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Emma Plumb is passionate about changing the way that work gets done. She started this website with the goal of getting a wider group of people talking about work and what we can all do to improve it.

4 Responses

  1. Claartje Vinkenburg at | | Reply

    Emma, I could not agree more with your message and have heard too many similar stories, also from people in countries where there are more statutory rights for paid parental and care leave. Julie is not forced to choose between motherhood and career, however, she is forced out because of a lack of flexibility. Titles matter, so please leave out “choice” (it’s not a choice) and leave out “motherhood” (anyone with care responsibilities such as Julie needs more true flexibility and understanding from their employer). What will make a difference, is that organizations need to start doing the math. Their current system (typically based on a male breadwinner model) no longer guarantees optimal outcomes under changing demographic conditions, so they will end up with mediocre seniors. Clients like to be served by the best. It is really that simple.

    1. Emma Plumb at | | Reply

      Hi Claartje, Thanks for your note. You’re quite right that it’s not a “choice” (in fact I write more about that here:, and I absolutely agree that this isn’t about motherhood specifically. I typically try not to write about work flex as a women’s issue or as a mom’s issue, for all the good reasons you cite. But I’ve also found that no matter how much we talk about work flex as a win/win for employers and employees, and no matter how many stats we give, organizations still don’t change. So I think focusing on specific stories like Julie’s, and highlighting her as a woman and a mom forced out of her job, can sometimes be the best way to make waves because they speak to people on a more personal level. But I should have come up with a better title :)!

  2. Kent at | | Reply

    Emma – Very good article. I’m totally with you, but here’s my take on this section:

    “Whatever the specifics, employers can’t just turn a blind eye every time a bright, committed, and talented employee is faced with complications outside of the workplace—because eventually they’ll be left with no one on staff.

    Fortunately, more and more companies are realizing that if they don’t bend in the face of the realities of modern life, they will break.”

    IMO, the fact of the matter is they CAN turn a blind eye, they WON’T be left with no one on staff, and they DON’T realize the bend/break consequence. For every maligned talented employee, there are nine others waiting to take their place. The age of companies committed to employees as people, and not replaceable commodities is long over. Their lack of commitment is mirrored by younger workers towards companies — they’ll go when and where they get the best pay and benefits. Unions are nearly a thing of the past. As you state, there are darned few protections for the American worker any more in all our “right to work” [translate right to be discarded] states. Unless and until there is forceful legislation [sad, but true], these Companies can and will continue to act with impunity. Hopefully, your million-person voice may make a difference in the House and Senate, but as they say out here in the fields — “It’s a long row to hoe”.

    1. Emma Plumb at | | Reply

      Hi Kent, Thanks so much for your comment. You’re right that there’s always someone to fill an empty spot — especially in an economic downturn when job seekers feel pressure to take whatever they can get. But I’m confident (hopeful?) that the companies that continue to operate with no regard for how they treat their employees will ultimately pay a price — constant turnover may work in the short term, but it’s bad for business in the long term. The crux of all of this is that workers who are valued and given the room they need to succeed are better performers, and as more and more employees get together and speak up about our need for better treatment, I think we really can help create change — whether that’s ultimately through legislation or just common sense. And luckily there really are employers who do get this (like my current one!). It’s a long road though, no doubt. Thanks again for reading, and for your thoughtful response!

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