What's Holding Women Back from Having it All

women having it all I have FINALLY gotten around to reading Why Women Can't Have It All, the July/August 2012 cover story from the Atlantic by Anne-Marie Slaughter (Hey, the thing is six pages on the Internet. That's a lot!). It stirred tons of controversy when it first came out, and I do agree with many of the points she made. Things do need to change, and those that have been able to accomplish it have been incredibly blessed. I also think that Slaughter left out some major points also, a few other things that need changing as well. In order for women to have it all, it's not that women who need to change, or that they need to do better in navigating the rules of society. It's that the rules need to change, plain and simple, and it really comes down to changing workplace policy and perceptions about workplace policy.

Employers Shouldn't Discriminate Against Pregnancy

I remember one evening, a couple of years ago, when two young professionals were talking near the bus stop as I was waiting for the bus. One of them had just gotten a new job (at a law firm, if memory serves me correctly) and just discovered that she was pregnant. She worried that she would lose her new job because of it, and that her new employer might suspect she lied or covered it up just to get the position. What baffled me about this was the this woman didn't realize that it's illegal for her to fire here for being pregnant, that it's illegal for her employer to disqualify her from the position for being pregnant, and that it would have been illegal for her employer to ask about pregnancy or family planning during the interview.

I don't think it's unreasonable for her to be scared about her job, especially since employers still show disregard for the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act. It's also hard for women to have it all, and to go for having it all, when there is very real and legitimate fear that our own employers will prevent us from doing it. However, I do think more women need to realize that this law exists and to enforce it, like in the case of the young professional I overheard. If she did end up getting fired, then she would have had a legitimate case on her hands and could have held her lawyer accountable.

We Need Mandatory Maternity Leave in this Country

The United States is one of only four countries in the world—along with Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Papua New Guinea—where workers do not have the right to paid maternity leave. No wonder women can't have it all! Once we have children, many are forced to make a choice between career or family. Without maternity leave, these women must either spend time with the children and earn no income, or earn the income and have to balance childcare expenses, breastfeeding, sleepless nights, and everything else that comes with parenting.

It's tough to have it all when you might not be guaranteed a position if you take time off, or don't take the time off and sacrifice parental involvement. It's tough when that balancing act could jeopardize your job performance, and then you're fired or passed up for that promotion. When women have access to paid leave after the birth of a new child, they are more likely to return to work than women who do not have access to paid leave. Even if these women do eventually return to work, they don't exactly pick up right where they left off professionally. Mandatory paid maternity, and paternity, leave would make is so much easier for women to have it all because having it all wouldn't be about doing things in the right order or making the right choices. It would be about working with life, and the fact that family and children are a big part of many people's lives.

Workplace Flexibility isn't Tough to Accommodate Anymore

Not every position can be done remotely, but many more can be done remotely than 20 years ago, maybe even 10 or five years ago. The rise of virtual offices, coworking spaces, and technology make it much easier than ever for people to stay in touch with their employers and coworkers, to get work done on their terms, and to get work done where they want to get done. With workplace flexibility, those without children can work at night because they are night owls. They can work through a cold without spreading it around the office. They can work in St. Louis for an employer in Chicago or New York without any difference in productivity or workflow. They can save their companies money because their employers don't have to pay for the utilities and office space to house them, they don't have to lose valuable time to commutes, traffic, and travel, and they don't have to worry about hiring and retention because people are leaving companies for competitor that offer workplace flexibility.

Is it really so farfetched a notion to offer workplace flexibility to someone who wants to be a better parent and spend more time with their family? Women, who may be incredible talent and great employees, also get pregnant. It shouldn't be such a baffling idea to do what it takes to keep them on the team and accommodate them. Not doing so could inadvertently help your competitors, who are always on the lookout for incredible talent and great employees.

In Conclusion

Digiday put it best when it ran an article about dads in the advertising industry:

When I asked Perello if he ever worried about the impact that having kids would have on his career, he responded, “I’m guessing that question goes through the minds of moms today — I can say from my point of view that, no, that has never crossed my mind, and that’s an interesting commentary on life today that I have never thought about that.”

It's certainly interesting when it seems like men can have it all, and that men don't even consider the possibility that children could negatively impact their career. No one ever thinks that a man won't be as good at his job because he is a new father or an expecting father, but many employers (and maybe even co-workers) are quick to perceive a pregnant woman or a new mom as someone who won't be as productive or who won't be able to get things done. It's certainly tougher to have it all when those around you too easily say that you can't have it all, that kids just get in the way.

I Am On a Roll!

on a roll Today is wonderful Monday instead of a horrible Monday, but then again I work for myself and suffer from this crazy phenomenon where everyday is Saturday and Monday at the same time. I am often confused, as I could feel that I can sleep in but must make a few deadlines at the same time. I think I could have worse problems.

Anyway, today was a wonderful Monday because I decided it was going to be a wonderful Monday. I learned about the building across the street, and I think I've figured out that unless you take a round trip every single day of the month on the city bus, it's cheaper to pay the fare each time you ride than to buy the monthly pass. I think the public transportation system has the backwards.


I started working in my new coworking space today, as today is the space's soft opening. There's still a lot that needs to be done with the space, such as finishing the classroom area, bringing monitors for small meetings, getting a microwave (which turned into a fun lunch for me), and getting a few more people to work in the space. I'm excited to be back in a coworking space and I got up a 7 a.m. so I could be here at 9 a.m. and be incredibly productive today. Once this blog post is done, I'll have completed everything that I needed to do today, so I definitely was productive!

I should get up at 7 a.m. every day, because I get more done. Although, I do need to figure out breakfast. Breakfast is very important.

So.. Maybe Not Everything

Okay, I kind of cheated on the "getting everything done" because I do have one more article to write, but I can't write it because my client's website is down. I can't upload the article if I were to write it in Word (which actually isn't recommended because Word adds a lot of unnecessary code when you copy and paste from it to a blogging platform), and I have no idea when the problem will be fixed or even if my client knows about it. Knowing my client, this might take a few days despite its urgency.

Okay, I do also need to do those topics I keep talking about. Considering how much I got done today, I'll actually have some time to work on that tonight. I will make it a point at this moment to plan topics for the next seven days. This way, I won't spend any day of the next seven days having to write about my day or finding something interesting that happened to comment on. I'll have planned the topics. The topics will be awesome. The posts themselves will be incredible, and I will have that much less stress.

What I'm Going to Do Once I Go Home

I have many things to do once I finish this blog post and get home. The day is not yet over, so let's not waste it. Here's what I must (and totally will) do once I finish this and get home:

  • Come up with seven topics for the next seven days
  • Laundry
  • Make soup for dinner
  • Read a chapter of Half the Sky (I could actually start this on the bus ride home)
  • Play Wii (it counts as exercise. You'd know if you actually played)
  • Maybe more work?

I haven't decided yet if I'm going to drop by to the coworking space tomorrow or not. They are getting the microwave tomorrow, but I don't have anything to eat for lunch. But, I got lots of work done and had some fun today! I want to do that tomorrow. So... add to the above list, "think about tomorrow."

5 Reasons Why Coworking is Great for Content Marketers

For those who don't yet know, I rent space over at Saint Louis Coworking. I pay a monthly fee to have my own desk and to have a professional business address (plus, my rental office isn't to keen on the idea of working from home). It's also not the most productive, since my home doesn't have the room for an office. However, I am the only content marketer here, and I think more freelancers and content marketers should come and join me and the coworking movement, whether or not they are writers. Here are five reasons why coworking is good for freelancers:

  1. It's Easy Networking - Not everyone in the coworking space is the writer, so a shared workspace presents an excellent opportunity to network with other professionals. You never know who you may run into that will need some web content written or a manuscript looked at. Most coworking spaces also host events where members may attend for free, so this is yet another opportunity for you to network with professionals and let people know that you are a writer for hire.
  2. It's a Chance to Get Out of the House - Working from home may be cheap, and may have everything you could ever want or need, but you certainly don't want to spend all day every day at home. Even if you don't want to rent a desk or office at a coworking space, most do have a drop-in option where you can find a table to work at. It has less distractions than a coffee shop, and you won't have to worry about finding a spot or having an outlet for your laptop. Coworking spaces have plenty of both as well as free coffee. Plus, it's a chance to get outside the house and talk to people face-to-face.
  3. It's an Opportunity to Work with Other People - Not only does coworking offer a chance to network and to find work, but it's also a chance to work with others and exchange ideas. If you need to come up with a few topic ideas to pitch to a blog, you could possibly ask your coworkers for help. If you're working on a story and you need another source or two, you could find if you're coworkers could help, or know someone who could help. In return, you may be able to offer that marketing consultant a few good ideas, or be the go-to grammar person of the place.
  4. It Often Has All the Necessary Office Supplies - I understand the benefit in having your own printer, fax machine, and telephone for your home office, but many coworking spaces also provide all that for you as part of the membership fee. That's less money that you have to spend on printer paper, cell phone minutes, and maybe even copying fees. Although that could mean fewer deductions you can add to your taxes, it does mean fewer things that you have to worry about, whether you worry about them now or later. Also, depending on how much stuff you have for your freelancing business, a coworking membership could also mean additional storage space and free office furniture.
  5. It Has Things That Are Almost Impossible to Have at  Home - Even if you do have a professional home office, it can still be a little strange to host a client meeting. Fortunately, most coworking spaces do have at least one conference room or private meeting room for that exact purpose. It would save you the trouble of having to go to a separate location from your office. Saint Louis Coworking, for example, also has a small library and a public library within walking distance, so getting a book isn't a problem either. And, depending on the location of your coworking space, eating out is now a more viable option. Of course, I wouldn't recommend eating out every single day, but sometimes it's nice to grab some Thai food or a few slices of pizza.
I think coworking is great and that more freelancers should do it. If anything, it does add a sense of legitimacy to what you do. You aren't trapped so much in the world of your own office, but you do get to meet others doing what you do (and succeeding at it as well). Coworking offers a sense of community of other freelancers and independent contractors, which is something that can be hard pressed to find.