The twenty-something set mistakenly believes that men and women are equals at work; meanwhile, the wage gap between men and women continues to increase. The wage gap doesn't affect women until they have a kid — when they are way too busy juggling work and family to shout out to the world about the wage gap. But there is hope: April 24 is Take Our Children to Work Day, an event that aims to draw attention to the fact that the corporate world stifles the careers of people who take care of kids — mostly women.
The event used to be Take our Daughters to Work, but at this point, the problem is not getting women into the management track, it is getting them to stay there.
Last year the United States General Accounting Office released the Women in Management Study which found that women and men have roughly equal levels of education and equal numbers in the work force. But industry by industry, evidence of the wage gap persists. For example, a full-time female communications manager earned 86 cents for every dollar a male made in her industry in 1995. In 2000, she made only 73 cents on the man’s dollar.
A little digging into the study shows that the pay gap was widest among parents, and that in management positions women have a harder time than men doing the career-family balancing act. Across all industries, 60 percent of male managers have children in the home compared to only 40 percent of women managers.
So what's the best way to reach the ranks of senior management? Don't have kids. Women in management make less than men because women find it much harder than men to continue the long, hard hours that management demands once they have kids at home.
Are you one of the women who think this problem will not affect you? Are you thinking you will be able to balance kids and climb the ladder? Then you'll need a stay-at-home-dad to raise your kids. A recent issue of Fortune magazine ran a cover article about how most moms who are high in the ranks of corporate America have a husband at home taking care of the kids. Good luck finding a guy to do that. The men featured in the article were so humiliated at their position that most refused to be interviewed.
One of the biggest barriers to change is that women don't perceive that there's a problem until they have a high-powered job, two screaming kids, and a husband who says, “I support equality; Let's hire a nanny so we can both work.” At this point, the woman is overwhelmed by the demands on her life, and less likely than the man to be satisfied with the nanny solution. These women have little energy to advocate for change in the workplace — in fact, they usually cut back or drop out (hence the wage gap).
So take a kid to work on April 24. Even if you don't have a kid, borrow a kid. These kids will run in and out of cubicles, scribble on white boards, raid the office fridge, and generally have a great time. Hopefully, they will also disrupt everyone's day, annoy the workaholics, and remind people that the corporate ladder does not accommodate people who take care of children.
The first step toward change is to engage in serious discussion. This is not happening now, but it might start happening if change leaders identify themselves on April 24 by bringing a kid to work. These are the people who will help the next generation of parents close the wage gap; these are the people who will scheme with you to reform the workplace. Take notice of the other people who show up with kids. Band together and start your own workplace revolution.