The United States has the most family-hostile public policy in the developed world. Despite what is often reported, new mothers don’t “opt out” of work. They are pushed out by discriminating and inflexible workplaces. Today’s workplaces continue to idealize the worker who has someone other than parents caring for their children.
Conventional wisdom attributes women’s decision to leave work to their maternal traits and desires. In this thought-provoking book, Joan Williams shows why that view is misguided and how workplace practice disadvantages men―both those who seek to avoid the breadwinner role and those who embrace it―as well as women. Faced with masculine norms that define the workplace, women must play the tomboy or the femme. Both paths result in a gender bias that is exacerbated when the two groups end up pitted against each other. And although work-family issues long have been seen strictly through a gender lens, we ignore class at our peril. The dysfunctional relationship between the professional-managerial class and the white working class must be addressed before real reform can take root.
Contesting the idea that women need to negotiate better within the family, and redefining the notion of success in the workplace, Williams reinvigorates the work-family debate and offers the first steps to making life manageable for all American families.
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Joan C. Williams is Distinguished Professor of Law, 1066 Foundation Chair, and Director of the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law.Review:
At last, a book that leaps past the current work-family debate. It is time to free women and men to nurture their children and support their families. Brilliant! (Joan Blades, co-founder of MoveOn.org and MomsRising.org)
An incisive analysis that is both a joy to read and a must read. Williams shows that work-family conflict is not just an issue for women's magazines; it is at the core of what ails America. Changing the way we think about gender in the workplace is the first step toward a more politically potent progressive agenda, and this book illuminates the path forward. (Heather Boushey, Senior Economist, Center for American Progress)
In this sensible and erudite book, Williams exposes the myths that have dominated work and family policy discussions and argues for the inclusion of men's activities and differences by class. By adding these crucial dimensions, she points the way toward simpler, smarter, and more sober analyses. (Michael Kimmel, author of Manhood in America: A Cultural History)
A very important book. Skillfully cracking popular myths about the 'average family,' Williams offers a fascinating analysis of the importance of workplace culture, the code of masculinity, and class blindness in perpetuating widespread work-family tensions. (Sharon Hays, author of Flat Broke with Children)
Reshaping the Work-Family Debate cements the position of Williams as one of the most imaginative and influential legal theorists and activists of her generation. Every American citizen--female and male, rich and poor--who is part of a family or a workplace will benefit from wrestling with the ideas of this visionary realist. (James T. Kloppenberg, Harvard University)
This book will transform how we think about work and family issues as it shows how gender traditionalism and recent culture wars are fueled by the hidden injuries of class. Long a leader in the work-family field, Williams guides us to solutions that make sense in today's world. (Naomi Cahn, co-author of Red Families v. Blue Families)
This ambitious book is a much-needed breath of fresh air in the recycled atmosphere of debates about work-family conflicts and the stalling of the gender revolution. (Cecilia Ridgeway, Stanford University)
This refreshing, empirically based book offers solutions for a wide-ranging audience: business leaders, diversity professionals, and executive coaches; and for men and women struggling to understand why equal sharing is so hard to achieve at home, and work-family balance is so hard to achieve at work. (Robin Ely, Harvard Business School)
In her brilliantly insightful new book, Reshaping the Work-Family Debate: Why Men and Class Matter, Joan C. Williams suggests that in order to finish the stalled gender revolution it will be necessary to incorporate both men and class into discussions of work-family conflict. Williams writes beautifully and one of the many strengths of the book is her ability to synthesize massive amounts of disparate research from the law, sociology, psychology and politics, and turn them into one compelling case for change...This book will join Williams' first, Unbending Gender, as a key piece in the canon of work-family scholarship. It is essential reading for all work-family scholars across a wide range of disciplines...It should be added to the pantheon of other contemporary gender scholarship that has moved the work-family debate forward...It is my hope that it will also prove to be essential reading for politicians seeking progressive solutions. (Sarah Damaske Sex Roles 2011-03-04)
The most engaging and thought provoking portions of the book are those focused on understanding how masculinized workplace social norms are restrictive to both men and women and the fact that such norms are reflective of the devaluing of caretaking in our society. In doing so, Williams helps to place societal discussions of work-family into a broader context, thereby highlighting the crucial roles played by larger social forces (such as the structure of workplace organizations and gender norms) in shaping the work-family decisions made by men and women...Williams' commitment to effecting real change in work-family policy is refreshing, and she does place needed emphasis on social class and concrete political strategies. Readers of Reshaping the Work-Family Debate will not only be encouraged to think about work-family issues differently, but will also be impressed with Williams' dedication to the coalition building she views as necessary to bring about meaningful social change that allows everyone to lead healthier, more balanced lives (Krista Lynn Minnotte Teachers College Record 2011-02-15)
Williams is eloquent on the stresses created for both men and women by a workplace culture that relies on the old image of the hard-working, always available husband and the stay-at-home wife. She unmasks the fact that women do not drop out of the workplace, as the media often claim, but rather are pushed. (Jean Hardisty Women's Review of Books 2011-07-01)
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