The week@work – Mark Zuckerberg’s parental leave, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Gloria Steinem have lunch, and 29 words to avoid in an interview

The stories selected from this week@work include Mark Zuckerberg’s decision to take two months of parental leave, a conversation between Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Gloria Steinem, and advice on words to avoid in an interview.

Mark Zuckerberg’s choice to ‘lead by example’ and step away from work to care for family may signal to Facebook employees and other CEOs that the world is finally changing for dual career parents.

Covering the story for Wired, journalist Julia Greenberg wrote:

“Zuckerberg is perhaps the most prominent chief executive of a major public tech company to take this much time off following the birth of his child. That’s important, because executives set the tone for a company (and, in some ways, the country) when it comes to balancing work and family.

Like some other major tech companies, Facebook already offers new parents a parental leave plan considered very generous by US standards. New parents at Facebook can take four paid months off. They receive benefits such as $4,000 for each child born or adopted. As we’ve written before, however, employees may feel reluctant to take advantage of such plans if their companies don’t have a culture that encourages taking time off. And company culture typically comes from the top.

 Let’s hope more companies will offer new parents more leave, and that dads will be able to follow his lead.”

One of the highlights of The New York Times Sunday Style section is the ‘Table for Three’ feature. This past week, Philip Galanes shared the conversation between Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Gloria Steinem.

I recommend reading the complete interview, if for no other reason than to provide a historical context for the current conversation on gender discrimination in the workplace. Here is a short excerpt.

PG: One of the cleverest things you did as a litigator was demonstrate how rigid gender roles harm men as much as women.

RBG: There was an interesting case this court decided in the first year Justice O’Connor was on the bench, about a man who wanted to go to the best nursing school in his area, but it was women-only. You could read between the lines what she understood: There was no better way to raise pay for women in nursing than to get men to do it.

GS: Equal pay for women would be the biggest economic stimulus this country could ever have. Big-time profits are being made from gender roles as they exist. It would also be win-win because female-headed households are where children are most likely to be poor.

PG: Last subject: You are both bridge builders. Justice Ginsburg on the court; and Gloria, with a sea of men and women over the years. Any advice for getting along with people who disagree with us to the core — like Justice Scalia?

RBG: Last night, my daughter and I got a prize from a women’s intellectual property group, and Nino [Scalia] was in the video, saying his nice things about me. He’s a very funny man. We both love opera. And we care about writing. His style is spicy, but we care about how we say it.

GS: I think Ruth is better at getting along with people with whom we profoundly disagree. I feel invisible in their presence because I’m being treated as invisible. But what we want in the future will only happen if we do it every day. So, kindness matters enormously. And empathy. Finding some point of connection.

Moving to the job search, Jacquelyn Smith writing for Business Insider provides us with a list of ’29 words you should never say in a job interview’. Drawing on tips from Michael Kerr, here’s a sample:

“‘Money,’ ‘salary,’ ‘pay,’ ‘compensation,’ etc.  Never discuss salary in the early stages of the interview process, Kerr says. “Focusing on the salary can raise a red flag with potential employers that you are only there for the money and not for any deeper reasons,” he says. “More and more, employers are looking for people who align with their mission and values.”Negotiations can and should be done after — or at the end of — the interview phase.

‘Weaknesses’ or ‘mistakes’   Never voluntarily talk about your weaknesses unless they ask you with the standard interview question, ‘What’s your biggest weakness?'” says Kerr. And don’t bring up mistakes you’ve made at work, unless you’re talking about them to show how you’ve made significant improvements.”

Two other articles of interest were published on the Fast Company site this week:

‘Where Google, Apple and Amazon employees want to work next’Lydia Dishman

‘The World’s Five Biggest Employers Aren’t Who You Think’Charlie Sorrel

One more thing…

This past summer I celebrated July 4th in Brussels. It’s one of my most favorite cities in the world. The people I met in shops and restaurants are in my thoughts this weekend. Be safe.

Marissa Mayer – Tag Team Parent?

On Tuesday, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer announced via Tumblr that she is expecting twin girls. On the same day New York Magazine writer, Oz Spies described her life, as a mother of three, as a ‘tag-team parent’. These two distinct narratives provide a vivid illustration of how folks cope with balancing work and life in a world of income inequality.

Ms. Mayer became one of the highest profile working mothers three years ago, not long after her appointment as head of the global internet service. A 2013 profile in Vogue described her strategy to balance work and child care.

“She set up a nursery next to her office, and for several months after Macallister was born, he and his nanny came to work with her.”

In her announcement this week, she implied she would utilize a similar approach with the birth of the twins.

“Since my pregnancy has been healthy and uncomplicated and since this is a unique time in Yahoo’s transformation, I plan to approach the pregnancy and delivery as I did with my son three years ago, taking limited time away and working throughout. I’ve shared the news and my plans with Yahoo’s Board of Directors and my executive team, and they are incredibly supportive and happy for me. I want to thank them for all of their encouragement as well as their offers of help and continued support.”

What is the message to the employees at Yahoo who might be planning family leave when the CEO opts out?

Writers Claire Cain Miller and David Streitfeld explored the issue in their NYT article, ‘Big Leaps for Parental Leave, if Workers Actually Take It’.

“Such contradictory signaling from Yahoo, which lengthened its parental leave in 2013, is typical and ambiguous, said Joan Williams, director of the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California, Hastings. “The underlying work culture sends the message that if you’re really committed, you’re here all the time,” she said.”

On the other side of the spectrum, meet a Colorado couple, parents of three. One is a firefighter and the other a writer and consultant in the non-profit sector.

“We’re tag-team parents. It’s a term coined by the Center for Economic and Policy Research for parents who work alternating schedules, taking turns at both paid employment and child care, and it’s a work-parenting setup that’s on the rise. More than one-fourth of two-income couples include an adult working a nonstandard schedule (other than nine to five with evening or weekend hours).

Shift work is nothing new, but traditionally, many men who worked overnight, including firefighters, had wives who were stay-at-home moms. Now, more of these couples trade off work and kid duties. On my husband’s crew (all married fathers), the wives are all in the workforce, most of us fitting that work in around our husbands’ 48-hour shift blocks and our children’s school schedules. As a nonprofit consultant and writer, my job often gets done from a computer in our basement late at night, and I fit in the rest on the days when my husband is home with the kids. It’s yet another way that families today don’t look like the breadwinner father and stay-at-home mother ones of the past.”

While the media focuses on the birth announcements of business rockstars, it ignores the larger issue facing middle class families today. The average parent cannot bring their child and nanny to work. The cost of child care for two or more children exceeds the additional revenue of most second incomes. In the majority of families there is only one solution, alternating schedules with frequent handoffs of toddlers in parking lots when the best plans fail and shifts overlap.

This is our new American dream.

“Single parents, deployed parents, grandparents who are raising the children of their children — there are all kinds of complexities with which to wrestle. We figure it out as we go and we keep going.”

For the majority, including Oz Spies and her family this is the new normal.

“For us, tag-team parenting is the best way to see the kids we adore, do work we love, and still pay the bills. We’ll never have a standing Friday date night or every weekend together, but all this tag-team parenting has made us appreciate that we’re a team.”

Maybe Marissa Mayer’s strategy for blending family and work is a version of ‘tag team parenting’. It’s just hard to visualize a pre-dawn Silicon Valley McDonalds parking lot where a CEO and venture capitalist husband exchange toddlers, diaper bags and car seats.

The week@work – Unemployment, economic mobility, parental leave, a tribute to #55 and anticipating Rio

The week@work included the first debate of the 2016 election season, the release of economic indicators and two American corporations announcing generous parental leave policies. This week also marks one year until those who work in sports will demonstrate their skills at the Summer Olympics in Brazil. And the NFL, in its wisdom, denied a Hall of Fame inductee’s daughter the opportunity to fulfill a father’s wish.

Once again, the week@work was about values: those we hold as a society and those organizations demonstrate not just in policies, but in action.

The June jobs numbers were released by the Labor Department on Thursday. Ben Casselman reported on the numbers behind the numbers in his article for ‘FiveThirtyEight’, ‘Don’t Forget The Workers The Recovery Is Leaving Behind’.

“U.S. employers added 215,000 jobs in July, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said in its monthly jobs report on Friday. It was the third straight month of job growth above 200,000, and the 10th in the past year. Revisions to prior months’ data added another 14,000 jobs, and the unemployment rate held steady at 5.3 percent, the lowest it’s been since before the recession.

Although the progress has been impressive, it has not been absolute. The headline unemployment rate is nearing a level most economists consider healthy — policymakers at the Federal Reserve consider a rate of between 5 percent and 5.2 percent “normal” over the long term — but the government’s official definition of unemployment leaves out people who have stopped looking for work or are stuck in part-time jobs. A broader underemployment rate, which includes both groups, stood at 10.4 percent in July, still well above its prerecession level.

It’s worth paying particular attention to a handful of groups that were hard-hit by the recession and continue to struggle in the recovery: African-Americans, young people, the less-educated and the long-term unemployed. The good news: All four groups are seeing some improvement, in some cases rapid improvement. But all of them have a long way to go before their employment could be considered healthy.”

In a related opinion piece, Nicholas Kristof posed the question, ‘U.S.A., Land of Limitations?

“Researchers have repeatedly found that in the United States, there is now less economic mobility than in Canada or much of Europe. A child born in the bottom quintile of incomes in the United States has only a 4 percent chance of rising to the top quintile, according to a Pew study.

…more children in America live in poverty now (22 percent at last count) than at the start of the financial crisis in 2008 (18 percent). They grow up not in a “land of opportunity,” but in the kind of socially rigid hierarchies that our ancestors fled, the kind of society in which your outcome is largely determined by your beginning.”

The week@work story with the most press was the decision by Netflix, soon followed by an announcement from Microsoft, to offer extended parental leave.

Vauhini Vara writing in The New Yorker reports on ‘Why Parental Leave Remains a Privilege’.

“There are other reasons for policies like Netflix’s, besides the fight over talented workers. Gerry Ledford, a senior research scientist at the University of Southern California’s Center for Effective Organizations, pointed out that the companies that offer costly benefits, like long paid parental leaves, tend to be financially successful, with money available to spend on H.R. perks. Google and Facebook are highly profitable, and while Netflix is only barely profitable, investors don’t seem to mind; the company’s share price set a new record on the day that Netflix announced its updated parental-leave policy. A third factor—and perhaps the least known—has to do with Silicon Valley’s location in California, where all workers have access to some amount of paid leave for the first six weeks after the birth or adoption of a child; it’s easier for a company to justify generous parental leave when many of their employees were already taking time off anyway.”

This time next year we will all be cheering our respective nations as athletes compete at the Summer Olympics in Brazil. As NBC rolled out their initial commercials in anticipation of hours of broadcast time, two stories offered a preview of the competition.

The first was part of a series of videos produced by GoPro. Beach volleyball competitor and Olympic silver medalist April Ross narrates a four minute video describing her ‘life @work’ on the beach. For young women who aspire to elite competition, April’s perspective is a window on the dedication required to succeed. She shares her pride at winning silver but is motivated to take that “one step up on the podium” in Rio. Her best advice, “Don’t get caught up in other people’s expectations”.

And then there is the young woman who goes to work every day in the water. Katie Ledecky startled all in London in 2012, when she earned gold in the 800 meter freestyle. This week she won five gold medals at the World Championships. The New York Times reported on her achievement, becoming “the first to win the 200, 400, 800 and 1,500-meter freestyles in a major competition.”

“Ledecky capped off a history-making week on Saturday at Kazan Arena with another milestone. In the 800-meter freestyle, the event that launched Ledecky into the international spotlight at the 2012 London Olympics, she set her 10th world record of the past 24 months with a clocking of 8 minutes 7.39 seconds. The time was 3.61 seconds better than her 13-month-old mark.

Ledecky, 18, slapped the water three times — once for each individual world record she set at these world championships.”

Junior Seau was a football player. On Saturday he was inducted along with seven others into the Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. The New York Times covered the ceremony and the story behind the story.

“In his 20-year N.F.L. career, Junior Seau established himself as one of the game’s greatest linebackers. He committed suicide in 2012 at age 43 and was subsequently found to have had a degenerative brain condition linked to repeated hits to the head. Before his death, Seau told his daughter Sydney that she should speak on his behalf if he made it into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But the Hall, citing a five-year-old policy of not letting others give full speeches for deceased inductees, did not allow Sydney to deliver her speech.”

Today, The New York Times printed Sydney’s complete remarks as the full page lead story of the sports section. Her words reflect the sincere love and respect of a daughter for a father and a desire to fulfill his wish. One wonders, one more time, about the disconnect at the NFL between stated and demonstrated values.

“The two words that exemplify my dad the most are “passion” and “love.” Everything he achieved, accomplished or set his mind to was done with both qualities. In every situation — whether it be practice, a game, a family barbecue, an impromptu ukulele song or just a run on the Oceanside Strand — he always gave you all of himself because to him, there was never any other option.”

“Being the first Polynesian and Samoan to make it into the Hall of Fame is such an accomplishment. He is proof that even a young boy from Oceanside can make his dreams a reality. All his success is a direct reflection of the Oceanside community and family that raised him and molded him into the man he became. Although he is the first Polynesian to make it into the Hall, I know he will not be the last.”