Wal-Mart, Women, & Workplace Inequity

Wal-Mart, Women, & Workplace Inequity

There will always be inequity in pay – – and usually the inequity is on the side of women because they are, most of the time, the designated primary care-giver once they become a parent.  I think where the equal/balancing act gets skewed is in the importance a parent plays in the life of a child.  Once you’re a parent, YOU view your career differently (even if you do not want to admit it in writing or publicly).

For a few, they will hire nannies or have extended family that plays the role either of primary care-giver during working hours – or emergency care giver when the child is sick, school gets cancelled, etc.But – for the vast majority of women – they will make the conscious (and correct) decision to put their career in 2nd place because their child needs them NOW.  It won’t matter what project is due, what deadline may be missed or meeting not attended – – they will be with their child.

Most men do not face this challenge – and consequently – by upper management – – they are seen as the contributors who will always be ready to work the extra hours, do whatever it takes, to get the job done.  Ask a room full of men and women at work (between Sept & May) what they’re most concerned about every day between 3:15 – 3:45.  90% of the women will say they’re waiting to hear from their children that they are home safe.  Most of the men will answer along the lines of working on whatever is in front of them. This is the basis for the Wal-Mart Class Action lawsuit.

The world of work is like athletic competition – – it is a game.  The biggest difference is the work game lasts for years – – athletic competitions only last for short periods of time, followed by long periods of down-time.

I’ve never had a client say they were glad they put their company first – – but I’ve had 100+ rue the fact they missed too much of their child’s growing up and they cannot go back and relive it.

For most of us, our children are our legacy, not our career.

Kay Stout is a Managing Partner in Pacheco Stout Consulting, a public speaker, and a leader in career transition.  Visit blog, Another Point of View or Twitter @kaystout.    Kay is a regular on the Behind The Mike Radio Show.

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell (@jmillermerrell) is a workplace change agent, author and consultant focused on human resources and talent acquisition living in Austin, TX. Recognized by Forbes as a top 50 social media influencer and is a global speaker. She’s the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource and host of the Workology Podcast.

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  1. AvatarChris aka newresource says

    I get your point, but a part of me feels like we are letting those that violate the Equa Pay Act an “out”. Women may be more family orientated, but they still should be compensated fairly. Pay is skewed along many different demographics and we can not accept it. Infact, women may need more since they are jungling them both at the same time. I was raised by women, so to see a woman work just as hard but be discounted because of their sex and the possibility that they will put their family first, is not new to me. But it’s no excuse.

  2. AvatarKay Stout says

    Alan – You’re right. Fathers are seen as committed team players – it is assumed someone else will be the primary caregiver (translate – flexible schedule).

    Chris – – I think where the biggest inequity make occur is who is hired/promoted for those positions the company feels must have someone in place who is committed to putting the company first. No they won’t say it, but it is one of the understood, unwritten, rules of the company. And, from the standpoint of the company – who’s goal is to make money – – I can understand.

    Short version: We do not get overs with our children. They have one kindergarten Christmas pageant, one speech contest, etc. With technology, it can be recorded but nothing beats being THERE, in the moment.

    15+ years ago, Bill (Sr VP of major corporation) was an outplacement client. He took off a few weeks to visit his grown son and make up for lost time while his son was growing up. He came back in less than 2 weeks and looked devastated. With tears streaming down Bill said his son wasn’t mad, he just said his Dad was 20 years too late. Bill had missed his childhood and they couldn’t go back. The son said he was not going to make the same mistake. When I asked Bill if his career had been worth the sacrifice – he said @@!#%@ NO!!!!. He asked me to please share it with clients who had small children – – I have.

  3. AvatarBianca says

    Hi there, I was curious as to how the photograph used in this post was chosen? I have worked in corporate environments 12+ years and have yet to see an executive wearing a skirt with a slit cut straight through her upper thigh. I’m not being judgmental about your choice, after all it’s your blog, I’m just curious.

    I would also add single/childless employees in this boat, sometimes it feels as if the expectation is that we’re expected to work longer and harder because we don’t have children. In my personal experience I have seen examples of parents that use their children as excuses to work less i.e. “Junior has another cold, I have to take him to the doctor”. On the other hand, I’ve seen parents who don’t even have pictures of their children in their office b/c they feel like they’ll lose out on plum projects because of the behavior of parents in the preceding sentence.

    I would wager that this shouldn’t be interpreted as gender disparity but more so about the quality of life and the criticality of a work-life balance. I’m hopeful that now that there’s multiple generations (baby boomers, gen x/y, millennials) in any given work environment, leadership will recognize this as an opportunity to re-define workplace behaviors that reflects our changing cultural behaviors as well.

  4. AvatarKay Stout says

    Thanks so much for all your responses. Things will change when the executives at the top are more diverified. In the meantime, if I were young I would find a medium sized company that would give individuals more flexibility..but that usually only occurs IF the execs children have faced the same challenges. Things have progressed, a lot, since I entered the workplace – but progress is slow and it is never ever equally balanced.

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