A Toxic Work World for Working Parents?

Anne-Marie Slaughter’s latest article “A Toxic Work World” appeared in the New York Times yesterday concluding that the expectations of the business world have become toxic for workers, increasing stress and health concerns and making it virtually impossible for working parents. She notes that for many Americans, life has become all about competition all the time and that the mentality of “winning at all costs” does not allow room for caregiving.

While particularly challenging for women, she confirms that it is not a “women’s issue” but a worker issue and equally troubling for both men and women and more so for working parents. She correctly notes that our families today do not follow the “Mad Men” or “Leave It To Beaver” model with one partner working and the other staying home caring for children and other family members. As a result, today’s workplaces do not fit the realities of life as we know it. She concludes that to be fully competitive as a country, we need to build an infrastructure of care.

To support care just as we support competition, she concludes a combination of the following are needed:

  1. High quality and affordable child care and elder care
  2. Paid family and medical leave for women and men
  3. Right to request part-time or flexible work for women and men
  4. Greater investment in early education
  5. Comprehensive job protection for pregnant workers
  6. Higher wages and training for paid caregivers
  7. Reform of elementary and secondary school schedules to meet the needs of digital vs agricultural economy
  8. Community support structures to allow elders to live at home longer

In making the case for change, she notes “We can, all of us, stand up for care. Until we do, men and women will never be equal; not while both are responsible for providing cash but only women are responsible for providing care…..The women’s movement has brought many of us the right to compete on equal terms; it’s time for all of us to claim an equal right to care.”

She gets it. Read her article and consider what we can do to improve the working environment that will benefit all of us. Such changes would help all working parents.