Entries in "workfamilybalance"

June 14, 2007

work and life as two balls....

... one of rubber, one of glass. A great metaphor, from Sandra Pianalto, in her speech to the graduating class at John Carroll last month:

Imagine that in one hand you hold a rubber ball and in the other hand you hold a beautiful fragile glass ball. The rubber ball represents your work life. The fragile glass ball represents your personal life - your family, your health, your friends.

What happens if you drop the rubber ball? It will bounce. Someone will pick it up for you, or it will just stay put until you are able to pick it up again.

But if you drop the glass ball, it may smash into a million pieces. If you are lucky, it will only crack - but either way, it will never be the same again.

Don't allow your justifiable concern with your career to cause you to drop the precious ball that represents your family, your friends, and your health.

I want to end today by wishing you, our graduates, not just a successful career, but a successful life. Take a few risks - bounce that rubber ball if you need to. Learn from everyone you meet. Be kind. And be happy. Do these simple things, and we will all be astonished by what you accomplish.

work and life as two balls....

... one of rubber, one of glass. A great metaphor, from Sandra Pianalto, in her speech to the graduating class at John Carroll last month:

Imagine that in one hand you hold a rubber ball and in the other hand you hold a beautiful fragile glass ball. The rubber ball represents your work life. The fragile glass ball represents your personal life - your family, your health, your friends.

What happens if you drop the rubber ball? It will bounce. Someone will pick it up for you, or it will just stay put until you are able to pick it up again.

But if you drop the glass ball, it may smash into a million pieces. If you are lucky, it will only crack - but either way, it will never be the same again.

Don't allow your justifiable concern with your career to cause you to drop the precious ball that represents your family, your friends, and your health.

I want to end today by wishing you, our graduates, not just a successful career, but a successful life. Take a few risks - bounce that rubber ball if you need to. Learn from everyone you meet. Be kind. And be happy. Do these simple things, and we will all be astonished by what you accomplish.

June 11, 2007

let 2008 be the summer when unpaid FMLA ends

I just came across a post I made a little over a year ago, which I rather grandiosely entitled "let this be the century when sexism ends." Similarly, I hope that next summer, the 15th anniversary of the original Family and Medical Leave Act, will be the summer when we see the act revised so that all working Americans are protected from job loss if they need to take time off because of temporary health issues, or to care for others with health issues. Why are so few Americans protected by this important act? Read this poignant first-person reporting by Margaret Lowry to learn the basics.

In 2004, California implemented a statewide improved version of the FMLA, which provides partially paid leave for the first six weeks of a medical or family leave of absence from work. The California Family Medical Leave Research Project at UCLA has documented some of the benefits of this expansion of protection, although the scholars are troubled at how few workers are aware of their new rights. The report also documents the high number of workers who needed to take a leave before the new CA law went into effect, and were unable to do so, because of the financial consequences of taking even a short unpaid leave.

In December, the Department of Labor issued a request for comments on the FMLA, and received many responses. The National Coalition to Protect Family Leave presents many arguments in favor of strengthening the law. Some businesses argue that the law is already too broadly applied, and ask the government to support limitations on who can be approved for leave -- see this article in the San Antonio Express-News online.

Sherrod Brown serves on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety. I certainly hope that he has some interns at work on analyzing the comments received at the Department of Labor. It would be wonderful to see a well-reasoned revision to the original 1993 FMLA act introduced in congress in the coming months. Perhaps before its 15th birthday arrives, the act could be given the gift of meaningful power to help all workers who need to take leave for serious health issues or to care for others dealing with serious health issues.

March 22, 2007

Handbook on Women in Business and Management

I just received a copy, hot off the presses, of the book that Diana Bilimoria graciously invited me to co-edit with her two years ago. It is even listed on Amazon! With a wonderful jacket quote on the back from Jean Bartunek, a former president of the Academy of Management and one of the scholars whom I most admire in my field. I'm floating around on air...

Book Description
`This very impressive Handbook takes established research topics about women in management and treats them in fresh and novel ways. The chapters are intellectually interesting, sound, and provocative, and meet the editors' aspiration to stimulate high quality research on women's experiences in work organizations. I recommend it highly.'
- Jean M. Bartunek, Boston College, US

This comprehensive Handbook presents specially commissioned original essays on the societal roles and contexts facing women in business and management, the specific career and work-life issues of women in these fields, organizational processes affecting women, and the role of women as leaders in business and management. The essays shed light on the extant structures and practices of society and organizations that constrain or facilitate women's representation, treatment, quality of life, and success.

Despite decades of ongoing inquiry and increasing interest, research on women in business and management remains a specialized field without mainstream acceptance within business and management disciplines. The Handbook presents the current state of knowledge about women in business and management and specifies the directions for future research likely to be most constructive for advancing the representation, treatment, quality of life, and success of women who work in these fields. It provides the foundations for improved societal and organizational structures, policies, and relational practices affecting all in business and management. Thus, by enhancing the knowledge base that improves the work and life situations of women, it suggests ways to elevate the societal and organizational systems for all.

The Handbook will be an essential reference source for recent advances in research and theory, informing both scholars of organization studies, gender, diversity, and feminism; human resource specialists; and educators of and consultants to business organizations and management.

Contributors include: N.J. Adler, J. Beatty, D. Bilimoria, K. Bourne, R.J. Burke, M. Calas, C.L. Cooper, M.J. Davisdon, L.M. Dunn-Jensen, A.H. Eagly, C. Gattrell, L. Godwin, L.M. Graves, D.T. Hall, M.M. Hopkins, M.C. Johannesen-Schmidt, A.M. Konrad, M. Las Heras, D.A. O'Neil, S.K. Piderit, G.N. Powell, L.K. Stroh, V. Singh, L. Smircich, S. Terjesen, S. Vinnicombe, H.M. Woolnough, D.D. Zelechowski

I'm also having my first experience with the business of book publishing. I'm wondering who will ever purchase copies, given the astronomical price! (I'll be putting in an order in about 2 weeks for a big batch with my 50% editorial discount, so please let me know if you'd like me to reserve a copy for you.)

February 27, 2007

workplace flexibility for dads

Brian Reid, also known as RebelDad, wrote about an interesting question recently. Are there daddy wars coming in the suburbs, and have the mommy wars (stay-at-home vs. employed mothers) been resolved, or at least declared a truce?

One of the most challenging research questions right now in the arena of workplace flexibility is why there is such a big gap between organizational policies which permit flexibility, and the percentage of employees who take advantage of such policies. For instance, paternity leave. Very few men take it, even though there are several different options other than a six- or eight-week leave, typically unpaid, just after a baby is born.

I wonder what dads really say to each other about balancing work, family, and personal interests. Do they discuss it with each other, the way stay-at-home moms do at playgroups (wishing they had time to join a book club or get exercise more regularly) and the way that employed moms do at lunches (wishing they didn't have to rush home to relieve the nanny or make dinner, or that they could take a vacation without kids)?

September 09, 2006

vacation role model

Jim Twohie gave an interesting commentary on how little Congress works, and how much we work in America. (He was the Fresh Look speaker last night on the CBS evening news -- you can read or view his comments on the CBS website.) He names Johnny Carson his vacation role model.

Do you have a vacation role model? What helps you find a balance between the American work ethic and the French rest ethic?

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.

Continue reading "employers vs. women, or employers supporting working families?"

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"

July 27, 2006

speaking of social change... how about mandating vacations?

We have just returned from 2.5 weeks in Europe. I spent all that time without a watch, without a cellphone, and with almost no plans for anything more than the day ahead. I kept no calendar of appointments. I read what interested me, I spent some time knitting, and I walked with my daughter to the playground, taking time to admire the neighbors' flowerboxes, pet the village dogs, and greet the neighborhood cats (those who were not too skittish, anyway). I enjoyed leisurely meals with my sister and brother-in-law and their daughter, and with my parents. I woke without an alarm, napped when I wanted, and went on a hike or two, enjoying views of the mountains.

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I am amazed at how refreshed I feel. It is as if my body and mind have rediscovered the beauty of an adagio movement in a symphony.

In the Swiss newspaper, a small item addressed national differences in vacation practices (the headline asked something like "are the Swiss too plodding?" in an idiomatic French phrase that I can't remember.) The article stated that the Swiss take slightly less vacation than the French or Germans, but much more than Americans. Having experienced the benefits of vacation in terms of clearing the mind and revitalising the body, I understand why the worst fear of a typical Swiss person might be to become too American -- too workaholic.

Part of the issue is that we don't have a federal law guaranteeing workers a minimum number of vacation days per year. Here's a 2001 Vault.com article on vacation statistics by country -- which also notes that many European countries mandate a high number of paid vacation days per year for full-time employees. (France requires employers to provide 4 weeks of paid vacation per year, for example.)

The other challenge is that we don't always feel safe taking the vacation to which we are entitled. A federal law can't solve this problem, of course -- managers have to create the kinds of work environments that allow employees to feel that their coworkers can manage without them for a week or two (or maybe even three) at a time.

How do you, as a manager, arrange work systems for flexibility, so employees feel comfortable taking the vacations to which they are entitled? How do you encourage employees to support one another in their search for work-life harmony? What changes do we need so that the American culture will allow us to make time for personal renewal?

April 26, 2006

reinventing jobs, careers, and the w

"Reinventing Jobs, Careers, and the World of Work"

It's a good sign when three posts emerge in the same morning of blog reading, all ready to be packaged up in a theme. It probably indicates that all the cultivation I have been doing of online relationships -- reading blogs, adding some to my Bloglines so I can read them again later, commenting, making my own posts -- is starting to yield fruit for intellectual enjoyment.

Click through to read on if you'd like to learn more about Diane at Zaadz, Miriam Peskowitz, and David Pollard, and how the different social movemnts they help to advance are converging.

Continue reading "reinventing jobs, careers, and the w"

April 25, 2006

developing a career, growing a family...

How can one develop a career and grow a family at the same time? Especially in academia, this is a sticky question. The Tomorrow's Professor blog recently explored the question of whether there is a global warming trend toward women in academia, but concludes that in many traditionally male disciplines, the climate for women is still chilly. And in all this focus on women, the broader point about how men in two-career marriages can play more egalitarian roles in their growing families while moving into academic careers sometimes gets lost. (This is a more specific version of the broader question which I addressed yesterday in my post on what fathers want.)

I was particularly struck by this series of posts at Mommy Ph.D....

Continue reading "developing a career, growing a family..."

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!

March 13, 2006

the work rhythms of academic and professional life

In this 2001 essay, Heather Menzies (with Janice Newson) asks why academics are not more concerned about the move to online education, and suggests, in her answer, that they are too overworked to speak up.

"Just how many hours a week are we actually working, not just on campus but catching up on e-mail and e-committee work at home in the evenings and on weekends? (In what seems to be the only study of its kind, the Association of University Teachers in the U.K. found that the average work week for academics had risen to 59 hours by the mid 1990s, with women clocking an average of 64.5 hours a week.)."

Reading this made me wonder whether it is a good thing that I can now read the Plain Dealer online before dawn.

Continue reading "the work rhythms of academic and professional life"

March 08, 2006

let this be the century when sexism ends

Today is Blog Against Sexism day, and as promised, I'm going to write something about pregnancy discrimination. It's by no means the only manifestation of sexism in our society, but it's one that I have thought about a lot over the last few years, especially since I began teaching my undergraduates the basics about nondiscrimination in employment interviewing.

In a great post on BlogHer about ten days back, Jory DesJardins told a story that sounded all too familiar to me:

Recently I helped a friend get a position at a firm where I knew the principals, who were both men. She already had a small child, and they'd agreed to flexible hours. She worked from home but was enormously structured, starting work at 5am to begin sales calls on the East Coast and taking breaks in the middle of the day to be with her daughter. The situation was working well, until she got pregnant again. Her voice was low and secretive when she called. "I'm pregnant," she nearly whispered. "Congratulations!" I said. She didn't sound as happy as I was for her.

"Thanks," she said. "I haven't said anything yet to my boss."

Sadly that is often what women think upon hearing such news--how do I make it look like having another life in the house won't have any effect on my work performance?

Yes, many employers consider it a bad thing if a worker gets pregnant, and it's such a short-term and narrow-minded point of view. Forget the joy of bringing a new life into the world, forget the long-term contribution that the mother and her social support system will make by raising a young citizen with untold promise, forget that all workers eventually retire and we do need, as a society, to nurture the next generation of productive workers... are you going to be able to deliver your tasks on time to me over the next six months?

I understand that it is disruptive to the normal flow of work to deal with someone going on maternity leave, to find a temporary replacement, to manage the uncertainties of when the new mother will be ready and able to return to full-time work. But let's not forget to be human when we are managers -- let's not forget to say "congratulations!" and mean it. After all, most women are already confronting a lot of stress and challenges when they are holding down a job and growing a baby simultaneously, especially in countries like Papua New Guinea and the United States, where they have no guarantee of paid maternity leave. The least you can do, as an employer, is not add to that stress with a selfish, short-term reaction to the news that an employee is expecting.

According to Carmen Armenti, many women academics either attempt to hide their pre-tenure babies by having May babies or delay having children until after they have earned tenure. In both situations, women are hiding their maternal desires to meet an unwritten professional standard that is geared toward the male life course. While I did not go this far with my first child, I did make a conscious effort not to conceive at a time when I would have gone on leave in the middle of a semester. I didn't want to develop relationships with students and then "leave them in the lurch" when I went into labor, and I didn't want to develop any complicated system for my colleagues to cover for me through the second half of a semester.

That many academic women feel these pressures to minimize the visibility of their motherhood and its impact on their work productivity in the first few months after childbirth is problematic, particularly since that many academics pursue long careers -- 30, 40, or sometimes even 50 years long. Why must their first 10 years follow a lock-step pattern of 4 years earning their doctorate, followed by 6 years of incredibly long hours spent on research, writing, and teaching, in order to earn tenure? Why must people who wish to pursue an academic career, but would prefer not to work 55, 65, or 75 hours a week, be treated as second-class citizens?

Many women entering professional work face these challenges, not just academic women. In consulting, twice as many women exit the big companies from the middle rungs of the career ladder as do men. In medicine, a whole wave of new entrants into the field are seeking ways to combine careers as doctors with family or other personal interests -- both men and women. The organizations which can figure out how to rework traditional male career patterns and create options for their professional employees, both male and female, are the ones which will succeed in retaining outstanding talent in the coming decades, when baby boomers will retire and there will be smaller numbers of new professionals entering the US workforce.

Let this be the century when biased attitudes toward working women who get pregnant fade away, replaced by an appreciation for the value that childbearing and parenting have in our society in the long term.

Let this be the century when shards of the shattered glass ceiling are swept up and shipped off to be recycled, and the maternal wall is demolished for good.

Let this be the century when employers learn to manage employees flexibly, allowing them to structure their own days so they can be most productive.

Let this be the century when women (whether mothers or not) come to be treated as true equals, in the workplace and in their homes, and our global society learns the meaning of equity.

Let this be the century when sexism ends.

(If you want to participate in Blog Against Sexism day, just make a post in your own blog, and put a tag on it that says "blog against sexism". Then you can read other posts made in honor of the cause via Technorati.)

March 04, 2006

working women stretched to the limit

The New York Times does not have the greatest track record in writing about workplace trends regarding women's participation. Last fall I wrote about Louise Story's flawed article, and later about the response from AlterNet and the National Council for Research on Women highlighting fact vs. anecdote contrasts in the media's portrayal of women in the workplace.

This week's article at first seems to be more grounded in scientific research, and less in subjective assessments of trends. The article, by Eduardo Porter, is entitled "Women in the Workplace: Stretched to Limit, Women Stall March to Work". It attempts to explain why the rate of workforce participation of women, which rose from about 40 percent in 1960 to a peak of 77 percent in 2000, has dropped off in the last 5 years.

The single explanation which resonated the most with my experience is the statistic provided by Suzanne M. Bianchi, a sociologist at the University of Maryland. "Professor Bianchi found that employed mothers, on average, worked at home and on the job a total of 15 hours more a week and slept 3.6 fewer hours than those who were not employed."

I am definitely feeling this limit this week. The stress of uncompleted tasks wakes me up in the middle of the night, especially during the workweek, though in my case the uncompleted tasks I stress the most about are work-related, rather than housework-related. I spend the wee hours of the morning catching up on emails to students, literature searches, data analyses, and drafting and revising research proposals. Then the early morning wakeful hours devoted to work tasks leave me worn out when the weekend rolls around and the opportunities to play with my husband and daughter open up.

The article seems to suggest that I am atypical, and provides statistics from sociologists arguing the balance of unpaid work between men and women is still unbalanced. I do not live the trends described in the article regarding housework -- we hire out at least half of those tasks, and the rest are unevenly divided, with my husband carrying more than half of the responsibilities for cooking, laundry, etc. I don't want my experience to invalidate that of other women who do want their husbands to wake up and do their share -- but I suspect that there are other dynamics at work as well.

The article does not mention another potential explanation for changes in women's workforce participation, which focuses not on husbands as a problem, but on the increasing demands made by employers on their staff, especially at professional levels. I'm surprised that the article did not include statistics about the increase in total work hours for both men and women in the last 45 years. Take a look at these statistics for the UK in the last decade, for example. Also, this background information from PBS is informative about the US experience generally. The presentation given on campus last week by Diane Bergeron indicated that the average number of work hours for associate and full professors in her survey sample was 55 hours per week, and the most productive individuals often work 70 hours or more! Surely, those types of demands for long hours made by elite organizations of their highly-educated staff (not just in universities, but in law offices, health care, and business) are going to put a strain on working professionals. Women in their thirties with children may be feeling this the most, but it affects many women without dependents, and many men, as well.

The long work hours being put in by professionals, and the unwillingness of employers to validate professionals who seek part-time work opportunities, seem like a much more likely explanation for the drop in female workforce participation than any gender war within marriages. They may also explain the high proportion of women experiencing mental health challenges, and our society's decreasing ability to eat well, exercise, and manage stress.

I hope we see followup articles in the New York Times exploring these issues.

January 04, 2006

Writing about metaphors

This week I am focused on documenting trends in scholarly writing about work-life issues. The working title of this piece is "Balance, Integration, Harmonization: Selected Metaphors for Managing the Parts and the Whole of Living" and I am enjoying my selective review of research on work-family balance, work-life integration, and harmonization of activities in different life spheres. I first heard the metaphor of harmonization at the conference I attended in Manchester, UK, in March, 2005, when I heard Richenda Gambles interview Rhona Rapoport. I have used this writing assignment as motivation to track down their coauthored work, and I'm finding it very stimulating.

December 24, 2005

time to pause

Silent night, snowy night; all is calm, all is white.

My darling princess is cuddled up snug.

Teddy just gave her a wonderful hug.

Sleep in beautiful peace; sleep in beautiful peace.


Grades are filed, my parents are visiting, and there are gifts to wrap. Creativity is flowing, and I want to channel it elsewhere for a while. I'll be on break from blogging for the next week or two.

I wish all my readers the very best now and in the new year!

October 07, 2005

What Women (and Men) Want: Flexible Workplaces

In my previous entry about how young women's expectations regarding work and family roles, and what it will take to level the playing field for mothers and fathers in the workplace, I suggested that Louise Story's New York Times article suggesting a new trend toward full-time at-home motherhood might have some flaws. This new Alternet commentary by Linda Basch, Ilene Lang, and Deborah Merrill-Sands encourages other writers to correct the bias in Louise Story's reporting by refocusing public attention not on the anecdotally-documented preferences of elite women, but on the statistical patterns evident in the American workplace as a whole.

Some of the statistics in the commentary spoke particularly eloquently to me, so I am quoting them here:

Continue reading "What Women (and Men) Want: Flexible Workplaces"

September 21, 2005

the illusory trend to return to traditional women's roles, and what we can do about it

Poor Louise Story. The young Yale graduate who wrote a story for yesterday's New York Times which landed on the front page is getting pummeled throughout the blogosphere (even in the comments), in Slate, and probably, by "many" of her friends. Yes, I pity her, even though I know that the critics speak the truth, because I remember being just out of school and having the sense that the trends among my peer group were newsworthy, without realizing how circumscribed a peer group I had constructed around myself.

I do not remember talking much with my college friends about our plans for marriage and family. I just assumed that I would work and raise a family with my husband. I knew that I needed to stay employable, in case of divorce or an illness that might incapacitate my husband. I had the sense that my mother had not been happy when she was not employed (she returned to the workforce part-time when I was 10 or 11), and I couldn't imagine living a life without a public role of respect. The problem is that parenthood is still not seen as a role of public respect in our society.

Continue reading "the illusory trend to return to traditional women's roles, and what we can do about it"

July 31, 2005

Lesotho, Papua New Guinea, Swaziland, and the United States

What does the US have in common with Lesotho, Papua New Guinea and Swaziland? No guaranteed paid maternity leave. Read all about it in an Associated Press article by Peter Svensson, reprinted on the front page of the business section in today's Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Perhaps if Ohio wants to address the poverty level of its citizens, particularly in cities like Cleveland, we could follow the example of California, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island. They require employers to offer short-term disability insurance, which covers six weeks of postpartum income replacement for new mothers. Or maybe not... maybe we are content with the thought that a waitress or a cashier might have given birth three weeks ago, and returned to work as fast as she could in order to ensure that she can pay rent to keep a roof over her new baby's head.

It's probably too much to ask that we follow the example of California, which introduced paid family leave at 50% of workers' income levels last year, funded by a small tax on all employees. And we certainly aren't likely to follow the example of Canada, where the maximum paid leave for new mothers was extended from six months to one year in 2004, up to a maximum of C$413 per week.

No wonder that the modal number of children born to a mother in the US has dropped from 4 in 1976 to 2 in 2000, and the percentage of women without children has grown from 10% to 19%. With 55% of new mothers participating in the workforce within a year after their child's birth, the lack of paid parental leave has a dramatic effect on women in the United States. (See this census report for details.)