We’re managing just fine, thank you

I became a “manager” at 24. The year was 1971. My boss, Wight Martindale, Jr. (a blond haired, ultra-preppy guy), called me into the conference room at the publishing company where I was a reporter. There waited his boss, Howard, the big cheese and bookend WASP. Together, they announced that they were naming me an editor.  I’d be managing about six reporters in New York and about 20 around the country.

I wasn’t preppy, I wasn’t a WASP and I wasn’t a man.  I just worked hard and was pretty darn good at my job. I was married. No kids.  From then on, I rose through the ranks to become a publisher, an executive editor, a vice president and an executive vice president at the same company. I had two kids along the way.

A recent survey reported in The New York Times said:

1.) Women have made little progress in climbing into management positions in this country (We accounted for 40 percent of managers in 2007 v. 39 percent in 2000, according to a report just released by the GAO. NYT, Sept. 28)

2.) Women managers with children make less money than their male counterparts (79 cents of every dollar paid to manager fathers.)

3.) 63 percent of women managers were childless in 2007 v. 57 percent of male managers.

4.) Women earned 80.2 cents for every dollar earned by men in 2009.

This report makes it sound as if women are being victimized. What if these numbers really reflect conscious choices by empowered women?

We are smart cookies, all of us. If we decide to become mothers, we figure out whether we can be managers, too. Motherhood is demanding. So is management. Give one your all and the other gets less. Try to balance the two, and something usually gives somewhere else. Don’t expect to earn as much as someone who works longer or harder, man or woman. Or get promoted as often. Don’t complain about it, either.

It’s also no surprise that female managers are less likely to have children than their male counterparts. They choose career. If they want both, they can find men who will stay home with the kids. These men do exist.

I also know a world of FOF women who worked longer and harder than anyone and had kids at the same time.  They saw their children less, but the kids still turned into outstanding adults.

Fathers who don’t want to sacrifice their careers by going to after-school softball games and recitals aren’t bad boys. Mothers who leave work at 6 to cook dinner and help the kids with their homework aren’t bad girls. Fathers who stay home full time with the kids are pretty cool. And mothers who run billion dollar businesses and come home at 9 are pretty cool, too.

More and more companies today are giving women (and men) the opportunity to balance all their roles, as mothers and fathers, employees, daughters and sons, caregivers and cheerleaders. Working four-day weeks, working from home and job sharing all are possibilities now. I know many young women who work fewer hours so they can enjoy more time with their kids. They’re not looking to make millions, manage big staffs or have big titles. They have jobs—and lives—they love.  They wouldn’t have it any other way.

The GAO report, in fact, does not take into account how many hours people work, just whether they work full or part time. So a woman manager who works 40 hours carries the same weight in the survey as a male manager who works 60 hours. If I’m a boss deciding which manager should get a bigger raise, guess whom I’d pick?

So if more women choose to work fewer hours to be home with the kids, lets not lament the fact that they’re not making as much as men or becoming managers. Let’s applaud the fact that they have choices. Balance can be good.  No one ever said it’s perfect.

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