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Sunday, March 19, 2006

Women in law firms: a story in today's New York Times Business Section discussed why so few women reach the top of big law firms. Let me clear about my point of view. I spent a dozen years at large PR agencies and another seven years as a senior PR executive at a Fortune 500 company. After the birth of my second son, I made a decision to opt-out of the 60 hours-per-week track and spend more time with my family. My choice, my decision regarding work/family balance. In the current NYT article, this difficult decision regarding parental priorities is presented as an "option," albeit an expensive one. Look at this paragraph towards the end of the article:
The Plevans engineered this by cutting back on their social calendar, sharing household chores and making sure that at least one parent was home for dinner most nights. "We felt our presence and predictability were important," she says. "I organized my personal life so I was able to move toward my goals. The Plevans' incomes allowed them to hire household help, and they had relatives nearby to help them look after their sons — advantages that other couples often don't enjoy when trying to synchronize their personal and professional lives.
Excuse me. One parent home most nights? Just how many nights did these kids have dinner without mom or dad? Who helped them with their homework? How many school assemblies, parent/teacher nights, soccer games and birthday parties did these parents miss? If you want to delegate the raising of your children to grandparents and paid help, OK. That is a decision you can make. But let's be clear, that is a very strained definition of "parenting" and "family." Have you ever heard a child say, "Gosh mom, I'd wish you'd spend more time at work, so you can fulfill your career ambitions. Don't worry about me." These are difficult choices. We need to be honest about the consequences.If you are going to be partner at a major law firm, you are going to have to work 60-80 hours a week. You're going to miss many of your child's school and sports events. You are not going to be able to help with much homework. Instead you'll be having dinner with a client or finishing up the paperwork on that big malpractice case. What is the more meaningful experience? What memories and shared experiences will you carry with you after you retire? What is the greater contribution to the next generation? These are highly emotional decisions. Unfortunately, they rarely get discussed with balance in the mainstream media.

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