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Working Mothers, Essay Example

Pages: 3

Words: 730

Essay

Will Working Mothers Take Your Company to Court?

In their article, “Will Working Mothers Take Your Company to Court?,”  authors Joan Williams and Amy Cuddy present a thorough and enlightening view of a very modern circumstance, that of the employer’s role – and vulnerability – in regard to working mothers.  The issue, of course, is not new.  As the authors point out, there has long been an odd tolerance for the particular bias against working mothers, and they suggest that this is due to American ideologies stressing the importance of the mother/caregiver role.  Women are accustomed to accepting discrimination anyway, it is implied, so this form of it is largely accepted by them.  Those working mothers who choose to challenge the bias, however, have apparently triggered great shifts in the marketplace.  Such women resist career derailment as an inevitable consequence of raising families, take their employers to court, and juries are largely sympathetic to the suits.  Then, these movements are not restricted to mothers; a man forced to take family leave to care for his sick parents, penalized by his job, was awarded $11.6 million in damages (Williams, Cuddy). The actions of such workers, and corporate response, then form the substance of the article.

The authors make one point very clear early in the article: the reality of the new, families responsibilities forms of litigation carries a significant impact today.  If working mothers of the past were typically content to accept whatever decisions their employers made regarding their limitations, this is no longer the case.  From 1998 to 2008, in fact, there has been an increase of over 400 percent of these lawsuits (Williams, Cuddy).  Williams and Cuddy then go on to examine the multiple factors fueling “family bias” on the job.  While they admit that their research is largely confined to U.S. cases, they provide ample evidence that the underlying issues are both widespread and rooted in commercial tradition.  This is so much the case, in fact, that most working mothers do not sue, despite the enormous rise in lawsuits over family leave issues.   Williams and Cuddy note here that many such women present their leaving their jobs as choices made, rather than as forced circumstances, because they are fearful of impeding a return to their careers later.

From here, the authors describe the prescriptive, benevolent prescriptive, and descriptive forms this kind of discrimination takes, noting the subtle characters of each and how they reflect traditional, patriarchal concepts of family rearing.  In descriptive bias, for example, working mothers are actually redefined in the workplace as weaker performance is automatically attributed to the demands of the home and children.  The remainder of the article serves to provide management with a realistic and equitable framework for eliminating the discrimination that may well result in disaster for the company.  To begin, and seemingly unnecessarily, the authors emphasize the importance of knowing and adhering to the law, and not allowing personal viewpoints, no matter how common, to steer professional decisions in this regard.  They stress the critical importance of not making assumptions, which translates to the proactive inquiring of women how they foresee pursuing their careers when the family is imminent.  Equally important is that the company remove whatever form of stigmatizing is in place for the working parent, as Williams and Cuddy cite numerous examples of working mothers denied promotion opportunities and/or compelled to accept lesser compensation, even as other employees with lax attendance records are not so penalized.  All of this, it is encouraged, must be infused into the training policies of the company, to avoid regressive policies.

All things considered, “Will Working Mothers Take Your Company to Court?” is an engaging and highly relevant article.  It educates, but in an accessible way, and no point is presented without documented cases to support it.  At the same time, and in its stress on fathers as being very much a part of the issue, there is no overtly feminist leaning here.  More effectively, Williams and Cuddy examine the situation of families responsibilities lawsuits as rising radically, note the background and forms of the discrimination behind it, and sensibly inform companies of the logical policies needed to be in place to ensure ethical treatment of all employees, and to safeguard the company itself.

Works Cited

Williams, Joan C., & Cuddy, Amy J. C.  “Will Working Mothers Take Your Company to Court?” Harvard Business Review, 2012.  Web. Retrieved from http://hbr.org/2012/09/will-working-mothers-take-your-company-to-court/ar/1

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