Further Thoughts on the “CEO Dads”: Schireson and El-Erian

Change is more likely to happen when the new generation of men in positions of corporate leadership see work-family not as a theoretical issue or one that only effects women but rather as something they see as a real challenge in their own lives

* Quick programming note. I’ll be part of a parent panel for Fox and Friends tomorrow (10/4) morning at around 9:20am. And next week, I’ll be featured both in an article and in a video interview with the Globe and Mail (Canada’s newspaper of record). Stay tuned for details.

Over the past few weeks, two CEOs, PIMCO’s Mohamed El-Erian and MongoDB’s Max Schireson, made headlines by stepping down in order to be more involved fathers. I reported on both, and even interviewed Schireson for the Wall Street Journal. Thanks to reader feedback here and at WSJ, I have some further thoughts on the relative importance of their actions.

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How Family Support For Dads Also Helps Working Moms, Kids and Employers

My colleague’s story illustrates the negative ripple effects that a non-supportive employer has, not just on working dads, but also on their spouses, kids, and their own bottom line.

Employer support (or lack thereof) creates ripple effects for families (pixaby.com, creative commons)
Employer support (or lack thereof) creates ripple effects for families (pixaby.com, creative commons)

The other day, I was chatting with a new colleague. She had just returned from the workforce after having opted out of her career due to family demands. Her two young children had health problems, meaning that she and her husband needed some family support from their employers- but never received it.

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Work and Family, A Conflict of Generations?

Can the causes of work-family conflict be traced to generational differences in priorities? Here’s the evidence- plus what we Gen Xers can do to improve the situation.

Three generations. We all probably see the value of work-family balance a little differently
Three generations. We all probably see the value of work-family balance a little differently

Talkin’ About Our Generations

I think studies based on generational differences are over-rated. After all, how valid could it possibly be to lump together people 48 years old to 33 years old in order to compare them with people 49 to 67 years old? I mean, wouldn’t the 48 and 49 year olds have more in common with each other than the rest of their purported “groups”?

With that caveat, I recently came along “Mixing and Managing Four Generations of Employees,” by Greg Hammill, in which he summarized some of the findings about different work-related attitudes and values among generations. This chart caught my eye:

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Stockholm Syndrome, Learned Helplessness and Working Fathers

Many corporate cultures make it hard for dads to balance work and family. Let’s not compound the problem by also trapping ourselves. Here are 4 ways to avoid exacerbating our work-family struggles.

My cat's been an indoor cat so long, she doesn't even try to leave when we leave the door open. Sound familiar? photo credit: flossyflotsam via photopin cc
My cat’s been an indoor cat so long, she doesn’t even try to go outside when we leave the door open. photo credit: flossyflotsam via photopin cc

A Harvard Debate

I recently wrote an article for the Harvard Business Review Blog Network*. In it, I discuss men’s flexibility stigma– that is, men who make use of workplace flexibility for family reasons often face negative perceptions and tangible repercussions, even moreso than women.

I then call for working dads who have job security and credibility to start to chip away at rigid company cultures so that it becomes more normal to talk about fathers’ work-family issues. This is a first step, I believe, in a long-term process of making more employers more amenable to work-family concerns.

Overall, the article was very well-received- tons of shares, tweets and comments, almost all of which were complimentary. Many said the piece resonated with them and thanked me for raising this important but under-publicized issue. But there was some debate as well. One commenter:

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4 Ways To Make It Safe For Dads To Talk About Family At Work (part 1 of a series)

Many workplaces are not open to men discussing family while at work. Here are a few things we all can do to help slowly change our workplace cultures so that fathers can feel more secure in discussing, addressing and even accommodating family demands at work.

You don't have to be in a mediocre sit-com to support your fellow male coworkers who also struggle with work-family challenges.
You don’t have to be in a mediocre sit-com to support your fellow male coworkers who also struggle with work-family challenges.

All Apologies

I apologize. Most of my advice so far has been to help dads navigate work-family issues as if our workplaces are intolerant of family concerns and that workplaces can never change. I’ve recommended that we keep relatively quiet about discussing family in the workplace, and to negotiate for telework justifying it solely with a business case.

To some degree, this was good advice. Many workplaces are not open to discussion of family, and work schedules and demands are still structured around an “all-in single-breadwinner with at-home spouse” approach that is a relic of another time.

But employers will never change if dads assume that employer hostility towards family demands are set in stone, and that dads must only resort to working through holes in the system, through informal arrangements or “invisible” accommodations.

Waiting on the World to Change

You know what? I’m tired of waiting (waiting) waiting on the (work)world to change. If my generation of busy involved dads don’t start making change happen, company cultures will remain unchallenged, and more and more dads will have to struggle seemingly alone. Change is possible, and there are some prominent examples of workplace cultures that are supportive of work-family.

So how can we start making changes? I’m glad you asked. I have a few ideas…

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My Presentation Today at the EAM-International Conference in Seville, Spain: Changing Work-Family Dynamics for Men

The academic life has its perks. Today, I am in the gloriously beautiful Seville, Spain, to present as part of a symposium on emerging and under-studied themes in work-family research and practice. I’ll be presenting about- surprise surprise- fathers’ work-family issues. Here’s a sneak peek.

Greetings from Seville! (photo from Trekexchange.com)
Greetings from Seville! (photo from Trekexchange.com)

My co-presenters are the fabulous:

  • Suzanne C. de Janasz from IMD in Switzerland
  • Monique Valcour from EDHEC in Nice, France (and who guest posted on this blog and writes great stuff at HBR blogs)
  • Diana Ritchie of the Spouse Career Centre in Switzerland, and
  • Joy Alice Schneer from Rider University in NJ.

I’m proud to be included in such great company.

The summary of our symposium:

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The Today Show’s Matt Lauer Discusses Work-Family Balance for Dads!

This morning, the Today Show ran a segment on fathers’ work-family issues. Along with other recent major media attention (Esquire, BusinessWeek), this high-profile segment is just another indication that society may be starting to grapple with these issues in a serious way. Yay!

The Today Show’s Matt Lauer Discusses Work-Family Balance for Dads

Matt Lauer Today Show
Matt Lauer discusses men’s work-family issues and the struggle to “Have it All” on the June 19th Today Show.

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The Challenges and Opportunities of Fathers, Work and Family, All in One Awesome Graphic

Fathers are more involved than ever. Fathers continue to face intense work pressures, inflexible workplace expectations- and are now feeling increased work-family imbalance and stress. A fantastic graphic from the NYC Dads Group and What to Expect shows the challenges men face today. The graphic illustrates why I am so passionate about fathers’ work-family challenges and the work we all need to do.

Welcome Thursday with Thirdpath Callers!

The guys at NYC Dads Group do incredible work. They have over 700 members throughout New York City- dads helping dads through peer support, new dad boot camps, meet-ups, podcasts, a great blog, and- nearest and dearest to my heart- information and resources for dads all over the country to start and grow their own dads groups (although I would rebrand them as BEER FIRES!)

NYC Dads Group recently partnered up with What to Expect, did some research on factors affecting fathers today (using valid data sources like Boston College’s “New Dads” study, Pew Surveys, and the Families and Work Institute), and presented the issues in one stunningly brilliant infographic. Here it is:

Please click "read more" to see this entire great infographic
Please click “read more” to see this entire great infographic

(full picture after the jump)

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