3 Work-Life Balance Lessons I Learned from Men

For many career-loving parents, the holidays come as a welcome reprieve: a chance to enjoy a few slow weeks at work, unwind with the kiddos, and stuff their faces full of seasonal treats. Many parents look forward to the holidays.

But not me. And it’s not because I don’t love my family. It’s because—and there’s really no nice way to say this—I suck at the holidays. My weaknesses as a parent and a professional woman seem to become more pronounced when combined with the smell of a newly cut Christmas tree or a freshly baked pie. I over-plan, over-commit, and shop at the last minute. I worry about work when I’m at home and worry about home when I’m at work. I essentially spend the five weeks between Thanksgiving and New Years looking (and feeling) like a tightly wound ball of tinsel.

This year, though, I’m determined to handle things differently. My son will turn two just a few weeks before Christmas, and, unlike the past two years, he’ll actually understand what all those presents under the tree mean. I want to enjoy the holiday, not plow through it.

I’ve also come to realize that the stress I—and many other working moms—feel over the holidays is essentially just a concentrated version of the work-life balance challenges we struggle with all year. It’s as if the holidays are a final exam, an end-of-the-year evaluation of your ability to be both a mom and productive employee.

My go-to move for guidance is to poll my extensive network of like-minded career-loving moms. But, after spending a few minutes studying my husband’s placid expression as he perused our crowded—unmanageable!—list of holiday commitments, I decided that I needed to speak to some working dads. What are they doing that I’m not?

Here’s what I learned.

5 Ways Companies Can Attract More Women (Aside From Offering to Freeze Their Eggs)

Tech giant Apple made headlines last week for, like its Silicon Valley buddy Facebook, offering to cover the costs of female employees’ freezing their eggs, up to $20,000, for non-medical reasons.

While both companies frame the perk as part of their support of fertility, family, and parenthood (both Facebook and Apple reportedly have very generous coverage of fertility treatments, adoption support, and surrogacy support), it’s clear that this program also complements their ongoing effort to recruit more young women into tech. After a number of tech companies released their dismal diversity numbers earlier this year, there is a renewed cultural focus on encouraging young women to pursue an education in math and science that will lead to a high-paying position in tech.

Continue reading on The Muse.

Why I’m Not Boycotting the NFL

Super_Bowl_XLIII_-_Thunderbirds_Flyover_-_Feb_1_2009I’m a feminist, marketer, mother, and sports fan. I’m fascinated by the role athletics play in our culture, and, like many of my fellow football fans, I’m appalled by the NFL’s handling of Ray Rice and their documented leniency in cases of domestic violence and sexual assault.

But I’m not going to boycott the NFL. Despite the calls to do so by a number of feminists who I love and respect, I won’t stop watching games, and I’ll continue to allow advertisers to pay millions of dollars for access to my live-viewing eyeballs every Thursday, Sunday and Monday.

First, I think it’s worth reiterating that most NFL players have not been convicted of assault or domestic abuse and that the arrest rate for NFL players is generally on the decline (and less than the arrest rate of the general male population).

While I wish it didn’t take a viral video of an NFL player punching his fiance to do so, the national conversation sparked by Ray Rice’s — and other players’ — violent behavior is forcing our culture, from everyday spectators to CEOs of national brands to the ownership of billion-dollar NFL franchises — to think about how our society frames/portrays/accepts/ignores violence against women. Major companies like P&G and Pepsi are making public (albeit vague) statements about their condemnation of domestic violence, and the social media outcry against the Ravens and Vikings’ initial responses speaks for itself.

Is it problematic that one of our country’s most beloved sports excludes female athletes and includes violent offenders? Absolutely. But we need to figure out — as a culture — how we can celebrate athleticism, competitive drive, and physical prowess for both men and women while we continue to promote the acceptance of gender equality and condemnation of violence of all kinds. And football, as a highly visible, culturally relevant platform, is a great place to start.

American football is a performance of hyper-masculinity, and if it’s going to serve as a stage for us to have these important conversations, if it’s going to force the media, business owners, and government leaders to talk about violence against women and demand change, then I am certainly not leaving the theater.

In fact, women’s continued viewership is part of what’s forcing the league, the coaches, and the franchise owners to stop ignoring the problem. The NFL promises to deliver female fans, a valuable demographic, to their sponsors. Without us, their ad space loses value, and they lose money. Likewise, the sponsors don’t want backlash from women for tacitly supporting the NFL’s backward policies. They know that women are watching. And while women aren’t playing on the field, they’re covering the sport, sitting in the stands, and watching at home.

Football is a part of American culture, and its players’ horrible behavior (and the league’s equally horrible responses) have initiated conversations about how our society downplays violence against women and celebrates an outdated, hyper-masculine ideal. Young girls and boys are seeing their NFL idols kicked off their teams. Parents are talking to their kids about domestic violence and what being an equal partner and a loving parent really means. We’re re-thinking what it means to be a male athlete and a public figure. The NFL (and other leagues) are implementing new standards of acceptable behavior for adult men who agree to become cultural icons.

The latest bout of NFL scandals is making Americans have these conversations at tailgates, water coolers, and dinner tables everywhere. I’m thrilled that my son will grow up with an NFL that vigilantly removes violent men because they’re watched like a hawk by the media.

Female fans must continue to put pressure on the league and on the sponsors if we want to see this change continue. I plan on watching the games closely, and watching the NFL closer.

What to Make of “Female Empowerment” Marketing

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You can’t miss the recent surge of ad campaigns with messages of female empowerment. It seems like a contemporary phenomenon, but Dove pioneered this movement ten years ago, launching its “Campaign for Real Beauty” in 2004. In its first pass at “real beauty” messaging, Dove deployed ads featuring women with bodies of all shapes and sizes in understated undergarments and minimal makeup, drastically different from the usual lingerie-clad, made-up model. After much acclaim (and press coverage), Dove continued its “real beauty” campaign, partnering with Annie Liebowitz to celebrate the beauty of aging women and eventually zeroing in on the need to help younger women and girls, and society at large, embrace more realistic standards of beauty. In 2010, Dove established “The Dove Movement For Self-Esteem,” which, according to the campaign’s website, “delivers self-esteem education to young people (primarily girls) aged 8-17 years through lessons in schools, workshops for youth groups, and online resources for parents.”

It’s not surprising that other brands have begun to incorporate pro-women messages into their ads, especially in our post-Lean In world. As conversations about “having it all” continue to trend in major publications, and large, pop-culture heavyweights like Google, Twitter, and Facebook publicly commit to diversifying their workforces, brands are trying to tap into the viral potential of female-empowering messages. In fact, many brands have drastically altered their messaging and established philanthropic, educational platforms to back up their efforts. CoverGirl, for example, launched its #GirlsCan ad, which featured celebrity spokeswomen discussing (and rejecting) the limitations that were placed on them as young girls. CoverGirl accompanied this effort with a pledge to donate $5 million over five years to nonprofits that help women “break barriers and blaze trails.”

Continue reading on Women’s Media Center.

How to Ensure Sniffle Season Doesn’t Totally Destroy Your Office (and Sanity)

sickdayIt’s fall! For many people, the changing weather calls for celebratory traditions like sipping a pumpkin spice latte or heading to a football game at your alma mater. But for me, and for most working parents, the dip in temperatures and changing leaves only means one thing: the dawn of cold and flu season.

Working parents know that fall and winter can be brutal—colds, stomach bugs, and treacherous-sounding viruses and infections (hand, foot, and mouth, pink eye, thrush) hop from one child to another like joyful fleas and then hitch a ride to the office. Last winter, everywhere I turned—from my desk to my son’s high chair to the pediatrician’s waiting room—there was mucus. It sounds gross because it was.

Continue reading on The Muse.