It’s Time to Change

I’ve spent my adult life in search of my own personal ‘Alice’ from The Brady Bunch. She was a super supporter: team-Brady’s not-so-secret weapon who offered the level of care that I later grew to understand was nothing short of essential to the success of the woman I would someday become. Maybe the mythology of the Brady Brunch was just on a continual loop for one too many hours and perhaps I saw the set-up one too many times as an impressionable girl in my 1970s suburban Philadelphia home. But I’ve got Alice on my mind. I keep coming back to the show and to that catchy little tune, the one meant to address Peter’s voice jumping octaves at a critical moment:

When it’s time to change, then it’s time to change

Don’t fight the tide, come along for the ride, don’t you see

When it’s time to change, you’ve got to rearrange

who you are into what you’re gonna be.

It is indeed time to change.

Anne-Marie Slaughter perfectly captures the context and the need in her New York Times’ editorial, “A Toxic Work World”. Her call for cultural change — how we think, talk, and value family — is spot on, fact-driven and compelling as can be. She makes clear why not only is it time to change — but real change is within our grasp.

The whole of this story rings familiar. We see this in the It’s Working Project: the Portrait Project shares story after story of families sharing their truth of trying over and again to meet their own personal version of success. Some “make it” (though, it is hard to hit a moving target), many make it work by taking the shortest term view and simply getting by. Others find themselves guilty, confused and living an unrecognizable and disconnected version of their own personal (dare I say, Brady Bunch) ideal. Waiting for cultural shifts that are not only overdue but positioned to become our new normal.

Ms. Slaughter urges that it is time to address real-time change. And suggests that immediate attention needs to be paid to:

  • High quality and affordable child care and elder care
  • Paid Family medical leave for women and men
  • A right to request part-time or flexible work
  • Investment in early education comparable to our investment in elementary and secondary education
  • Comprehensive job protection for pregnant workers
  • Higher wages and training for paid caregivers
  • Community support structures to allow elders to live at home longer
  • Reform of elementary and secondary school schedules to meet the needs of a digital rather than an agricultural society

On the bright side, Ms. Slaughter shares some success stories — she acknowledges and appreciates tech companies for taking pride in their cultural advances and even competing with each other to quickly master what is needed to truly support families in the workplace.

Part of our work at the It’s Working Project also includes the opportunity to regularly meet with the private sector industry leaders — they share their willingness to make strides in real time. Perhaps scared by the looming millennial driven staffing crisis. Or, perhaps convinced by the clear directive of the bottom line. Often times simply looking to raise the bar and bring families back to work with ease, as a matter of course and suddenly with a sense of pride. Whatever the motivation — they are ready, willing and able to change.

Once we engage with private sector leaders they are amazed to find these shifts are not as complex as imagined. Strides toward flexibility, access to care, spaces to pump milk, simple to manage maternity leave policies and enhanced leave all turn out to be well within range. The need is there, the products exist (organizations like ours and also Leave Logic, Care.com and others are squarely focused on simple, turn-key solutions in the workplace) to easily facilitate this change.

Couple this new view, attitude and openness with the real, dominating need and you will likely agree with our assessment that it is time to change — and we are uniquely positioned to commit — via the private sector to making now the moment.

Organizations such as Hilton, Change.org, Netflix and many more have already reaped the riches of early adaptation — media attention and good old positive buzz. The real-rewards will be in the longest-term view — employee recruitment, retention and consumer-facing reputational feedback — affirming and affecting the bottom line.

So what now? What happens next depends a great deal on keeping the whole of this issue front and center. Please keep engaging with us at the It’s Working Project. Keep reading, sharing and encouraging others to share their story of back to work after baby in America. Help keep the reality of the current workplace visible and understandable through the honest, first person narrative that is your voice. Help keep the problem and the solutions obvious and clear — Alice is not coming — but change is.

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