• 6 Feb 2018 10:20 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Today marks the 25th Anniversary of the signing of the Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA) by former President Bill Clinton on February 5, 1993. FMLA established, for the first time in the US, a federal law that guaranteed many employees up to 12 work weeks of unpaid leave each year with no threat of job loss. At the time, FMLA was a significant step forward in spite of the fact that it only covered 3 out of 5 US workers since 40% of US workers did not meet the criteria.

    But today, as the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) turns 25, we must recognize that our country is still in need of a long-overdue reckoning about equality, respect for women, and the sanctity of the family. If we truly are a country that supports family values as well as the ability to live and work with dignity, we need policies that value caring for our most vulnerable citizens: our newborns, our elderly, and those struggling with serious illness. And that very specifically includes paid leave.

    Passing paid family and medical leave likely means exploding stereotypes and the “same old arguments” about jobs, family and care that have held back progress on this issue for many years. It means not caving in to the tired cliché that “it will destroy our nation’s ability to compete.” Given we are the only developed country in the world that does not offer paid parental leave, that’s a hard argument to make. It means recognizing that our businesses and economy are stronger when people can provide for themselves and their families during times of acute need. It means protecting the health and economic well-being of working people, families and communities, which will ultimately lead to a stronger economy and nation. Statewide family and medical leave policies in CaliforniaNew Jersey and Rhode Island have been petri-dishes for a national policy and research tells us that these policies have been anything but a jobs-killer.

    The FAMILY Act – a national paid leave plan – would create a sustainable, affordable, inclusive national paid family and medical leave program that would provide security when people need time to care for a new child, a severely ill or injured loved one, or their own serious health issue.

    Women, who not only have children but also do the lion’s-share of caregiving in the US, will clearly benefit from such a proposal becoming law. We assert that we want a society which promotes gender equality, yet year after year we fail to make this most basic commitment to show our honest support for a law that would provide the foundation for that equity. But a paid family leave law would go beyond support for working women.

    For the last eight years, our Center (the Boston College Center for Work & Family) has done extensive research into the work-family challenges that face today’s “New Dads.” What’s clear from our work is that most fathers today want to be present and involved from the first days of their children’s lives. In our 2014 study on paternity leave that included 30 corporations and more than 1,000 working fathers, a number of interesting findings surfaced. For instance, virtually every study participant (99%) felt that paid paternity leave should be offered to new fathers. But most (86%), also stated that they could only take leave if they were paid at least 70% of their salary and 45% indicated they would require full salary in order to take leave.

    This last point clearly demonstrates that having paid leave is an economic necessity. Taking unpaid leave is extremely challenging for most working Americans - dads or moms, especially those on the lower end of the income scale. A job guarantee is fine, but living on no income while caring for newborns and other loved ones in a time of critical need is simply not economically feasible.  

    So at 25, it’s finally time to wake up. Most of us will experience the joys (and challenges) of parenthood in our lives. And unfortunately, all of us will experience a serious illness or crisis in our own lives, or in those of our family members. To quote one of my Boston College colleagues, what we need now aren’t family-friendly policies, they are reality-friendly policies. They are national policies that accept the realities of life and support the dignity and needs of all of our citizens.

    #FMLA25 #paidleave

    Brad Harrington is the Executive Director of the Boston College Center for Work & Family and a Research Professor in the Carroll School of Management

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  • 6 Feb 2018 10:17 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    With December’s arrival, we turn our attention to Christmas - the most wonderful, wondrous, and unfortunately, overwrought holiday for Christians around the world. I wrote a piece a few years back on how “presence trumps presents” - encouraging people to spend less time rushing to a frenetic mall to shop for gifts and rather spend time with loved ones, realizing that our time is likely the most precious gift of all. Our family does this each year by engaging in a number of holiday traditions. One of our most cherished is attending an annual performance of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol at Trinity Repertory Company in Providence, RI, one of the most respected regional theatre groups in the country.

    Of all the great English-language authors, Charles Dickens has always been my favorite. His turns of phrase, humorous anecdotes, and unforgettable characters make his works a joy to read. But I also love his messages on social justice and his penchant for showing that his most humble and understated characters are those mostly likely to engage in noble and selfless acts. For a short work, A Christmas Carol, written nearly 175 years ago, offers more than its share of wisdom. It is as relevant today as it was in mid-nineteenth century.

    Three lessons from a Carol stand out in particular to me. Two are from the visit of the Ghost of Christmas Past who “invites” Scrooge to relive Christmases of his days gone by. The first lesson is to simply look back. If not often, at least occasionally, ask ourselves the question “What led me to where I am today?” In a class I teach at Boston College, the first assignment I assign to my students is to write a 20-page autobiography. As it did for Scrooge, the students’ long look back brings up many sometimes forgotten memories, the good and not so good, of the people and events that have shaped their lives. The insights students gain from this exercise are invaluable. Many find answers to their most important life questions - some of which had been long and often pondered, others never before considered. Whatever the case, the past is filled with answers to many of our life’s most vexing questions, if we only take the time to reflect on it.

    The second lesson from Scrooge’s journey back comes on the occasion of a Christmas party he attended as a youthful apprentice working for “old Fezziwig.” Mr. Fezziwig, though a somewhat minor character, is nonetheless a very important one. He serves as the counterpoint to Scrooge who treats his own employee, Bob Cratchit, so callously. Fezziwig’s joyous Christmas celebration for his employees and friends shows the impact of a good manager on the spirit and well-being of his people. When the Ghost of Christmas Past questions Scrooge’s admiration for Fezziwig’s “trivial” acts of kindness - “A small matter to make these silly folks so full of gratitude. He has spent but a few pounds of your mortal money. Is that so much that he deserves this praise?” - Scrooge defends Fezziwig vigorously:

    “It isn’t that, Spirit. He has the power to render us happy or unhappy; to make our service light or burdensome; a pleasure or a toil. Say that his power lies in words and looks; in things so slight and insignificant that it is impossible to add and count them up: what then? The happiness he gives is quite as great as if it cost a fortune.”

    Although forgotten for many years, Fezziwig’s generosity of spirit had left an indelible impression on Scrooge. Such small acts of kindness can make all of our journeys lighter. I aspire to be Fezziwig, in my work and personal life, but worry that I sometimes better resemble the main character of this tale. In fact, on my shelf at work, I keep a small porcelain statue of Scrooge which was given to me by an old friend many Christmases ago. I believe she felt it best captured my Yuletide spirit at the time.

    That small artifact represents the third lesson. For many, Scrooge is remembered as Dickens initially described him - “a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner. Hard and sharp as flint from which no steel had ever struck a generous fire.” But A Christmas Carol is, after all, a story of transformation and redemption. Thanks to the insights Scrooge gains from the past, the present, and the future, Scrooge transforms himself to such an extent that he is sure that many will look upon his changed state with great skepticism. As Dickens described:

    “Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these may be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed and that was quite enough for him.”

    Reflection, small acts of kindness, and ultimately, transformation and redemption are three of the important lessons offered in A Christmas Carol. On reflection, I’m convinced it was that transformed character of Scrooge that my old friend was thinking of when she gave me that tiny statue of Scrooge so many Christmases ago.

    It had to be, right?

    Happy holidays and as Tiny Tim observed “God bless us, every one!”

    Brad Harrington is the Executive Director of the Boston College Center for Work & Family and a research professor in the Carroll School of Management

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  • 16 Nov 2017 12:43 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Yet another mass shooting in Texas today. In recent months, I find myself more and more frequently worrying about the state of the world. The news these days isn’t merely bad, it’s terrible. And I’m often left to wonder if the world is, indeed, a friendly place.

    Since August, there have been a host of natural disasters. Powerful, destructive hurricanes in Texas, Florida, the Caribbean Islands and Puerto Rico, wildfires in Northern California, an earthquake in Mexico that killed 370, monsoon floods in India and Nepal that took 1200 lives. Seeing these as “acts of God” doesn’t mitigate the loss that thousands of people have experienced, but at least one doesn’t have to accept these as self-inflicted wounds.

    But beyond these tragedies, we have concurrently experienced an almost non-stop assault on our humanity that is of our own making and that is undermining the fabric of our civil society. Where do I begin? In August, we saw Neo-Nazis marching, chanting and rioting on the campus of the University of Virginia and the streets of Charlottesville emboldened by our growing racial divisions.

    We see case after case of sexual harassment and assault that have come to the surface after years of stewing underground, known by many, but seemingly stopped by no one. We see powerful organizations provide protection to predators using “non-disclosure agreements” to silence the victims and cover up sexual misconduct and serious crimes, that (mainly) powerful men have committed. The end result of too many of these occurrences is that the reputation of the organization remains intact, the perpetrators remain in their positions and in some cases even subsequently sign enormous contracts despite their deplorable and often criminal behavior.

    We see our government taken to new lows almost daily with impulsiveness, insults, lies and retributions. Civility in politics has become an anachronistic oxymoron. Being measured in one’s words and actions is no longer considered an attribute. Dignity, character, decency and the honor of being an elected official have been pushed aside for winning at all costs. Our current President has set the standard for such behavior. And we now learn that the Democrats’ nomination process was indeed “rigged.” Meanwhile we see Congress accomplishing nothing seemingly being driven only by the goal of undoing whatever has been done over the past eight years, and in the process striving to eliminate protections for our most vulnerable citizens.

    Worst of all, we see terrorism and mass murder on the steady rise in Paris, in London, in Barcelona, and in New York where foreign tourists and lifelong friends die while out for a bike ride on a beautiful Halloween afternoon. Today, 26 innocent worshippers are killed at church services in South Texas. And perhaps most perplexing, a middle-aged man shoots indiscriminately at thousands of innocent concertgoers in Las Vegas, killing 58 and wounding 200 with, it seems, no motive at all.

    All of these and the accompanying drone of non-stop news and social media posts that not only report such terrible events but also obsess over salacious stories leave me feeling debilitated. I’m left to wonder if there is a reason to believe in the goodness of the world. Have we reached the point where kindness, decency and generosity of spirit have ceased to matter? Are our children growing up in a time when the world seems only dark and hostile?

    Albert Einstein once said, “ “I think the most important question facing humanity is, ‘Is the universe a friendly place?’ This is the first and most basic question all people must answer for themselves.” He explained his question as follows:

    “If we decide that the universe is an unfriendly place, then we will use our technology, our scientific discoveries, and our natural resources to achieve safety and power by creating bigger walls to keep out the unfriendliness and bigger weapons to destroy all that which is unfriendly. I believe that we are getting to a place where technology is powerful enough that we may either completely isolate or destroy ourselves in this process.”

    By contrast, Einstein stated that if we decide the universe is a friendly place we will use our technology, scientific advancements and resources to create better approaches for understanding the universe, because our power and safety will come through understanding its workings and its motives.

    I can only speak for myself, but I have a strong sense that we have reached a juncture where asking this question is key: “Is the world a friendly place?” And we must not ask or answer it from the perspective of victims. We need to answer it as as active agents —- as friends, as neighbors, as co-workers, as citizens. What kind of world do we see, or more importantly, what kind of world are we committed to seeing and creating?

    In reflecting on Einstein’s question, I know that the answer is not scientifically or objectively discernable. It can only be answered in our hearts and in our day-to-day choices. I try to look for the good that I find in my daily interactions with family, friends, colleagues and the strangers with whom I cross paths. These days, I admit it is extremely challenging to remain optimistic. But for me, doing so is the only option. It gives me hope and a belief in the possibility that collectively we can make our world “a friendly place.”

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  • 28 Sep 2017 9:53 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Well, this made for a depressing headline last week: The US is named as the WORST country to be a parent (caveat- this was published in the UK tabloid, The Daily Mail).

    The Daily Mail article was based on a new report Parents’ Work-Life Balance: The Best and Worst Countries. A UK organization called Expert Market reviewed parents’ average work hours as well as paid parental leave policies in 37 countries. Many of the countries at the top of the list offer extremely generous parental leave policies*. Due to the non-existence of paid family leave, the US was ranked dead last of the countries reviewed.

    The lack of paid leave in the US is certainly detrimental to many families. The Family Act, introduced in Congress in February 2017 by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, would provide a federal baseline for paid family leave, allowing for up to 12 weeks at 66% of typical monthly wages, up to a cap. Several states have moved forward to offer paid support (most recently New York and Washington State), with more states and municipalities discussing family or parental leave proposals as we speak.

    Where government and social supports fall short, progressive companies are stepping up, and with good reason. Bright Horizon’s 2016 Modern Family Index found that 59% of new parents are likely to switch employers after having their first child. Adding a new child to the family may be one of the most challenging transitions in one’s life and career and a time when priorities and commitments are reconsidered. New research in the Academy of Management Journal demonstrates that “supporting a family provides a powerful source of motivation that can boost performance in the workplace,” implying that employees who have families may be highly effective workers that organizations want to attract and retain.

    The Boston College Center for Work & Family has been working over the past 27 years to foster progress and promote enhanced supports for working parents. Many of our BC Workforce Roundtable Members have developed comprehensive approaches to supporting new parents through this transition and working to retain them over the long term. We featured examples of these promising practices in our latest Executive Briefing, New Parents at the Workplace: How Organizations Can Create a Culture of Support.

    In the words of Barbara Wankoff, Roundtable Member from KPMG and sponsor of the briefing, “Supporting parents through this important milestone is a win-win. It helps us retain talented professionals, and helps them stay engaged in their careers while adjusting to their new role and responsibilities as a parent.”

    People often ask me to identify the major trends we are seeing in work-family policy. Here are six supports that I see as essential for organizations that want to attract and retain working parents.

  • 14 Aug 2017 1:36 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Wednesday morning at five o’clock as the day begins

    Silently closing her bedroom door

    Leaving the note that she hoped would say more

    She goes downstairs to the kitchen clutching her handkerchief

    Quietly turning the backdoor key

    Stepping outside, she is free.

    If you’re a Baby-boomer, you’ll likely recognize those lyrics from the Beatles’ iconic album Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band which was released 50 years ago and won the 1968 Grammy Award. In an album filled with original and unique work, Lennon and McCartney’s “She’s Leaving Home” was one of the most memorable and certainly its most poignant piece.

    The circumstances are happier and it’s not a Wednesday, but this Friday morning at five o’clock as the day begins, our oldest daughter will leave home to spend a year on the other side of the country. Maggie, who graduated from college in May, is moving to Seattle to do a year of service work with the homeless. It’s not an easy choice that she is making. She won’t be earning much money, she’ll be far away from family and most friends, and she’ll be working with individuals who live at the margins – not a cushy proposition. By most people’s standards, she’s certainly taking the road less traveled. But that’s nothing new for her. When it came time to study abroad her junior year, Maggie picked Kathmandu over London or Paris.

    Maggie’s been home from college for just two months. Any parent, at least any honest one, would likely admit that having children return home after graduation requires some adjustments. First, there’s the “stuff.” All the clothes and bedding and utensils and other sundry items your child has collected over 4 years that need to find a place … in your home.

    Second, learning how to parent once again with an adult “child” in the house has its challenges and pleasures. On the one hand, it’s nice not to have to enforce a curfew or worry so much. It’s wonderful to discuss their views on the world and watch them live by their own, more fully formed values. On the other hand, old ways of communicating are hard to overcome and it’s hard work to develop new patterns. The leverage points have shifted and there are inevitable clashes while we learn yet again how to be parents.

    Finally, there’s that refreshing and readily shared perspective (that comes with four years of independence, reflection and a psychology degree) of your many parenting shortcomings. At least you know all that money wasn’t wasted. And we as parents are sometimes all too quick to forget that this is not the same person who left us four years before, and that indeed, her perspective does have some merit. We continue to learn. The distance that made us appreciate each other in new lights and allowed her to become an adult now gone, we all remember why it is natural and appropriate for kids to move on.

    Yet any honest parent would also be the first to say that watching your kids leave is hard. Hard for them and hard for you. The teenage years prepare you a little … when going off to college seems like exactly the right thing to do before you drive each other crazy. Still, you know then that it’s not forever and that every 3-4 months they’ll be back for an extended visit. But when they leave for another city after graduation it feels different. It feels like the end of a major chapter that elicits feelings of sadness and loss, and the beginning of another new and exciting one, full of promise and adventure. It gives full meaning to “bittersweet.”

    Thirty years ago I left on my own international adventure – a three-year foreign service stint in England. I wasn’t sure how long I’d be gone, where that assignment might lead, or whether I would find my way back to Boston. And although it came with the perks of working for a high tech firm with a nice support system, salary and benefits, I remember the gut feeling I had as I approached the boarding gate bound for London. My heart sank. The only thought that ran through my head was, “What in the world am I doing?” But I also remember very clearly the support my parents gave me when I was considering that move. My father was especially proud and conveyed only encouragement for my decision. In retrospect, his positive attitude was probably what gave me the strength to take that risk. And as a result, my life was forever changed.

    So now it’s my turn to play the fatherly role. When I look at our daughter, I see someone who is making this choice for all the “right” reasons. It’s not self-indulgent, not to escape the clutches of her over-controlling parents (I hope), and certainly not for personal riches. It’s to continue her journey toward living the intentional life that she seeks. To forge an adult life that will be meaningful if not straightforward, one that is joyful if not always easy, and one that is hers to claim.

    So, she’s leaving home … and I feel sad. But also very proud and excited to see what the next chapter will hold. Safe travels, Mags, and Godspeed!

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  • 11 Aug 2017 11:06 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Have you ever wanted to spend more time with your children but also wanted a job with greater responsibility? Do you think your family is your top priority but feel susceptible to messages at work that suggest that committed employees are focused and available 24x7? Do you aspire to share caregiving equally with your partner but always feel you come up short in meeting these expectations?

    If so, you are likely what might be termed a Conflicted father. And in the spirit of full disclosure, I’m one too. Let me explain what this means and how being conflicted is likely undermining the joy and meaning you are experiencing at work and at home.

    For the past eight years in my work as executive director of the Boston College Center for Work & Family, I have spent much of my time researching fathers. New dads, at home dads, working dads, Millennial dads, dads who take paternity leave and dads who don’t. I have written a lot about these fathers and have appeared in many major media outlets and given talks at conferences to discuss how fathers’ roles are changing. I’m occasionally asked for fathering advice in one of these forums, but there I always hesitate, reminded of my wonderful wife who once lovingly exclaimed, “An expert on fatherhood everywhere but at home.” Touché.

    Since we began publishing The New Dad studies, we have uncovered many interesting findings. One that has frequently recurred is the gap between fathers’ aspirations to be equal partners in caregiving and their inability to actualize this. Following the publication of our first report in 2010, one journalist titled her article on our work “Why do men lie on surveys about fatherhood?” Her intention wasn’t to be cynical. She described the concept of aspirational lying which she defined as “the unconscious shading of the truth to make us appear smarter, more generous, and closer to the person we want to be.” The point she was making is that fathers today at least aspire to be hands-on caregivers, even if they often fall short of that goal.

    Through more extensive research over the years that followed, we concluded that men likely weren’t lying about their aspirations – they sincerely wanted to be equal caregivers. But when we asked whether their actions fell in line with their aspirations, more than one out of three fathers admitted they did not. We labeled these fathers Conflicted dads to distinguish them from Traditional dads (those who say their partner should do more caregiving, and their partners do) and Egalitarian dads (those who strive for equality in caregiving and feel they achieve it). By every measure in our studies, Conflicted fathers reported having the lowest levels of work and life satisfaction among these three fatherhood types. They were the most likely to feel they weren’t spending enough time with their kids, the most likely to be susceptible to organizational cues about being an ideal worker, the least satisfied with state of their lives, the most likely to be considering quitting their jobs.

    So, given I know, perhaps better than anyone, that being a conflicted father doesn’t yield good outcomes, how did I get to that place and why don’t I address the error of my ways? It’s a long story. After graduate school I secured a good, high paying job, I married after a decade of being work-centric, I travelled a lot on business and actually commuted 3000 miles to work when we had two young children, etc. At some point my wife decided to stay home with the kids to accommodate this and we fell into typically gendered roles. Eventually, I changed careers and my wife returned to work. But even as our work schedules and income levels became more equivalent, I was slower than I should have been to change. We had established roles and patterns that were hard to unravel. Much like the fathers in our study, I felt the cost of being conflicted. But we struggled to establish a “new normal,” at home and to redefine our roles in light of the ongoing career and family shifts we had made.

    Redefining oneself is never an easy endeavor. Adult identities are extremely sticky. They’ve been built up over many years and reinforced in hundreds of ways. But if you are a conflicted dad and are committed to getting the balance right, there are a few things I might suggest:

    § Start by fessing up. Look at your goals when it comes to fatherhood and ask yourself (and your partner), how you are doing. Are you egalitarian or traditional in your approach? If so, and your partner is fine with this, it’s all good. If not, and you frequently (always?) feel conflicted, it’s time to alter things. Rather than think of work and family as competing priorities, consider the right balance for your family. There will always be more demands for your time than you have available.

    § Go through an in-depth self-assessment process. Explore your values, your career and life goals, how your relationship is going with your partner. You may be able to do this through using a career-life self-help book or with the aid of a career counselor or life coach. Work with your partner. Know what each of you needs and work together to minimize the conflicts around work and family.

    § Start a father’s group. Start a group with work colleagues or with fathers in your neighborhood or social circle. Meet with your fellow dads to discuss your common struggles and successes in balancing work and family. You will find you are not alone and also support in achieving the balance you are looking for. I’ve been part of a father’s group in my neighborhood for 15 years and have learned a lot from my fellow dads.

    § Take your leave. If you are one of the fortunate few fathers that are offered paid paternity leave by your employer, take advantage of it. Nothing will help you understand the value of parenting better than taking time to “fly solo” caring for your new child.

    Psychologists would agree that being conflicted in general does not enhance one’s quality of life (”I did A but probably should have done B”). But when it comes to domains as central to our lives as career and family, being conflicted is a major obstacle to life satisfaction. And trust me (and 1000 other fathers), that’s not where you want to be.

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  • 11 Mar 2015 8:33 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Our latest fatherhood report explores the conflict faced by fathers as they strive to meet their personal and professional goals. The study describes three types of fathers (Egalitarian, Conflicted, and Traditional) across three generations (Millennials, Generation X and Baby-boomers) and explores how each type of father is faring in terms of job and career satisfaction and caregiving arrangements at home.

Boston College Center for Work & Family

22 Stone Avenue, Chestnut Hill, MA  02467

Phone: (617) 552-2844 Email:

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