompasses much more than just fathers who wait in line for preschool pickup.

I was there to talk about our experience at the It’s Working Project, and how we’ve learned through the rich, personal narratives of the Portrait Project that the policies at the office can affect and change the primary relationships at home. We’re not just talking career trajectory and the parenthood penalty. What’s happening at work is directly affecting a relationship trajectory, and not for the better.

At the conference, I shared some newly released data that the It’s Working Project has produced. In a survey of parents this month, nearly all our respondents (86 percent) reported that their own work culture affected their primary relationship, and over half of those respondents (44 percent) said their primary relationships were affected “a great deal.” Similar numbers held when we reversed the question and asked about how a spouse’s work culture affected their primary relationship; nearly all (89 percent) agreed that it did, and nearly a third (28 percent) said their primary relationships were affected a great deal.

Much of the conversation has focused on the parenthood penalties that men and women face in their careers, but our study is one of the first looks of how workplace flexibility and culture are affecting lives at home starting with their primary partnership.

So what does this mean? This means we need to start viewing workplace culture through the lens of the whole of parents’ lives — attempting to align the policy and culture to reflect the way we live. More couples are splitting their responsibilities 50/50, but we don’t yet have a workplace culture that recognizes or supports that division of labor. The economy is also driving these conversations, as more employers will look up and see the crisis in their pipeline. Employers are realizing they will not be able to staff their organization unless they provide the family-friendly policies millennials are demanding.

The It’s Working Project continues to make back-to-work conversations a priority, and we know our work is far from done. But conversations like these are a powerful — and effective — place to start.

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Dads 2.0: What The New Dad Work/Life Arrangement Looks Like


When we hear “back to work” after baby, so much of the conversation immediately turns to women. There’s good precedent for this: for generations it was the women who made the complex decisions and carried the burden about how to manage work and home, and if going back to work was an option, mandate or privilege.

But expectations and understandings around partnerships are changing. Paternity leave continues to make headlines. Millennials are moving up in the workforce to senior positions, and their revised expectations for work-life balance are drastically different than previous generations. Dads are playing bigger roles: actively raising their children, taking paternity leave in earnest, and speaking up at work about their personal standards and goals for both work and play.  

I was asked to join the Dad 2.0 Summit taking place in Washington, D.C. The conference convenes thought leaders and interested participants to discuss a topic which is drastically gaining momentum. I’ll be part of a remarkable (understatement) panel, moderated by Brigid Schulte, of passionate, informed individuals each with a unique take and focus on the shifting landscape of parenthood. Together we will explore what the shifting landscape really looks like, each bringing our unique views to the dialogue.

My viewpoint stems from the It’s Working Project and our question of what does “back to work after baby” look like? What is the “new normal”? Is there a range? A standard? Are we going somewhere fast? Are we on the slow train? Or worse, are we in the middle of some Sisyphean exercise of pushing the same boulder up the hill over and again?

Here at It’s Working Project we have been involved in research to make sense of the impact of the workplace on the state of the primary relationship. What we’ve found is that more parents need a workplace culture that is reflective of the setup of their family. If the family is in a 50/50 split, in which both parents, man and woman, are both contributing to the household income, then workplaces need to recognize and try and support that. Partners have a working infrastructure before the baby comes along, and the successful workplaces able to retain and recruit millennial talent are the ones that recognize the partnership.

We have heard this before from the men who have shared their stories with the It’s Working Project. Aren Platt of Pennsylvania told us, “Before becoming a dad, I would regularly work 80 and 90 hour weeks. After my son came, I felt the need to try to keep up that same pace (while trying to be a dad, which is what I really wanted to do) and that really took a toll.”

Peter Slutsky of New York echoed the sentiment. “Having a baby is a really good time to ask yourself important questions and rethink your priorities. You want to feel like you can do it all, but the truth is that you have to work in an environment that values that same thing you do.”

Dad 2.0 Summit is an ideal conversation-starter. What can companies do to support a better work culture for dads, and what can dads do to find meaningful work while supporting their families and playing an active role as a partner in raising their children?

I’m thrilled to be a part of the summit this weekend. For those of you who are there, let me know at @TheJuliaBeck and @ItsWorkingProject, and follow the conversation at #dad2summit and #itsworkingproject.

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Just Wondering, Wondering this Morning After SB50

It is the morning after the big game of social consciousness and homage to the legacy of the game (that is what I saw from my perch). The endless hours of seamless connection to the past and commitment to the future, they seemed authentic enough, ok maybe that was my too many pigs in the blanket talking and still…

If LGBT, Black Lives Matter, women and babies mean so very much to the NFL….

If these priorities made the short list of precious air-time….

Enough to build a narrative, enough to invest in costly campaigns, enough to hire in, amplify out and proudly boast “look at us”….

Enough to host a Women’s Summit. Enough to attempt to tackle (yes I did) issues that haunt and plague the league….

If this matters enough, then when can we expect to see actions and not just words?

Put me in coach (mixing sports metaphors, maybe I am off base?!?!) — let’s quickly make it so that Super bowl babies and those remarkable fan parents of theirs can make their way to the game. This year, and the It’s Working Project launched #ParentsChangetheGame — the goal was simple — create spaces for families to enjoy the game — install spaces (actual rooms) in which parents can nurse, pump and change diapers while enjoying the game with other parents and outside of the vile and nasty reality of existing Family Rest Rooms or First Aid spaces. We asked. We had over twelve-thousand signatures. Not one of the stadiums was game for supporting parents via simple changes (worth noting, during the all-star break this summer, Washington Nationals put a space in that fits the bill and then some in result to a similar petition). Not one team — Not New England. Not Philly. Not San Francisco. Not Pittsburgh. Not Washington, DC. Not Detroit.

We are ready now. Now works! So how about it NFL, are you ready to step-up for parents and change the game?


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The Big Share

New Transparency Identifies Parent-Friendly Workplaces

Two years ago, we sat at the White House Summit for Working Families listening to company leaders such as Goldman Sachs’ Lloyd Blankfein share how their companies were striving for working families. A few, isolated cases were actually hitting home runs for working families.

It was good news. But there were many women, in the audience and elsewhere, who were hearing it for the very first time. And as consumers, none of us were sure how to access that information again. Such an event inspired our founding of the It’s Working Projects’ Portrait Project, a mosaic of compellingly candid portraits of new parents in the American workplace. Our comprehensive view is possible through the sharing of personal narratives by parents, the honestly of which which uncover a rich depiction of American families navigating work and parenthood.

But we were certainly not the only ones.

It has been only two years, but the landscape is shifting. As family-friendly workplaces receive more ink on their maternity and paternity policies, organizations are sprouting up with the goal of sharing what the leave and back-to-work experience really looks like. These organizations are pointing out those workplaces which are true to their commitment of supporting parents’ returns to work (and to what degree) and others who are not. Thanks to these organizations’ research, we now have both qualitative stories and quantitative data. Websites are launching with transparency and community as their goals, some going so far to suggest where a new parent would want to work or what pivot they should make.

It’s the big share. And it’s going to keep growing.

It is a far cry from the guessing game that women very recently had to go through to figure out what might work for them. Or the well-intended but often misguided whisper-down-the lane (and we all know how that game goes.) Instead, information can now be honest, candid and openly accessible.

THIS is what we’ve been waiting to see (and read and share!).

At the It’s Working Project, we know that workplace culture is one of the defining aspects of how a new parent views his or her return to the workplace. A supportive boss and a family-aware work environment can make all the difference between an employee who stays (and thrives) after their parental leave, and one who leaves. Fairygodboss helps women by sharing company statistics and real stories, so women (and men) can see how their company compares. It assists women in making more confident job decisions, and introduces them to others who can give them advice and the inside scoop. At Glass Ceiling, women are benefitting from articles and interviews, start-up advice for women entrepreneurs and workplace know-how from experts in the field. And at InHerSight, women are rating their workplaces, looking at score cards and finding their match.

Expectations are changing, too. This is what progress looks like. Although it may be unfamiliar to older generations, a generation of millennials are taking the helm in more management roles in more organizations, and this is the change they seek.

In order for this change to take hold, we need people who are focused on creating better work environments for parents. It’s not about soapboxes anymore, it’s about transparency and proactive progress. Today we at It’s Working Project and the organizations mentioned above are squarely focused on real change and real-time approaches to a pervasive problem. Perhaps this will be addressed legislatively in the future, but until now we have only ourselves on which to rely.

Let us continue to make information transparent and more greatly available to one another in ways that can be useful, meaningful and certainly sharable! We invite you to share your story with us at the It’s Working Project’s Portrait Project. Add your honest perspective of what the back-to-work experience looks like for families today.

People are talking. Workplaces are changing. And we are getting there together.

Oh The Places We’ve Been!
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