Entries in "breastfeeding"

September 03, 2006

employers vs. women, or employers supporting working families?

Equal rights for women have come a long way in the United States, since the Declaration of Independence over 240 years ago. Even in the 86 years since the ratification of the 19th amendment to the constitution, inequities between men and women have narrowed. No longer are women expected to quit their jobs when they marry, or when they become pregnant. Between 1960 and 1999, the percentage of of working mothers with infants had risen from 27 percent to almost 60 percent. And yet, huge inequities between mothers and other workers, and among women of different backgrounds still exist.

In an effort to draw attention to such inequities, last year WorldWIT initiated the Breastfeeding at Work Week, which highlights actions employers can take to level the playing field for mothers and others in the workforce, and encourage new mothers to continue breastfeeding their infants after they return to work. Since I am a strong advocate for breastfeeding, and for supporting working women in equitable ways, I am writing this blog entry as my first effort to honor Breastfeeding at Work Week for 2006.

Perhaps you have read about some of the challenges that mothers who wish to continue breastfeeding face, when they return to work. Recently, Jodi Kantor wrote in the New York Times about the differences between new mothers in white collar and working class jobs in terms of their access to support for pumping breastmilk at work. Kantor noted that "federal law offers no protection to mothers who express milk on the job", despite the efforts of Congressional Representative Carolyn Maloney, who has repeatedly introduced legislation which would create such a protection.

Why wouldn't Congress want to protect a woman's health after childbirth, and specify that new mothers who return to the workplace must be protected from harrassment? Read on for some historical background, and some predictions for the future.

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August 14, 2006

Nurturing Identity, Professional Identity

In the body of this blog entry are the slides from my presentation today at the Academy of Management, with Latha Poonamallee. The presentation focuses on our ideas about how individuals develop or customize for themselves a new identity, focusing on the data from our interview study of how working professionals take on the identities of working mother and breastfeeding mother (or not).

(The study is still underway, and so if anyone viewing this entry is planning to participate in the study, we would ask you not to click through on any of the links below until after you have been interviewed. Thanks in advance!)

In the slides, there are a few links, which I am reproducing here so it is easier for readers to just click through and read the links:

Click through to read all the slides (either in PPS or in JPG), which are less about breastfeeding advocacy, and more about the experience of identity transitions...

Continue reading "Nurturing Identity, Professional Identity"

August 09, 2006

I'll be heading to Atlanta soon for the Academy of Management

I’ll be facilitating a roundtable in the ODC doctoral consortium on Saturday, and participating in the ODC board meeting on Sunday afternoon.

On Monday, I’ll be giving a presentation with my colleague Latha Poonamallee as part of this symposium:

Program Session #: 676 | Submission: 12162 | Sponsor(s): (GDO, CAR)
Scheduled: Monday, Aug 14 2006 12:20PM – 2:10PM at Hyatt Regency Atlanta in Inman

She’s Having a Baby!?: The Transition to Motherhood and Working Women’s Identity and Careers

Chair: Judith A. Clair; Boston College
Chair: Danna Greenberg; Babson College
Discussant: Laura Morgan Roberts; Harvard U.

In this symposium, we explore how women make decisions about, move through, and negotiate identity and career as they consider getting pregnant, and progress through their pregnancy and childbirth at work. While as scholars we theorize about the implications of having children for women’s careers, we less commonly discuss or study this “middle period” when women move from “working woman” to “working mother.” We view this period as consequential for women in that it sets the course for the future relationship women have with their careers and organizations. In addition, we find the identity and career issues as women make decisions about and move through pregnancy (and their bodies literally “blossom” before their own and co-workers’ eyes) to be rich with possibility for theory building. In addition to building scholarly knowledge, further insight into this period of working mothers’ lives holds practical implications for women and policy makers as women’s decisions and experiences have implications for their work identities and careers. Our goal during this symposium is to spark interest among scholars to further explore the dynamics of pregnancy decision making and the movement through pregnancy and childbirth in the workplace and its implications for working women.

Better Later than Earlier? Age at First Birth and its Impact on Perceived Career Success
Author: Jamie J. Ladge; Boston College
Author: Monique Valcour; Boston College

Private to Public: Emerging Images and Identities for Pregnant Women in the Workplace
Author: Danna Greenberg; Babson College
Author: Judith A. Clair; Boston College

Nurturing Identity, Professional Identity: Breastfeeding and the Return to Paid Employment
Author: Sandy Kristin Piderit; Case Western Reserve U.
Author: Latha Poonamallee; Case Western Reserve U.

and on Tuesday my colleagues will present a paper on which I am a co-author, as part of this symposium:

Program Session #: 992 | Submission: 14998 | Sponsor(s): (GDO, CAR)
Scheduled: Tuesday, Aug 15 2006 8:30AM – 10:10AM at Hyatt Regency Atlanta in Cairo

Women Above the Glass Ceiling: Collusion, Voice and Exit

Chair: Susan Mary Vinnicombe; Cranfield U.; [E-Mail This Contact]

Hewlett and Luce’s (2005) recent study suggests that women are leaving the corporate world (off-ramping is the term they use) in greater numbers than men. An alarming finding from their study is that when these women want to get back into the corporate world (on-ramp), zero per cent of those who were previously in the business sector want to return to their former employers. Such a finding indicates that the women were not happy with their experiences in their organisations. The kaleidoscope career model (Mainiero & Sullivan, 2005) suggests that women face three career issues (authenticity, balance and challenge) that they then shift for a best fit at different career stages and thereby create different patterns, much like the kaleidoscope does. In mid career women are coping with family/relational demands and hence issues of balance move into the forefront. They continue to seek challenge and authenticity, but those issues make way for the need to achieve balance. In late career, women have resolved the balance issues to a large extent and the questions of authenticity take center. They continue to wish for challenge and want balance, but authenticity moves to the forefront. Researchers seem to agree that the mid life stage involves a re-evaluation and rebalancing of both personal and professional aspects of a person’s life. However, there are very few studies that have attempted to understand the nature and components of this rebalancing act.

Women Above the Glass Ceiling: Collusion, Voice and Exit
Author: Susan Mary Vinnicombe; Cranfield U.
Author: Halla Tómasdóttir; Cranfield U.

Turning a Blind Eye: Executive Women Conforming to the Gendered Organization
Author: Nurete Leor Brenner; Case Western Reserve U.
Author: Lindsey Godwin; Case Western Reserve U.
Author: Diana Bilimoria; Case Western Reserve U.
Author: Deborah A. O’Neil; Case Western Reserve U.
Author: Sandy Kristin Piderit; Case Western Reserve U.

Women Above the Glass Ceiling: Exit
Author: Deirdre Anderson; Cranfield U.
Author: Val Singh; Cranfield U.
Author: Susan Mary Vinnicombe; Cranfield U.

Women Above the Glass Ceiling: Voice Through Women’s Corporate Networks
Author: Val Singh; Cranfield U.
Author: Susan Mary Vinnicombe; Cranfield U.
Author: Savita Kumra; Oxford Brookes U.

If anyone would like to see a copy of either presentation, please comment here, or send me an email.

July 02, 2006

evolving notions of a mother's place

Societal expectations of mothers have evolved dramatically since the 1930s. Remember the old chestnut that women should be "barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen"? Gone the way of the dodo bird, right? If it were, the Ohio state legislature would not have had any reason to pass a law last year, stating that "a mother is entitled to breast-feed her baby in any location of a place of public accomodation wherein the mother is otherwise permitted." That's why a group of mothers and babies held a nurse-in yesterday at Crocker Park in Westlake. I attended to support their rights to breastfeed in public. The event is covered on page B1 of the July 2 Plain Dealer (which is now available online).

This right has been frequently challenged in recent years. Lots of people still think that mothers with nursing babies should stay home, or go home to feed their babies. Breastpumps, bottles, and artificial baby milk make it possible for anyone to feed a baby, and once that is possible, there's more room to argue that a mother should conform to notions of modesty that have been applied to all women equally in our society. This view privileges the sexual appeal of breasts to men, and argues that mothers should not appear in public when they are using their breasts to feed their babies. It's expressed by comments such as this one, responding to news coverage of a Milwalkee nurse-in:

"Honestly think somethings are done better in a private place and why on earth would anyone want to breast feed in a dressing room, working in retail I can agree with the employees most malls set up family restrooms for this purpose. You take away from business."

Obviously, this is not a view with which I agree. Restrooms are noplace where anyone should be eating. Family restrooms in malls are great places to change diapers, but they do not have a comfortable spot to sit down and nurse.

There's a lot of work still to be done before our society broadly accepts that a breastfeeding mother's place is anywhere...

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April 24, 2006

what fathers want: how workplaces can support families

I was inspecting my stats recently, and was intrigued to discover that someone had found their way to my blog after googling "fathers unsupportive breastfeeding". I googled the same phrase and discovered that the link to my dads can bond easily with breastfed babies, even if they are not using any bottles.

Then I looked down the list, and found some other really interesting links, including this one, to the results of a survey of over 1200 working fathers by the Equal Opportunity Trust in New Zealand. It includes a list of suggested work-life initiatives for employers to consider, tips on how to research what fathers in your workplace would find most beneficial, and even a sample survey and a checklist to use if focus groups or informal conversations are a better approach in your workplace than a formal survey.

This is a type of work that I would really enjoy -- working with employers to make their workplaces more flexible and more supportive of employees who wish to make space in their lives for important unpaid roles, alongside their fulfillment of professional responsibilities. I am planning to develop an open enrollment workshop through our executive education program at Dively, sometime in 2007, on the topic of retaining employees who value both family time and workplace productivity. If anyone has suggestions about local employers who are doing a good job at this, please let me know -- I would love to be able to benchmark some local best practices.

I also want to thank the dads and granddads who attended our latest NEOBEAN organizing dinner on Saturday night. Their quiet support for breastfeeding mothers, and their willingness to wrangle the kids while the moms talked about what needs to be done to get NEOBEAN off the ground as a nonprofit, was most appreciated. We will have a paypal button on the NEOBEAN website soon, and we hope to complete the process of registering as a 501c3 so that we can begin accepting proper charitable donations within the next month!

April 17, 2006

can you ever trust a consultant?

I came across a great excerpt from a speech by Bob Sutton recently, at the AlwaysOn Network: it's called "Use Common Sense, Not Crystal Balls". In it Professor Sutton (a U of M alum like me) provides four questions for managers to ask themselves when thinking about whether to take the advice offered by consultants. First, is the practice that is being advised time-tested? Second, who benefits? Third, what are the risks? And fourth, what evidence is there that this practice is connected with effectiveness?

I would argue that a consultant who can engage in an honest dialogue with a manager about these questions is a consultant who can be trusted. The rest --

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April 13, 2006

inspiring meeting yesterday -- building a regional coalition

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My NEOBEAN colleagues and I met with Eric Brewer, the mayor of East Cleveland, and he was very supportive and willing to work with us in getting breastfeeding education materials to his city's residents. He and Norm Roulet (who is working on lead abatement in the region) further challenged us to draw together a team of people to get involved in a health fair in the city next month, and to figure out how to reach out to and offer prenatal care, easier access to WIC and other government services, and make sure that all pregnant women are educated about the potential dangers of lead contamination in their living quarters.

I hope that we can draw in some student volunteers to help us with the outreach and health promotion aspects of the initiative. It would be great if we could find a way to offer health promotion curriculum in middle schools and high schools.

January 11, 2006

Areas of Moral Clarity

Last year I made two posts about Tracy Kidder's book, Mountains Beyond Mountains, which have both been very high in my blog stats. The first was this brief entry back in June which included a link to the questions in the essay contest about Tracy Kidder's book. The second was this entry with context on Case's Common Reading Program, made in early August.

However, I never actually returned to the questions in the essay contest. They are wonderfully rich questions, though, like this one: When you look at situations in the world, do you see mostly areas of moral ambiguity or of moral clarity? Take an issue that matters deeply to you, and identify the major obstacles to resolving it? Does the main difficulty lie in determining what "ought to be done," or does it lie in "the doing?"

Any human being who suffers from disease deserves high-quality treatment, regardless of whether the individual can afford to pay for that treatment or not. This is Paul Farmer's area of moral clarity, and I stand with him in his assertion that any human being deserves health care. On this basis, he has motivated himself and a large team to deliver treatment for Tuberculosis, HIV, and other medical conditions in Haiti, Russia, Africa, and other areas beseiged by poverty. Farmer's work with Partners in Health offers powerful evidence that disease and the suffering that comes with it can be effectively treated.

My assertion is that health education for preventive care is as much a moral imperative as is free treatment of disease in poor communities.

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