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Thursday, February 03, 2005

Down with cookie cutters

Diversity is good. People are different. So why should we expect everyone to fit into the same cookie-cutter career paths?

Lisa Belkin had a column in the Sunday New York Times called, "Envisioning a Career Path With Pit Stops." It basically said that jobs need to be adapted to fit a modern society that acknowledges that men aren't the only ones who want to work and excel in a career. This would allow women (and men) to take pit stops along the way for maternity leave and child rearing and still be able to accelerate back into the workforce when they are ready.

This was a follow-up piece to the Lawrence Summers speech, and Belkin's biggest problem was with Summers' notion that if you work less, you get less. It seems logical on the surface. You pay less for a car, you get a smaller car (compact sports cars cost a lot); you pay less for an airline ticket and sit in coach (I've had a free upgrade before); you get a small dog, you end up with smaller poop (depends on what you feed it). Just like these ridiculous statements, on the surface Summers' comment doesn't "sound all that explosive, does it? And that is the problem."

A debate raged on this blog last month when I said that the biggest problems with the Harvard President's comments were the fact that people are expected to work 80 hours a week if they want to be successful. We don't have a cookie-cutter society, so I don't understand why we have cookie-cutter jobs and cookie-cutter expectations around what makes someone successful. Belkin wrote:
To help workers reach different destinations, we must revamp outdated roads - ones that do not work for more than half the working population. It means building a tenure track that does not create a black hole during the prime child-bearing years; it means assuming that child-care leave can last years, not weeks, and that systems will exist to keep workers up to speed while they are away; it means a partnership track not only for the young and tireless but also for the older and wiser; it means scientific research grants that allow for pauses - like maternity leave and child-rearing time.
I'm just excited to see this being discussed in mainstream media. Hopefully as more people--both men and women--read about it, the more everyone will realize the inequities, and push for change.

Then we'll have cookies in all shapes and sizes and our biggest problem will be deciding which one to eat first.

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