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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Advice from a woman at the top

Today, I went to a fantastic lunch event sponsored by The Commonwealth Institute of South Florida. Maureen Kempston Darkes, one of the highest ranking officers at General Motors shared her views on leadership and navigating in an international business environment.

Here are a few tidbits she shared:

  • Take risks. Even if they take you out of your comfort zone. As a lawyer, she took a risk going to work for GM. She planned to stay for 2 years. She's been there 32 years.

  • When encountering sexism, have the courage to stand up and demand respect.

  • If you make it to the top, show support for other women. Darkes has mandated that 25 percent of new hires in Latin America are women.

  • When someone throws a wall in front of you, gut it out. When you are going through hell, keep going.

  • Work/life balance is important. Darkes says for the last 20 years as she built her career, her work/life balance "was off a bit'' and she regrets it. Now, she says, "I put things on the calendar that are important to me.''

Monday, October 29, 2007

Women breadwinners face custody issues

Kudos to ABC's Brothers & Sisters for tackling a thorny but timely topic. Last night's episode brought up an interesting work/life issue a female breadwinner actually could face.

In the show, Sara (Rachel Griffiths) has always been the breadwinner in her family. Her husband, Joe (Andrew Taylor), has been the stay-at-home dad and primary caregiver of their two young children. Now that the couple is separated, Joe announced last night that instead of joint custody, he wants primary custody. His attorney told the court that Joe would be able to provide the stability that Sara is unable to provide with her long work hours as CEO of her family's company. He backs his request with recent examples of Sara calling him to pitch in when her work schedule interfered with dropping off or picking up the kids. A judge granted Joe temporary primary custody for two weeks until a court hearing.

The show ended with a gut-wrenching scene -- Joe coming to get the kids to come live with him and Sara consoling her reluctant daughter by giving her a cell phone pre-programmed so she could all her anytime.

I'm sure this episode evoked strong emotions on all sides of this issue. But it made me think about divorce and custody from another point of view. Sara found herself in the position men have been in for years. She experienced the emotional cost of being the breadwinner. As women continue to ascend the corporate ladder and become the breadwinner in more U.S. households, there are real issues that will be played out. We want equality in the workplace and what we're seeing is that men want equality at home. I look forward to seeing how the Brothers & Sisters tackles this going forward.

To see a recap of the episode and its writers' comments, click here.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Jon Bon Jovi's work/life balance

What's it like to be a rock star dad? In an interview in BestLife magazine, Jon Bon Jovi gives a peek into what it is like to balance his work as an entertainer and his family life.

Bon Jovi is 45, married 18 years to his high school sweetheart and has four kids (ages 14 to 2) In his lifetime, he has played more the 2,500 gigs, in more than 50 countries, in front of more than 32 million people and sold more than 100 million albums. So how there is he for his family?

In the magazine interview he says, "I've been in one of the biggest rock bands in the world for 25 years and I'm not a saint and I have not been a saint... I missed tons of birthdays and school plays...It's my life and it is what it is....I don't look at this week's hot starlet and think about trading in or trading up. I don't have a mistress on the side or another family across town."

And while he admits he may not be the perfect dad, he says, "I do the best I can."

Isn't that what most dads aim for?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Bring your parents to work day

Too old to bring your mommy to work? Not.
Ogilvy PR is hosting a “Bring Your Parents to Work Day” at its New York headquarters. Who else but a PR firm would come up with such a great way to get some attention for being family-friendly.
The firm says its employees find their parents are often confused about PR, even though they are exposed to it every day when they read a great review about a new product. So Ogilvy saw an opportunity for the company to illustrate the connection, while strengthening its ties to its employees -- and maybe generating some good publicity for itself at the same time.
As part of the day’s festivities, parents will attend a classroom-style PR 101 lesson, receive an overview of the core business practices of Ogilvy PR, and engage in a brainstorm session and mock presentation.
“Ogilvy PR has created its own family of hard-working, passionate employees,” said Kate Cronin, managing director, Ogilvy PR, New York. “Ideally, through this event, parents will gain a deeper understanding for our industry so they can better appreciate the successes and accomplishments that their children achieve every day.”
Will a "Take Your Parent to Work Day" be the next corporate trend?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Disciplining by phone

Every afternoon, my kids call when they get home from school. Some days, even with the babysitter there, they act up mid-conversation. "Garret stop hitting me I'm talking to mommy,'' my oldest will shriek.
Disciplining by phone is challenging. That's why I'm sharing these tips from Cathryn Tobin, author of The Parent's Problem Solver.
  • Get his side of the story, Give your child a chance to explain what's going on. This is not an easy thing to do when you're distracted in the workplace.
  • Put him on hold. You can't solve major problems over the phone. But you can put them off until you get home. Ask for the immediate behavior you want to see (no more hitting your brother) and if there's a bigger issue going on, add that you will talk more later.
  • Relinquish power. Remind your child he needs to listen to whomever is in charge when you are not there.
  • Don't make threats. Fear isn't a smart way to control behavior.
Click here to read more on Dr. Cathryn Tobin's website.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Who gets to the top?

Can a person on the life side of the work/life balance equation make it to the top?
This is a question Vicki Meyer asks in this month's Florida CPA Today. She makes some great points about younger workers' expectations of work/life balance and the climb to the top.
She says, "When the people at the top of a profession have risen there through hard work, they have certain expectations for those to whom they would pass the reins. If you are someone who wants to rise to the top, your fate is in their hands."
Meyer gives some advice to young CPAs that anyone in business should consider. First, use common sense when it comes to scheduling time off work -- don't schedule vacation during the firm's busiest time of the year. Next, produce a good work product. She says old CPAs aren't really concerned that you tried hard and that you are a good person. Do good work and, exhibit some degree of humility when you miss the mark. Also, know your profession. Stay current with business trends and become an expert at something. Commit to your organization. Volunteer for leadership roles within the firm, even when you are striving for balance. It lets the firm know you care.
Remember, Meyer writes, work/life balance has to have both aspects -- work and life. The life portion requires hard work as well.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Learning from a Gen Y

Earlier this week I went to a training session at my newspaper -- one of those on using new technology. My instructor was half my age. Welcome to the new world, I thought.
But just as I'm feeling antiquated in a new tech era, I stumbled upon an article that gave me new perspective.
The gist was this: Older adults have learned to use the available technology, but many of us use it in ways that are different than the way Y's do naturally. Y's "woke up" in a world that was fully wired. They absorbed intuitively things that others have learned intellectually. They bring a perspective to today's world of work that is inevitably different.
NOW THIS IS THE PART THAT INSPIRED ME: Innovation -- happens within one individual's mind -- he or she has an "a ha" as a connection is made. But more often than not, it comes from two or more people getting together, each with unique perspectives or expertise -- and based on sharing ideas, coming up with something that none of them would have thought of on their own.
Maybe I'm not tech savvy but I do have experience. Maybe, if I work together with Gen Y together we will have an "a ha" moment. Maybe, there's a place all of us in this new tech world.
For the original article, click here.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Video of this mom says it all

If you're a mother, you must see this video. There's no doubt in my mind you will be able to relate.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Why we care if J-Lo is pregnant

What's the message that celebs are sending us about pregnancy?

AOL says Jennifer Lopez has dodged pregnancy rumors for months, and now the Latina diva is finally ready to fess up to the baby bump that she's (allegedly) got. Lopez plans to announce that she and husband Marc Anthony are expecting during the couple's concert at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night in her hometown of New York City. What's with the secrecy? Haven't we just been through this with Nicole Richie?

Maybe this celebs are facing the angst so many women encounter when deciding when to tell their employers they are pregnant. It's that fine line between wanting to be sure the pregnancy is going to work out and trying to not to act like you are keeping a big secret from your boss and maybe even your customers, or in J-Lo's case, her fans.

There is no perfect time to announce a pregnancy in the workplace. Just remember when you break the news, the receiver of the news may be happy for you, but what they are really thinking is, "how is this going to affect me." And you, like J-Lo, must be prepared to give an answer.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Does homework affect your work?

I love the newest Love & Money column by Jeff Opdyke on extreme homework. Jeff says the huge piles of homework his fifth-grade son brings home takes a toll on the entire family. He writes, "The volume of homework and tests that fill his docket is, in a word, ridiculous. I'm not sure when it happened, but at some point U.S. schools decided that if you can't teach 'em, test 'em...or pile on more homework."

Come on parents, you must be able to relate! Just last week I muttered something similar to what Jeff writes: "My son's life -- and by extension our family life -- is a constant, stress-laden stream of homework and tests and projects. It overshadows everything we do, always hanging over our head. It affects our weekends, our meals, our vacations, our work time, our playtime, our pocketbooks."

My co-worker, Donna, is convinced teachers actually want parents to do their kids' work. "When my son was in second grade we had a project returned to us saying it wasn't up to standards. The teacher showed us other projects that had been turned in and it was obvious the parents had done them. So my husband did our son's project. He got an A."

Jeff argues in his column that this issue of extreme homework actually affects our jobs. "At some point, the ability of Mom and Dad to keep the family clothed, sheltered and fed is relatively high on the Things To Do Today list. When I'm cutting interviews short to make a practice quiz, or Amy's going to work late -- or rising at 4 a.m. -- to help him prepare for a test, something's rotten with the system."

Here's the link to the full article. What's your take on extreme homework? Does it affect your family and work lives?

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Workplace stress may increase breast cancer

Today I'm happy I'm not the boss.

I just received an email stating this: A 14-year study involving 36,000 Swedish women showed that those holding highly demanding jobs are 30 percent more likely to develop breast cancer than those working in less demanding positions.

The study between in 1990 and 2004 surveyed volunteers who were active in the workforce. It revealed that 767 of the volunteers had been diagnosed with breast cancer. It was shown that full-time working women in stressful jobs were 30 percent more likely to develop breast cancer, but that there was no link between stress and breast cancer in part-time workers. Research suggests that stress may be linked to an increase in estrogen which increases the risk of cancer.

If there's ever an argument for reducing stress and finding work/life balance, this it. I guess it's no coincidence that the press release came from stress expert Dr. Terry Lyles who is quite willing to share tips for reducing stress. You can visit his website at

Fewer women lawyers, why?

Fewer women are applying to law school. Since 2002, the percentage of women in law schools has declined each year, according to the American Bar Association. It's has dropped from 49 percent to 46.9 percent in five years. This is a reversal of a long-running trend. The prevailing message is fewer women want a lawyer's life. Oddly enough, this comes as firms are trying harder to attract and keep women lawyers by adopting family-friendly policies and flex schedules. Is it too little, too late? What needs to be done? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Monday, October 01, 2007

Work-life balance wins legal support

What if a job applicant says in the interview that she can only take the job if flex-time is available because she has child care issues or an elderly parent at home to care for?

An article in the National Law Journal says a new statute might very well mean that the employer's refusal to hire her would open it up to a lawsuit. The law isn't there yet (in most states, anyway), but it may be soon. A framework is being erected. How did this come about? How far might it go?

The new buzzword is "FRD" — family responsibilities discrimination — or unfair treatment based on an employee's obligations to family. The thinking is that as boomers age, people increasingly will have limited employment opportunities because of family responsibilities -- this would apply to men and women, professionals and lower-paid workers.

FRD already is making its way into state laws, local ordinances and direction from the federal government. For now, it is disguised as employment discrimination, sex discrimination or caregivers discrimination. The academics, the advocates, the administrators and the judges are all dealing with it.

Labor lawyers predict it is only a matter of time until legislators bring FRD out into the open and wearing its own name --as a new federal law. Would this be a good thing?