Today's WaPo runs a story about the rat race, arguing that while everyone wants more flexible hours, no one wants to be the one to ask for them. This race to get in more hours, regardless of how productive they are, has hit women especially hard. Women cannot work long hours and do the majority of the housework, even if they wanted to. Many of us, women or men, also would like a quality of life - a balance.
For example, the legal field is notoriously bad for women. Women comprise about 50% of law students, but around 20% of partners at law firms. Of course there's a time lag, but the corporate structure of the law firm (which requires billing around 2,000 hours per year) does not leave much time for balance. (And are those the same factors that account for the dearth of female Supreme Court clerks?) One of my friends works at a firm where only 7% of the partners are women. Another friend of mine says he is always stressed from working at his big firm - he can't even enjoy the few hours he has off to sleep. This, of course, is especially interesting, since a new study shows that flexible hours are of paramount importance to staff, and that female bosses are better at managing in such workplaces. But to be a manager you have to enter the rat race, hire a nanny, pump milk or bottle feed, hire someone to clean, and hope that you can do better for your employees?
Interestingly, yesterday I saw an article in the New Yorker about nannies, and Disney, and Disney's vision that women stay home. The Disney version of Mary Poppins, if you recall, had the family ending up in bliss when mom stayed home, dad decided to spend more time with the family, and no more nannies! The article points out something I had completely missed: Mrs. Banks is a suffragette - she wears a "Votes for Women" sash during the beginning of the film. At the end of the film, Mrs. Banks has given up fighting for suffrage, and uses the sash to help Michael fly a kite!
And, did I already post this? But women working find breast feeding difficult. I've bitched about it before, but the government's pro-breast feeding campaign is worthless without legislation to mandate time and space to do so. Yesterday's NYT has an article on how professional women have more of an opportunity to breast feed, while working class women do not. Of course, we don't even have paid maternity leave, so accomodations for breast feeding are a long way off.
To find flexible work, try the AARP's list, Fortune's list (work-life balance), Fortune's other list (best places for women), Working Mothers' List or try the government (local, state or federal), which typically has great benefits, flex time and doesn't have huge overtime demands.