Stephanie MacKendrick is President of Canadian Women in Communications and a recognized thought leader on women’s advancement and board diversity. You can follow her on Twitter @SMacKendrick
It’s alarming when three out of ten people think that the workplace is dangerous to mental health.
I think it tells us that the model we have now is not sustainable, ergo something’s gotta give. So if change is coming, what kind of change will that be?
Perhaps it will be the rise of the growing mercenary business class – globally roving experts who go to the highest bidder without allegiance or conscience. It’s tough, it’s cruel and it pays well, but life expectancy is not long; live hard and die young (careerwise of course). The rest of us will just scrabble along.
Or perhaps it means that workplaces will come to understand that a sustainable talent strategy means finding better ways to accommodate the broader lives of their workers.
It’s often cited that women are the ones wanting more balance, and more time to participate in life outside of work. That women are the ones who want to change up the culture of corporations.
That’s when I go back to the striking analogy of women as the canaries in the mineshaft. Uninitiated observers may have been tempted to think that sending a delicate bird into a mine shaft to determine if there are poisonous gases present was all about the relative hardiness of birds, but clearly it was more about protecting the well being of a whole cadre of people about to enter the mine.
So when we talk about women exiting promising careers, not going the distance, unwilling to give up all for their career, there is more than one way to look at it.
The career swooning of women, like the canary, may not really be about women but be about more pervasive threats. For every woman who decides to throw in the towel, there are likely more than a few guys lined up behind her, hoping her exit might pave the way for change they will benefit from. They don’t like to squawk, let alone drop, because if it’s tough for women to “cry uncle” on work as an all-consuming concept, it’s impossible for men to do without committing career suicide.
So next time you hear the dying career chirp of a little yellow bird, ask not for whom the canary keels; it keels for thee.