We had a bit of a snafu and there no notes for the final panel of the day, Calling for Institutional Change. But who needs 'em? We have VIDEO: http://ylsqtss.law.yale.edu:8080/qtmedia/ylw/OptOutInstChange032809_s.mov
Many thanks to third-year student and conference volunteer Meagan Reed for the following recap:
Parenthood and Gender Roles
This panel incorporated into the discussion the personal, as well as
institutional, changes that need to occur within families to
accommodate shared career and parenting responsibilities, noting that
individuals' personal lifestyle changes in the aggregate can generate
the necessary pressure on employers and institutions to produce larger
workplace and social reforms.
Sociologist Kathleen Gerson described three prevailing trends in
parenting relationships, the new traditionalism (female primary
caregiver, male primary wage earner); shared parenting
(interdependence); and self-reliance (financial independence), noting
that men and women agree on the ideal (shared responsibilities) but not
the "fall-back" position should that ideal fail to work out (men
overwhelming prefer neo-traditionalism, whereas women opt for
self-reliance by an equally impressive proportion). Women may prefer
self-reliance over a caregiver role in theory due to fears of dependence and divorce, as well as concern that domesticity will not be fulfilling, but in practice,
suggested panelist Amy Vachon, one of the biggest challenges for women
is letting go of extra caregiving and household responsibilities
because of insecurity about losing the "specialness" conveyed by
traditional roles for wives and mothers; likewise, men who are
committed to equal parenting in theory often find that they are unwilling to make required work/career compromises in practice, in part because of a social definition of masculinity that includes being the "provider" and achieving professional success.
Thus, for couples to actually live the equal parenting ideal,
explained Marc Vachon, it is necessary to adopt a mindset of "conscious
purposeful sharing" in the areas of child-raising, breadwinning,
housework, and "self-time," consistently reinforcing women's
responsibility in the workplace and men's active role in the home, and
requiring compromises by both partners to benefit the family as a whole
(although in this context, compromises don't necessarily mean
sacrifices - Marc believes that these tradeoffs result in an overall
optimization of life and maximization of happiness).
Psychologist Francine Deutsch emphasized the importance of
rejecting biological essentialism, pointing out that parenting
arrangements ("nurture") rather than biology ("nature") are responsible
for lopsided mother-child attachments to the exclusion of the father as
a primary caregiver; or as she put it, quoting a study participant,
"There's no reason to think a mother has an instinctive ability to
change a diaper."
Finally, all of the panelists considered a supportive "care
network" or "chosen family" to be very important to the success of a
non-traditional parenting model.
VIDEO LINK: http://ylsqtss.law.yale.edu:8080/qtmedia/ylw/OptOutParenthood032809_s.mov
Many thanks to outgoing YLW Chair and YLS second-year student Lauren Gerber for notes on the following panel.
Leslie Bennetts, author of The Feminine Mistake, and Michael Teter, of Workplace Flexibility 2010, debated whether or not the solution to women leaving the legal profession lies with individual women or with institutional structures.
Ms. Bennetts described her findings after researching what happens to women who do “opt out”: they sacrifice enormous amounts of income over their lifetime, they have extremely difficult times trying to return to the workforce, and they become depressed and unhealthy. Ms. Bennetts urged the audience to stick it out through the hard early child-rearing years, despite institutional roadblocks.
Mr. Teter, in turn, described the three areas of focus for Workplace Flexibility 2010: Flexible Work Arrangements that are the norm for EVERYBODY, not just women; Time-Off Policies that provide short-term, episodic time-off; and Career Reentry Policies for workers who leave and seek to reenter. Mr. Teter agreed with Ms. Bennetts that workers who “opt out” face enormous challenges reentering the work force, but he argued that institutions need to adapt to that type of interrupted career path, shifting the burden from the worker to the employer.
VIDEO LINK: http://ylsqtss.law.yale.edu:8080/qtmedia/ylw/OptOutWorkplaceFlex032809_s.mov