Posted: Jan 21, 2014 5:00 AM
 
Sabrina Parsons, CEO of Palo Alto Software, recently made comments about how the popular "Lean In" philosophy is counterproductive to female success in the workplace. Parsons urges women not to try to fit themselves into the mold created by male business leaders but to create a more family-friendly working environment so career-minded women don't feel compelled to hide the importance of the other roles in their lives — wife, mother, community leader or friend. Working moms weigh in on changes they'd love to see in the workplace so they can advance their careers without hurting their families.

A working mom challenges "Lean In"

In a recent Business Insider article, a working mom weighed in on "Lean In," Sheryl Sandberg's movement to encourage women to push past the glass ceiling by "leaning in" to the male-dominated corporate culture. Sabrina Parsons isn't the first working woman to question Sandberg's philosophy, but her words are sparking conversation because she holds a high-level corporate position — CEO of Palo Alto Software. Parsons agrees that women need to work harder, work smarter and absolutely do more than is expected of any job position if they want to advance their careers.

Women need to come together and demand that we are given the flexibility to excel in our jobs; to admit that we have kids and not hide that fact in fear that it will stunt our career opportunities.

Yet her position differs greatly from Sandberg's in execution, if not in work ethic. She tells Business Insider, "What needs to change is how and when women work. Being told to 'lean in' by itself is not useful. Instead, women need to come together and demand that we are given the flexibility to excel in our jobs; to admit that we have kids and not hide that fact in fear that it will stunt our career opportunities; to occasionally bring a child into the office to quietly do homework on a day when school is out or daycare is unavailable."

Working moms react to Parsons' words

We spoke to moms who work outside the home to see what their workplaces could do to improve flexibility while allowing them to focus on their careers and their productivity.

Working mom wish list


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Onsite childcare

Mandy Dawson blogs at Mandyland and works full time outside of the home. She found herself frustrated with the "Lean In" philosophy because it doesn't attempt to change corporate culture and ignores the lives employees have outside of their jobs. She notes, "It just bugs me that we can't change our corporate culture to say, 'People have kids, aging parents, dogs, lives outside work. What can we do to make this easier instead of adhering to past practice?' And then do it across the board — not just at a few forward-thinking companies." Mandy works in a position where her hours are inflexible, which can be frustrating. She says, "Onsite childcare would be on my dream list. We've talked about it at work, but it's something that might happen in the next 10 years, not really now. I'd also appreciate having the ability to bring my kids to work with me if they were sick or if they had a teacher work day."


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Flex time

Flexibility is the word that came up most frequently when talking with working moms.

Jennifer Williams would love a more flexible schedule. She says, "Allow me to work from home one to two days a week, or let me work a flexible schedule so that I can attend school functions or be off on those rare days that my kids are off without using vacation days."

Flexibility is the word that came up most frequently when talking with working moms. Moms aren't trying to shy away from working long, tough hours. They just want the ability to work the clock in different ways, from working some hours at home to taking time in the middle of the day and making it up by working earlier or later.


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Better maternity benefits

baby bottle and pacifierKristin Shaw from Two Cannoli recently left her full-time career to freelance, but she has strong opinions about maternity benefits. She says career-minded moms need, "longer paid maternity leaves, more job sharing options and more easing back into the work schedule after a baby." For some moms, short maternity leave makes them feel powerless regarding their career trajectory. With a limited maternity leave option, women feel like they're relinquishing their career ambitions if they mention they're uncomfortable leaving a six, eight or 12-week-old baby with a child care provider.


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A family-friendly company culture

Robin Farr works full time and blogs at Farewell Stranger, and she talks about some of the things her company does that make her feel like they value families. She says, "My company does a few family events, like an event in the summer where they bring in a bunch of vintage aircraft and offer lunch, and we can eat outside the hangar and check out the planes. And another event called The Dirty Bird Wash where they have employees bring their kids to the hangar where there's a big jet the kids can wash."

Employers who get it right

I can basically start and end when I need to to make my day work, as long as my scheduled stuff is done when scheduled and I meet deadlines.

Cameron Garriepy works for a small business, and she appreciates the flexibility her employer offers. She says, "We are not 'corporate' America, but a thing I love about my office is that my child is welcome if he can do a quiet activity. It also doesn't matter how I structure my work days as long as I get my stuff done on time and attend any scheduled things and cover phones when scheduled. I can basically start and end when I need to to make my day work, as long as my scheduled stuff is done when scheduled and I meet deadlines, or leave and come back when I need to under the same parameters."

Arnebya Herndon of What Now and Why? compliments former employers, "Things I've enjoyed at former companies that made my life easier are backup daycare, a nursing room for breastfeeding moms with cold storage and conference room use for kids too old for backup daycare but not old enough to stay home alone."

The bottom line

The global economy — and the accompanying time zones — means business can be done around the clock. Innovation doesn't only encompass creative ideas for products and services but also the ways in which we provide those things. Let's work together to create a workplace that rewords hard work, productivity and creativity — even if that workplace doesn't look like the boardrooms we see in the movies.

More about working moms

Working moms' guide to quality time
Thoughts on the Lean In phenomenon
Working moms and Sunday night blues

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