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Number 141-143 - December 2013-February 2014

 

In this issue:

     Mommy Track, Daddy Track

     Hot Links: What we do to boys; Testosterone Profiling?; Traditional Standards of Male Behavior; The Death of the Y Chromosome

 [Miss me? I didn't think so. I've been busy with Christmas and other stuff. The weird numbers above are so I can track the date with the issue number.]

Mommy Track, Daddy Track

Work/life balance typically goes like this for both men and women: If you have a home life, your work - earnings and promotions - will suffer. If you concentrate on work (with various kinds of paid or unpaid domestic help), your home life will suffer. Sure, you get to balance things, but at a price.

Daddy Track

A decade and a half or so ago, social-science pundits in the popular press were writing about the "mommy track" - a career track that hampers women's progress in the workforce when they become mothers and either drop out for a while or cut back their hours.

Yes, some women seem to manage to have it all - bright, happy kids; devoted husband; a corner office; a six-figure income; and enough sleep. Dig beneath the surface and you're likely to see constant frustrations and compromises.

One solution is called "flex time": women (mostly) get to set flexible hours, job-share, work part-time, or have more personal time off. Problem is, these concessions to family life involve jobs mostly at the low end of the wage spectrum. Can you think of a lawyer or banker or CEO that works three days a week? Some women continue to face hard choices between career success and being flex-timed onto the mommy track. Libby Lane explores this conundrum in an essay on learnvest.com.

Now we're reading about a "daddy track" that can harm the long-term earnings and career prospects of men when they choose to spend more time with their kids. Though some companies have instituted paternity leave policies, men take far less time than, theoretically, they have coming to them, and far less than their female counterparts - even in the few countries and US states that have laws mandating paternity leave.

And - guess what - men's upward mobility and lifetime earnings take a hit, though not as heavy a hit as the one that women endure.

Many, if not most, two-parent families are still living in the traditional milieu of husbands as principal and higher-paid breadwinners. Especially in families living paycheck to paycheck, or paying off crushing debt from college loans, the husband is shackled to his work - often in a way that is damaging to both himself and his family. Flex time for Dad, or even more than a minimal paternity leave, seems to be out of the question.

However, a recent series of articles in The Atlantic has explored not only the risks of paternity leave but also the benefits - citing companies that require paternity leave or offer a general new-parent leave with a required minimum number of days for Dad. The upshot is happier families; more-engaged dads; women able to concentrate on both work and family; and the opportunity to establish, early on, the kind of parenting partnership that strengthens the family in the long run. Oh, and in one study, taking paternity leave in the late '70s reduced the dad's death risk by 16 percent by 2001. Look here and here for details.

A blog from the Anderson Group summarizes the current state of paternity leave.

One potential downside: Childless workers may resent the "special treatment" being shown parents in the workplace, perceiving some inequity in the monetary value of the perks that parents get. And there's another, opposite, downside: Childless workers can spend more time at work and in furthering their education (and marketability) than workers using parental leave or flex-time.

We have a long, long way to go before parental leave and career mobility are in balance and are gender-neutral. But it looks like the seeds have been sown. M

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Hot Links

What We Do to Boys Here's a trailer for an upcoming video on what we do to boys before they grow into men. It's provocative, and you may agree or disagree with parts of it. I hope the final product has a balance between bemoaning hypermasculinity and celebrating boys as small humans that do boyish things.

Testosterone Profiling? "Manly Faces and Aggressive Men" explores the relationship between testosterone, handsomeness, masculinity, and aggression. The writer wonders, tongue firmly planted in cheek, if the cops will start profiling guys on the basis of facial width.

Traditional Standards Damon Linker is ashamed of, and disgusted by, some abusive masculine behavior that's celebrated because it's "under assault by phalanxes of feminists." He claims that ". . . American society over the past few decades has stopped holding men to traditional standards of honor, restraint, and civilized decency - standards that, whatever their defects, tended to channel and elevate masculinity." And he offers a challenge: "Want to be a 'real man'? Master your own most primitive, sordid instincts! That is the message we need to convey to American men."

Death of the Y Chromosome Not that we need to worry about it right now, but some researchers have claimed that the male Y chromosome may become extinct, along with men, in the next 5 million years. Not so fast, says evolutionary biologist Melissa Wilson Sayers. The genes on the Y chromosome may have been "whittled down" over the millennia, but a core of them remains, and that core is essential to human life. More here and here and, for an even earlier study, here. M


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