Call to Action: Women and Work / Life Balance

By Natalie Kauffman

At the National Career Development Association's Seattle conference in July 2007, career services professionals from women's colleges, whether members of NCDA, NACE and/or the Women's College Coalition, will gather in person and virtually to continue the CALL to ACTION. Started at the National Association of Colleges and Employers annual conference during a pre-conference workshop on Tuesday, May 29, 2007, the Call to Action was keynoted by special guest speaker Jennifer Walters, Dean of Religious Life at Smith College. Dr. Walters is co-director of the Smith College project on work/life balance, called "Women's Narratives of Success."


Clockwork of the Career

In a speech to the Chautauqua Institution in July 2004, Carol Christ, president of Smith College, said, "Women's colleges have long emphasized their records in educating women for leadership. But they have given less prominence to the set of issues that I have been discussing today - the clockwork of the career. We must take this on. If the first feminist revolution was about equity, and the second feminist revolution was about aspiration, the third is surely about the structure of careers." Wouldn't it be great if career services professionals from women's colleges better understood and actively participated in this "third feminist revolution"?

Smith College and Mount Holyoke College hosted a conference of women's college presidents from around the world in June 2004. Before the conference, presidents were asked to identify the three most important challenges facing them. By far the most frequent answer was "women and work." Presidents' concerns about this topic varied, but many agreed strongly that an innovative restructuring of employment practices was needed to accommodate a more diversified workforce.

Female Job Seekers

In the April 21 & 22, 2007 edition of The Examiner / Baltimore, mother-friendly characteristics were shared in the article "Women in Business: Mothers try to strike a balance" by Marie Gullard. Flexible working hours, on-site child care, training, and leave policy are some of the characteristics that make companies mother-friendly. These characteristics can deliberately be sought by female job seekers in researching a company for employment. Gullard additionally shared that Abbot, Capital One, Verizon, and Wachovia were ranked on WorkingMother's 2006 Top 100 Best Companies for Moms. Such mother-friendly characteristics and companies will surely have a great influence on this third feminist revolution.

Smith President Christ closed her speech to the Chautauqua Institution by saying, "College and young adulthood is a time of reinvention, of re-imprinting. We need to help our students and young people, particularly young women, imagine new narratives for themselves that do not undermine ambition with a false sense of choice. We need to talk about balance and the need for balance. Women often repeat the joke about Ginger Rogers - that she did everything Fred Astaire did, but backwards and in high heels. It's time to walk forward in flat shoes, in the same direction as our partners, arguing for policies that allow us all more capacious and humane lives. With different responsibilities for family, we need to invent a new clockwork that keeps time for families as well as careers."

Facilitating the Call to Action

How can career services professionals from women's colleges integrate these valuable components of choice for women and help facilitate the third feminist revolution about the structure of careers? Plan on attending the NCDA/NACE/Women's College Coalition event in Seattle. Discussion will likely include a review of the following questions that were addressed at the NACE pre-conference session.

� What messages are our employers sending to our women's colleges students regarding the types of lifestyles they will have in specific careers?

� What messages are our professors sending to our students regarding career?

� Do we have allies in the faculty?

� What are students telling each other?

� What messages are our students' parents sending to their daughters?

� Most important, what are some ways that, if all things were possible, work could be structured so that women could maintain meaningful careers for as long as they choose to and that business could continue to benefit from their knowledge and commitment?

This NCDA Seattle -in person networking opportunity/virtual teleconference' will take place before the opening conference keynote session on Friday, July 6, 2007 across the time zones:

12:00 noon -1:00 pm Pacific Time
1:00 - 2:00 pm Mountain
2:00 - 3:00 pm Central
3:00 - 4:00 pm Eastern

If you cannot attend the conference, but would like to participate virtually by telephone, please call or email Catherine Neiner, director of Career Planning at Agnes Scott College (cneiner@agnesscott.edu and 404-471-6425) or Natalie Kauffman, director of the Center for Career & Service-Learning at the College of Notre Dame of Maryland (nkauffman@ndm.edu and 410-532-5387). Catherine is a member of both the Women's College Coalition and NACE. Natalie is the NCDA Southern Trustee and a member of both NACE and the Women's College Coalition. More information about the Women's College Coalition is available at http://www.womenscolleges.org/.

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