WorkLife Law Blog

WorkLife Law aims to end Family Responsibilities Discrimination, which is employment discrimination against workers who have family caregiving obligations. It includes discrimination against parents of young children, pregnant women, and workers who have aging or sick parents, spouses, or partners.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


The Secret is Out about Mothers and Business Travel

The conventional wisdom is that mothers of young children don't like to travel for business. Well-meaning employers often take mothers off assignments that involved travelling, thinking they are being sensitive to the mothers' needs. (There is a name for this: benevolent stereotyping.) In fact, though, employers who do this often are disadvantaging the mothers because the result of their actions is that mothers get the less challenging and lower profile assignments and in the long run that hurts their ability to advance.

Memo to employers: The solution is to ask the mothers what they want. Don't make assumptions, and don't act on stereotypes. Some women truly don't want to travel. I recall a colleague who had to leave her six month old behind when she went on a business trip -- she went into the bathroom at the airport and threw up. But I also recall telling one of my subordinates that I wasn't taking her on a business trip because she was a new mom (yes, I was as biased as anyone until I started studying maternal wall bias and family responsibilities discrimination), and she insisted on going, saying "You don't understand -- I want to go. It will be the only decent night's sleep I can get for months!"

And that is the secret, as revealed today in the New York Times ("Working Mothers Find Some Peace on the Road" by Lisa Foderaro). Some mothers really do want to travel for business. It is often the only time they can relax and be themselves. The NYT story quotes mothers talking about using their travel time to read, soak in the tub, sleep, and just enjoy some quiet time. I can relate completely. It is extremely difficult to make all the arrangements for the kids and the household before I go, but once I'm on the road, it is heaven. And I return a much nicer person than when I left.

So, employers, next time you're feeling guilty about asking a mother to travel, don't! The best thing to do is to ask both mothers and fathers of young children if they want to travel, and to respect their wishes to the extent possible.

-- Cynthia

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?