IDEAL WORKER BIAS
Hastings Law Professor Joan C. Williams has spent years researching how workplace culture and expectation affect both women and men. According to Joan, to succeed in the modern, professional workplace, an employee has to personify what she calls the “ideal worker.”50 He’s the one who is available 24/7, can travel at a moment’s notice, and is never, ever, away from email. Because he has no outside obligations that compete for his time and attention, he can be all-in, all-of-the-time. Family? Household obligations? Not to worry; he has someone at home taking care of all that.
Kind of reminds me of Don Draper from one of my favorite TV shows, Mad Men. It also reminds me of my own upbringing. My dad worked all of the time while my mom was at home baking cookies and making our Halloween costumes from scratch. To some it might seem idyllic . until you realize Dad was deeply exhausted by the burden of being the sole breadwinner and Mom was frustrated by having no outlet or reward beyond her three lovely children (her words, not mine).
As we all know, that dynamic rarely works today. To get by, most families need two incomes, and yet the workplace still assumes we are each able to be “ideal workers” and that each has someone at home caring for the needs of the family.
The problem isn’t just with the workplace itself; our own attitudes toward our careers feed into the dynamic as well. If you go to college, you’ve likely worked hard to get there. Once there, you spend even more time and money to ensure you can have the career of your choice. Once in your career, you likely want to be successful, to validate the incredible amount of time and money you’ve invested to get there. How does one do that in the current system? Only by becoming an ideal worker. And how do we make peace with the sacrifices required of the ideal worker? We become what Mary Blair-Loy, associate professor at UC San Diego and founding director of the Center for Research on Gender in the Professions, calls “work devoted.”
Delta Airlines Careers Work From Home Photo Gallery
In her book Competing Devotions: Career and Family Among Women Executives, Mary wrote,51 “Work devotion defines the career as a calling or vocation that deserves single-minded allegiance and gives meaning and purpose to life.” In other words, we let what we DO define who we are. Our relationships? They are relegated to second place as our work becomes our life and our life becomes less and less important.
Mary Blair-Loy’s research has shown that those who are work devoted personify the ideal worker: They are more likely to be promoted, more likely to become the boss, and more likely to expect work devotion from those below them. It’s a perfect self-reinforcing system. To get to the top, you must be an ideal worker, and to be an ideal worker you need to be work devoted and to be able to place your family in someone else’s care.
The truth is that this ideal worker construct and notion of work devotion is so embedded in our culture, our organizational practices, and our policies that most of us take it for granted. We don’t even realize it exists, so we certainly don’t question the underlying beliefs it’s built on. It’s like fish swimming in water. Do they even know the water is there?
If you are a parent and ambitious, you have two choices: You work all of the time and abandon your loved ones, or you don’t work all of the time and watch as your career stalls. It’s a classic Hobson’s choice: You think you have options, but, really, you don’t. To be successful, there is only one real choice, and that is to be an ideal worker who is work devoted.
This construct doesn’t just penalize women; men suffer too. Because they are often the primary provider, they get locked into a life of all work and no fun. It’s a lose/lose for everyone. But while men do face challenges, we know women face more of them in the workplace, starting with the conscious and unconscious bias that says they are “other.”
Maybe You Like Them Too
- Weight Loss Tips
- Pregnant And Exercise
- What Exercises Are Safe To Do While Pregnant
- What Kind Of Exercise Should I Do While Pregnant
- Safe Exercises While Pregnant