career, issues, life, personal

Work-life balance is not a “women’s issue”

I’ve lost track of panels I’ve attended with women leaders and activists – who are invited to speak about their careers, accomplishments, and lessons learned – where the conversation almost inevitably skews to questions about work life balance. And quite often, the questions are asked by other women (often younger women) who want to know how to achieve similar success, but also have a life at home.

But rarely have I attended a panel about careers where men are asked how they manage to balance their life at home with their career ambitions. And I don’t think I can recall a single instance where young men in the audience have asked questions about balance, or sought advice on managing family and work in their own lives.

Work life balance is undoubtedly important, but these are questions we should all be asking and answering.  Balance, and the need to care for family members, is a problem that affects both men and women.  Although it affects everyone, it is unfortunately (and inaccurately) perceived as a “women’s problem.”

In her new book, Unfinished Business: Women Men Work Family, Anne-Marie Slaughter notes that a 2013 Pew study on parenting showed that 50% of fathers, and 56% of mothers with children at home said that they find it difficult to balance the responsibilities of work with those of their family. Slaughter writes,

“…both women and men who experience the dual tug of care and career and as a result must make compromises at work pay a price. Redefining the women’s problem as a care problem thus broadens our lens and allows us to focus much more precisely on the real issue: the undervaluing of care, no matter who does it.”

She goes on to note that “it’s easy for employers to marginalize an issue if they label it a ‘women’s problem.’ A women’s problem is an individual issue, not a company-wide dilemma.”  But if it is a broader, more systemic problem of valuing care, it suddenly becomes much more pressing of a challenge for businesses and workplaces.  Slaughter also underscores that journalists, the media, business, and industry all choose to frame issues of care, and work life balance, as “women’s issues.”

Indeed, attending events and asking female panelists questions about how they manage to balance work and life — and failing to ask male panelists the very same questions — shows our bias as a society, and further perpetuates this myth that care and balance is “women’s work.”

So the next time you attend a panel (and particularly if you are male!), why not pose the very same questions to male panelists? Ask them how they managed to achieve career success, while also managing to balance family and care.

Only by posing these questions equally can we start eradicating the assumption that balance and care is for women alone. It may not solve the problem, but it is certainly a start.

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life, personal

A New England Autumn

Sometimes, you need to get away from the hustle and bustle of student life to enjoy a morning of solitude, crispy fresh air and crunchy leaves, and the beauty of nature to rejuvenate yourself. This visit to Walden Pond reminded me of so many pieces of wisdom that Thoreau gives us, and his reminder to always walk your own path, be a truly and genuinely good person, be present, live simply, and pursue your dreams. It is a much needed reminder in a hectic year for me, in which it is easy to forget those simple lessons.

“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.”  – Thoreau

2013-10-13 12.14.22-1Jars of Jam in a Turkish Bakery in Cambridge

2013-10-13 10.17.33-1A crisp autumn morning spent in seclusion with Thoreau at Walden Pond, MA

2013-10-13 10.13.01Beautiful autumn colors at Walden Pond, MA

2013-10-13 10.00.46Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined. – Henry David Thoreau

2013-10-13 10.03.54I never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude. – Thoreau

2013-10-13 10.00.25-1What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lives within us. – Thoreau

2013-10-13 09.29.02Pursue some path, however narrow and crooked, in which you can walk with love and reverence. – Thoreau

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career, innovation, life, non-profit, personal, social change

What gets me excited

I have a lot of interests and passions. I am driven to find ideas in justice & social change that make sense, are about the people, and fill real needs. So what excites me? Carlos recently asked me, “So how do you keep yourself motivated when it doesn’t seem like things are changing in this world?” Well, here’s part of my answer. This is what inspires me, even when the going gets rough. Change is not easy, so we have to selfishly reach deep inside and pull out what drives us, at the core.

I get excited when I find people driven by a cause larger than themselves. Whether on social media or in the “real world,” I want to have long late-night discussions over coffee & hot chocolate (well, okay, I guess “IRL”) about justice, oppression, feminism, human rights, the law, social enterprise, traveling, and building something out of nothing. I want to find others who think outside the box, who are not confined to narrowly defined career paths, who are willing to take a risk to better this world. Perhaps selfishly, I want to find a team of people who will be completely dedicated to a vision and will work ruthlessly to achieve it. I get excited when I find people who understand what social justice is really about. And I get excited when I have the opportunity to converse with them, work with them, learn from them.

I get excited when I find something that works. Most non-profits suck. There, I said it. But when I find a non-profit that seems to work, whether it is “grassroots” or “multilateral,” whether it is domestic or international, I get excited. Because many non-profits (and social enterprises) are flawed, it’s not easy to find one that has the right mindset of change and makes a real impact. Not many people (and thus, organizations) get it. I mean, really, get it. When I find something that is really making a dent in the horrific things that exist in this world? Yeah, that gets me excited.

I get excited when I find ideas combining social innovation and the law. I am fascinated by projects expanding legal services to the poor, and am excited by the idea of rebuilding fragmented justice systems. I don’t know why, but this inspires me. At the same time, I have had one foot in social enterprise for some time now. I get excited when I see someone combining innovation and the law. I get excited by organizations that are innovative and new, while also harnessing legal solutions. Law is a conservative profession and somewhat slow to change — so to see someone taking a risk and going for their idea in this context gets me all fired up.

I get excited when I have an opportunity to write something meaningful. Writing is my deepest passion — which is why I started this blog, and can’t keep myself away. But beyond blogging, the chance to write something meaningful makes me want to stay awake. Anything from a personal statement to a grant to a case analysis — if it’s important and can make an impact, I want to write it. If it’s about something I love, I am endlessly excited.

I get excited when I find myself on a plane to somewhere new. Ever since I found myself criss-crossing oceans alone to return to my motherland at age ten, I have found myself with a permanent case of the wanderlust. Today I am in D.C., but planning my next adventure enthralls me. This is selfish, yes, but I want to see the world. I want to understand people and cultures everywhere. I want to make friends scattered across the map. I want to learn, absorb, grow, challenge myself. When I am on a plane headed somewhere across the globe — that is a moment to treasure.

What gets you excited?

*I got the idea for this post from the wonderful Diana Kimball. Did I ever tell you about her? She may not know me, but she had one of the first blogs I ever found and fell in love with. Her writing was beautiful, and formed part of the inspiration for me to start blogging. I just found her blog again yesterday, and she did not fail to inspire me yet again. Thank you for inspiration.

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