Many among my women friends have their knickers in a knot over two comments in the debate on Tuesday, October 16, 2012, and I don't really understand why.
The first is the "binders full of women" line. It probably would have been more clear to say something like, "binders full of curriculum vitae from talented women," but of all the things Romney said, is this really the thing we care about most? Personally, I'm more concerned about his tax plan, the details of which are still unclear to me.
The second is the anecdote Romney shared about his chief of staff in the Massachusetts gubernatorial office. Here's what he said:
"I was proud of the fact that after I staffed my Cabinet and my senior staff, that the University of New York in Albany did a survey of all 50 states, and concluded that mine had more women in senior leadership positions than any other state in America.So, after Romney went out of his way to include women in his cabinet, one of them asserted herself and asked for a reasonable schedule so that she could also be a mother. And he agreed. Governance is not a nine to five job, but Romney, as he presents himself here, was willing to work with a staff member who wanted to be home most evenings.The only part of the above statement I take umbrage to is the idea that it is only women in the workforce who need this flexibility. All caregivers, male or female, should feel empowered to ask for the flexibility they need to do their jobs well and take care of their families.
Now one of the reasons I was able to get so many good women to be part of that team was because of our recruiting effort. But number two, because I recognized that if you're going to have women in the workforce that sometimes you need to be more flexible. My chief of staff, for instance, had two kids that were still in school.
She said, I can't be here until 7 or 8 o'clock at night. I need to be able to get home at 5 o'clock so I can be there for making dinner for my kids and being with them when they get home from school. So we said fine. Let's have a flexible schedule so you can have hours that work for you." (transcript courtesy of ABC)
Today, instead of talking about the challenges women and men face in trying to balance careers and families, and how that chief of staff was gutsy to ask for what she needed, people are saying things like this:
I am a mother, and I have a professional career. I do want my evenings free. I want to be able to cook dinner for myself, my spouse, and our children, or to enjoy a meal that one of them cooks for all of us. Unfortunately, the realities of the American workplace make this increasingly difficult for me and for my husband. Every week I have to make decisions about whether I will stay on campus for a meeting or event and let the kids sit in after care at school or skip the meeting and pick them up on time. Whether I will put time into my family or into my career.
Instead of taking pot shots at sound bytes, let's talk about issues and solutions.