March 21, 2013

"To understand why female lawyers, doctors, bankers, academics, high-tech executives and other, often expensively pedigreed, professionals quit work to stay home..."

"... you need not search their souls for ambivalence or nostalgia," asserts Judith Shulevitz in The New Republic.
To reject a high-flying career, as... so many women have done, is not to reject aspiration; it is to refuse to succumb to a kind of madness. Professional accomplishment shouldn’t and doesn’t have to look like this. The main reason white-collar workers can be driven to work 80-hour-or-so weeks is that very few of them have government protections. Most of them are exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act, which mandates the 40-hour-week and overtime pay. American managers aren’t allowed to join unions. Other countries have laws that protect against overwork even for professionals, such as standard or maximum number of hours anyone can work in a week....

59 comments:

chickelit said...

The main reason white-collar workers can be driven to work 80-hour-or-so weeks is that very few of them have government protections.

The new feminist mantra is "halving it all." Will that include salary expectations?

mariner said...

As long as the people who lacked those protections were mostly men it wasn't a big deal.

Econophile said...

Restricting choice=protecting us (from ourselves).

These "other countries" always get it right, don't they?

Nonapod said...

The main reason white-collar workers can be driven to work 80-hour-or-so weeks is that very few of them have government protections.

No, the main reason is because they enjoy it.

Mitchell the Bat said...

An extremely well-credentialed, ex-lawyer (now stay-at-home mom) of my acquaintance said it memorably: "What's the point of making a lot of money if you don't have a life?"

bagoh20 said...

That reason is bullshit. People who work for themselves often work these long hours, and those who are well paid for it by their employer do too.

The reason many quit is simply that they have accomplished what they were after and it turned out to not be satisfying enough to keep it up. Most work isn't. Corporate level competition is a grind because there is always someone more driven than you ,more hungry, and more willing to sacrifice what you no longer are. At some point you want another life and when you can afford it, you go for it.

This idea that you can pass a law that will eliminate competition is dangerously stupid, and self destructive. No, you can't have it all. There are trade-offs in life.

Chip S. said...

The main reason white-collar workers can be driven to work 80-hour-or-so weeks is that very few of them have government jobs.

Yet.

Birches said...

I don't know many men that drive themselves to 80 or so weeks throughout their careers. The few that I do are CPAs who are putting in their time so that they can do something they really want to do in 5-7 years.

Why do so many people think their work is their life, their identity? Go find a real life.

Sorun said...

Imagine going into labor on Friday night and being told that your obstetrician has already worked her government-mandated maximum hours. She'll see you first thing Monday morning.

edutcher said...

The money line (thank you, Madame, for quoting it) is this, "The main reason white-collar workers can be driven to work 80-hour-or-so weeks is that very few of them have government protections. Most of them are exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act, which mandates the 40-hour-week and overtime pay. American managers aren’t allowed to join unions. Other countries have laws that protect against overwork even for professionals, such as standard or maximum number of hours anyone can work in a week...."

The next big frontier for unions - professionals. They've been trying to unionize nurses (The Blonde got tons of mail from one of them when ObamaTax was being thrashed out) for years.

Of course, if you join a union, you stop being a professional and start being a union slug.

Or worse, a government slug.

Paco Wové said...

"there is always someone more driven than you ,more hungry, and more willing to sacrifice what you no longer are. At some point" ...you just need the government to slap those tall poppies down.

AprilApple said...

See - If corrupt unions cannot save the democrat progressive feminist - they will have none of it!

jacksonjay said...


My daughter just quit her 80 hr/7 day work week, CPA job at a Big 4! Her new industry job: 40 hr/ 5 day work week, pays more! A life with less prestige!

Jay said...

80 hour weeks don't matter when the CEO of hostess made $2 million and the managers were busy running the company into the ground ruining everything for those salt of the earth Teamsters!

BDNYC said...

Isn't it grand that women get to have it all? Sure, they may decide to have babies in their 30s and resent the hell out of their own maternal nature when they quit their jobs or accept part-time work. They may obsess over their husbands and other women "respecting" their intelligence and accomplishments. Staying at home and raising a family is apparently so easy and mundane that even stupid women in flyover country can do it.

The obsession with pushing young women into professional life is well-intentioned. But young men suffer as victims of affirmative action, and the intelligent young women who are only doing what they think is expected of them also suffer because they waste years of their youth chained to a desk.

AprilApple said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jay said...

Oh, and on top of 80 hour work weeks, you pay 55% of the total of your medical insurance costs and if your lucky the company puts 3% of your salary into the 401K plan.


Remember how the Wisconsin teachers went ballistic because they had to bump up their medical contribution 3% - to a 7% total?

bpm4532 said...

Gee, those highly paid, hard working, high achieving people do it out of fear, because the government isn't there as their wet-nurse?

Shanna said...

The main reason white-collar workers can be driven to work 80-hour-or-so weeks is that very few of them have government protections.

This person doesn't get the whole baby thing. It's not like these people just quit. They quit to stay with their baby.

It's not about work.

AprilApple said...

In France, when the bell rings, you push your chair back like a 5th grader, and go home. Working that extra mile is not allowed.
It's the law.
That's not how we do things in teh US.
In the US, No one is forced to work 80 hours. However, If you want to or need to, you do.
Unions, corrupt money laundering unions, are not the panacea progressives proclaim.
She’s using the “here in the big bad US” whiney argument to cover her tracks. She wants to raise her family – why that’s so 1950’s!
Progressive dues paying unions and government nanny state can't help her so she's going to stay home.

bpm4532 said...

Damn, I'd love for unions and government workers give us a decent 40 hours each week. Now, we're glad they're capped at 40 - just think of the damage they could cause if they stayed on the job longer.

bpm4532 said...

This is the sort of mindset that says it's OK for the president to not submit his budget on the date required by law.

BDNYC said...

It would be hard to have a high-flying career if those supposedly essential protections applied to those jobs. There's a fantastical quality to the way the left thinks about economics and the law.

Hagar said...

Please don't tell me what hours I can work. This is my business, not yours!

And, Sorun,
this is happening to my old and sick sister in England being "vared for" by the NHS.

Bob said...

You can work less. But you'll also earn less. Which means some corresponding lifestyle adjustments. She just wants her same lifestyle on less hours while employers aren't too keen on that.

bagoh20 said...

If we could unionize the rest of the world's workers, we could have it all. We should be pushing for "government protections for Chinese workers - not ours. The jobs go to the least "protected", and they always will. If you install protections the pay will drop and the available jobs will dry up, but you will get the time off, and maybe a lot more of it than you want.

whoresoftheinternet said...

rofl.

dumb leftist broad sees feminism failing to change women into men and complains that the reason is we don't have more ugly masculinized women is because Big Daddy Government isn't helping the sex change along.

Enjoy the decline, bitches!

chickelit said...

Sorun said...
Imagine going into labor on Friday night and being told that your obstetrician has already worked her government-mandated maximum hours. She'll see you first thing Monday morning.

The answer to that one is simple: "Render unto Caesarian"

edutcher said...

Hagar said...

And, Sorun,
this is happening to my old and sick sister in England being "vared for" by the NHS.


Hagar, whatever our differences, my heart goes out to you both.

PS Think you meant "cared for".

Balfegor said...

The main reason white-collar workers can be driven to work 80-hour-or-so weeks is that very few of them have government protections.

I don't think the fear of being fired is the main reason. At least at large law firms, people regularly quit once they've paid off their student loans (i.e. once basic economic necessities have been taken care of), so those who remain are generally doing it because they like it, or at least feel driven to work hard for some other reason. Sure, that reason might be because they have expensive tastes, so they need the salary/income to pay their bills and are thus terrified of getting fired. That is not my impression, though.

Fundamentally, in the case of lawyers, I think the reason people put in 80 hour weeks over and over is because lawyers are serving their clients. If the client has an emergency, you can't just point to the clock and say you're off for the day. If the motion needs to be filed in 2 days, you can't just say no. If deal needs to close by X date, you can't just say you have your mandatory two weeks holiday coming up so sorry.

Ultimately, lawyers are professionals. They can't be like union workers. They have to stand up and take responsibility. They have a duty to their clients. And sometimes that means that when crunch time comes, it's 80 hour weeks.

ed said...

Somehow, somewhere it is a man who is at fault.

Now the femnazi semi-stasi need only find out who that is and all will be well.

Goldstein? Is that you?

Marshal said...

Summary:

When women disproportionately won't do the work men do to get ahead the solution is to make such work illegal so we can achieve the appropriate gender and race balances despite differences in effort. Surely breaking the link between effort and reward will have no net effect.

Leftism unveiled.

Bruce Hayden said...

The thing that they don't ask is why they are working those outrageous hours. And, the answer is, for many, that that is what the competition requires, and that competition is driven, in many of those cases, by males, or by some females who have little interest in family, etc. But, esp. males, many of whom can survive for long periods of time without doing much besides work.

I don't know about the other professions mentioned, but for law, there is a lot of competition for the top jobs, and esp. now, with the bursting of the lawyer bubble. Many, often most, freshly graduated attorneys don't do all that well, in terms of salaries. But some do, and some do exceedingly well. Just throwing things out, but maybe $40k for one guy, and the gal sitting next to him in LS making $160k for top tier firms, and $120k maybe for top regional firms. But, the thing to keep in mind with those top jobs is that the pricing to get top talent requires that the newly hired work like dogs. They just can't pay anywhere near those salaries on a 40 hour work week, esp. given client resistance to paying the billing rates needed for junior associates. Making junior partner doesn't help all that much either - a lot of time the expected hours worked for the firm in some capacities goes up another hundred or two hours a year to cover all the non-billable stuff that partners need to do. So, at the top of the profession, where a lot of people want to be, the competition is fierce. Those who don't want to work the long hours are significantly less likely to make the cut, pushed out before partnership, etc., with all those others willing to work the hours.

Not everyone is cut out for life in the fast lane, and, I see a lot of this discussion being about whining about from those who are cut out for and willing to live there in the fast lane getting ahead of those who aren't. Life apparently should be fair, and everyone should be paid the same, regardless of how hard they work, and how much they help the bottom line. That sort of thing.

Henry said...
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Henry said...

To reject a high-flying career, as... so many women have done, is not to reject aspiration; it is to refuse to succumb to a kind of madness.

Yes! True! And true for so many men as well.

Professional accomplishment shouldn’t and doesn’t have to look like this.

Absolutely! 100% true. If you're a professional with actual professional skills, you have a tremendous capacity to control the type of employment you accept.

The main reason white-collar workers can be driven to work 80-hour-or-so weeks is that very few of them have government protections.

Aargh! No! No! No! No! No! No one can force a professional to accept this deal, unless said professional's only professional skill is bootlicking.

YoungHegelian said...

I went over to the TNR web site to check the comments. In the past, TNR's readership was heavily white professional males, and they would have given Ms Shulevitz a piece of their mind.

Now, judging from the few commentators there, it seems to be a much more feminine place. Maybe that'll change as more commenters weigh in.

Does "more to the Left" equal "more female" and vice versa now in 21st Century America?

Henry said...

If the government demanded tomorrow that no law firm can demand more than 40 hours a week, the really ambitious lawyers would take two jobs.

If the government demanded tomorrow that no law firm can demand more than 40 hours a week, and no lawyer can work more than one job, the really ambitious lawyers would start their own practices and consult.

If the government made that illegal, the really ambitious will work under the table.

A century ago the women's movement forced prohibition on the country with predictable results.

Now the goal is to prohibit ambition. The results will be predictable.

The Drill SGT said...

Turn the article around and ask those stay-at-home moms if they want their baby daddy to be the sole bread-winner and bring in mid 6 figures or whether they want him to be restricted to 40 hours a week, if it means they can be moms AND need to pull another 40 shift at the office AND downsize their lifestyle as well. Bet most of them are willing to let POP gut it out alone.

Behind most driven men, there is a woman with a whip...

Dust Bunny Queen said...

"What's the point of making a lot of money if you don't have a life?"

At some point, you look at your life and realize that you are actually just working so that you can pay other people to do the things that you can and SHOULD be doing yourself. Raising your children. Taking care of your home. Taking care of your spouse.

You are working for everyone else, but yourself. When you consider the costs of hiring other people to be YOU: you realize that you are essentially working for nothing.

High stress and net low return. It becomes obvious that if you were not working and hiring other people to be parents to your children and didn't have all of the additional costs that a high power job requires (clothing, commuting, eating out, status cars...etc etc etc) you really aren't coming out ahead with your high power high status job.

You realize that with a few small adjustments to your lifestyle and your ego, you can stay home with your children and create a nurturing, satisfying family life. Life will be better.

JL said...

"Restricting choice=protecting us (from ourselves)."

Interesting you should say that. Conservatives are generally for restricting choices, at least socially; that's what traditions do.

Women have more choices, and for some conservatives this is the biggest problem facing our culture: If we could only limit women's choices again, society would be better off. For those more freedom minded-- if only women would choose to behave more like women prior to sexual liberation, we'd all be better off.

(I don't mean to derail the conversation, it just popped into my head. I am in the "if only women would exercise more self-control and judgement" camp myself. But I also include men in needing to exercise self-discipline. In an "anything goes" culture we need people who can master self-discipline. If not ... Tradition... tradition! ... Is needed. Otherwise we will end in... Debauchery... debauchery! ... An ar chy!)


It's funny that liberals want women to be able to choose to go to work, but would prefer to limit their ability to work as many hours as they want, through union rules and labor laws. Conservatives would prefer women stay home-- I'll hazard a guess that some would prefer the choice be taken away from women-- but if they decide to go to work, they should have the right to become corporate slaves just like the men. The right answer is in there somewhere. Will we ever find it?

Chip S. said...

liberals want women to be able to choose to go to work, but would prefer to limit their ability to work as many hours as they want

No. They want to limit men's work hours. Putting everybody on the mommy track is the only way to eliminate male/female earnings differentials.

It's what Paco said @ 10:06.

Bruce Hayden said...

The main reason white-collar workers can be driven to work 80-hour-or-so weeks is that very few of them have government protections.

That is just plain silly. They work those hours because that is what they need to do to get the best paying jobs and to maintain them. As I pointed out before, law, medicine, etc. are all highly competative businesses, and they are going to pick the people they can make money off of, and, in the case of professions, whom they want to ultimately share ownership with. All things equal, they are going to pick the person who will make them money over the one who will cost them money, because they aren't willing to work the hours.

And, yes, this is an attempt to even the playing field, between those who are willing to put in the hours and the sweat, and those who think that getting good grades in school, and working somewhat hard, but not really that hard or long, after that, and looking cute and being nice should be sufficient. But, being nice, without the long hours, doesn't pay for itself.

In the law firm business, at least, the partners or shareholders of larger firms routinely get all sorts of reports showing how everyone from paralegals on up is doing, in terms of profitability. Are they making money for the firm, or costing money? Everyone knows who is billing, and what they are collecting (since billing and colleting can be quite different, esp. with new members of the firm). We are talking bottom line here, and that means what sorts of vacations the partners can take, whether their kids can go to private school, etc.

Yes, this sort of thing is unfair for those who don't want to work as hard. To be rated on one's ability to make money for others.

But, the good thing, in terms of legislation, is that Congress is unlikely to extend these laws to cove professionals. Even the Dems in Congress aren't into equal pay for all, when it comes to themselves, and their kids. Many of them are, or were, lawyers, and expect lucrative lobbying gigs when they leave. Deep down, they want to make sure that they can continue to profit greatly from their connections and ability to bring in a lot of business. Equal pay is good for the masses, just not for those on the top, like them. So, don't expect any sort of legislation here that could potentially harm them, or their families, in the long run.

Henry said...

From the article: I admired them for having stood up to our society’s denigration of the important and unpostponable work of care; I liked them, their kids, their homes, their sense of community, and their comparative serenity; and I was scared to death of turning into one of them.

I don't think "society" is to blame here, Ms. Condescension.

Bruce Hayden said...

Women have more choices, and for some conservatives this is the biggest problem facing our culture: If we could only limit women's choices again, society would be better off. For those more freedom minded-- if only women would choose to behave more like women prior to sexual liberation, we'd all be better off.

I don't think that is the issue here at all, but rather, that women should not have to play by men's rules when competing in a male dominated field. You don't hear very often from men (who aren't trying to cater to women) that they should be able to get ahead in their field as quickly if they don't work as hard or as long, but rather, just some minimum amount. Men seem a lot better at accepting that if they aren't willing to work as hard as others, that they shouldn't expect to do as well.

But, as I keep pointing out, a lot of women don't seem to understand, or accept, the dog-eat-dog aspect of the work environment. A lot of these professions or occupations are very bottom line oriented, and that means that performance is rated based on bottom line things like profitability, and not on looking good and acting nice.

We have seen the feminization of K-12, and, to some extent, higher education, with much more emphasis being placed on group projects and homework, than performance on tests. But, that doesn't make work with small businesses, esp. in an environment where the "test" is how much money you make your employer or partners.

What these women need to understand is what many men tend to understand much more instinctively. Performance is what counts, and that if you want to step off the fast track, then you need to be willing to give up the benefits. You can't have your cake and eat it too - rather, you need to make choices and be happy with the choices you made.

Kimberly said...

The main reason white-collar workers can be driven to work 80-hour-or-so weeks is that very few of them have government protections. Most of them are exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act, which mandates the 40-hour-week and overtime pay. American managers aren’t allowed to join unions. Other countries have laws that protect against overwork even for professionals, such as standard or maximum number of hours anyone can work in a week....

Oh, so THAT'S why I busted my tail in college and graduate school, attending both full-time while working multiple jobs at once so I could get a PhD by age 29. So that some condescending government flunky could set a limit on the numbers of hours that I can legally work - which everyone knows darn well would translate to a limit on the amount of money I can make.

No one gets a graduate degree and works a 45+ hour week because they lack protection. They do it because they love expressing their full potential in the fast lane. Sure, some PhDs don't get paid much, and stress and burnout can happen there as much as anywhere else. You have to learn to have a work-life balance. And those who don't care to be in the fast lane need to learn to get out of our way, government included.

The Drill SGT said...

Bruce Hayden said...What these women need to understand is what many men tend to understand much more instinctively. Performance is what counts, and that if you want to step off the fast track, then you need to be willing to give up the benefits.

As usual, I put a military spin on that and the wheel came up: Women in the Infantry.

yup, Infantry MEN understand that second place in combat means a bullet in the head and some Taliban pissing on your unmarked grave, as opposed to the reverse. As a poster said when we last discussed that topic. Infantry units are brutally driven by male competition to be the best and to not let your squadies down. Weak males are driven out of the pack. Literally. Feminization of an infantry squad would get you some woman whining about her union and how she was a non-exempt employee and should not have to pull guard because she was over her 40 hour day. Point is, suck it up and soldier on, be it as a rifleman or as a lawyer. Men understand that...

Revenant said...

The main reason white-collar workers can be driven to work 80-hour-or-so weeks is that very few of them have government protections.

As one of the white-collar professionals in question who has done more 80+ hour weeks than he can count, let me just say: bullshit.

We know the hours are part of the job. It isn't like we signed up expecting, say, 40 hours a week for $X a year and then were shocked, SHOCKED to discover we'd be working 80-hour weeks for that money. Each one of us makes a conscious decision about whether we're willing to work those hours for that money, or if we'd rather have a different job that *doesn't* require long hours but pays less.

MadisonMan said...

It seems to me that a lot of writers want to see others following the path that they themselves are following sort of as a justification for the way they've lived their lives.

So if people deviate from that path, it's something like an attack.

Never consider what other people think of what you are doing. Exceptions: your supportive family, and your boss, or your boss's boss.

The Drill SGT said...

MadisonMan said...
It seems to me that a lot of writers want to see others following the path that they themselves are following sort of as a justification for the way they've lived their lives.

So if people deviate from that path, it's something like an attack.


No, what we don't like, is somebody, who doesn't want to take that path, wants to government to outlaw the path. Level the playing field so that women can have it all, rather than having to make hard choices.

Paul Zrimsek said...

If you think your company's CEO is paid too much now, wait until the CEO union's work rules force you to hire six of him.

Nathan Alexander said...

Behind most driven men, there is a woman with a whip...

Exactly.

If/when Christianity ever comes up in another thread, this will be a point I will refer to.

Nathan Alexander said...

Interesting you should say that. Conservatives are generally for restricting choices, at least socially; that's what traditions do.

No. That's a strawman.

Conservatives are about smaller govt and lower taxes.

Smaller govt means you have more choices, because there aren't so many regulations and rules.

Traditions also don't restrict choices. Traditions inform you that others have made some of those choices and found them to be bad. You are still free to make those choices, but you must accept the consequences.

Big Govt doesn't allow you to accept the consequences of bad choices, because it makes choices outright illegal.

Bottom line: Conservatives are about freedom.

Freedom to enjoy the natural, time-tested, experience-verified consequences of your personal, freely-chosen decisions and actions.

Lydia said...

bagoh20 said...
If we could unionize the rest of the world's workers, we could have it all. We should be pushing for "government protections for Chinese workers - not ours. The jobs go to the least "protected", and they always will.

New Zealand recently learned this lesson when Warner Brothers threatened to stop filming The Hobbit movies there because of a union boycott. So the NZ government simply passed legislation making workers involved with film production work independent contractors rather than employees.

Doug said...

I am victim, hear me whine.

David said...

Where there is a high earning female who decides to become a stay at home mom, there is usually a high earning male who will keep paying the bills. Sometimes the genders are reversed, but mostly its a fallback to the old dad as breadwinner scenario. It's not clear whether the men get a vote in this. In theory they do but what is the guy going to do if the woman is convinced that this is the right path? He can't force her to continue working, and in most cases won't want to, or will acquiesce for a variety of reasons.

So now they are back to the traditional model. So what. It's not a bad model. The man has a highly educated responsible person at home who is likely very good at raising kids and running a household. The woman has a guy who can bring home the bacon.

The man has some increased pressure and the woman has given something up. But they have each gained something.

Or they have if they choose to think of it that way. No matter how you slice it, these are among the most fortunate of humans. It's only a terrible dilemma if you fail to recognize your good fortune.

JL said...

I don't think that is the issue here at all, but rather, that women should not have to play by men's rules when competing in a male dominated field.

I agree my comment was off point. It was a reaction to an earlier comment, and was meant to be merely a tangential observation.

I don't disagree with what you, or others, have said. There are progressive and feminist intellectuals who are surprised that successful women choose to drop out and stay home. They cannot possibly believe a woman might be happy being a housewife, or admit that men and women might have different motivations.

So despite the fact that many men don't seem to mind working long hours, if women don't like it and are dropping out, it's must be a bad thing -- a kind of madness! -- that needs to be changed. To hell with men's ambitions and an individual's freedom of choice; and to hell with the impact it would have on the economy.

JL said...

No. That's a strawman.

I wasn't trying to set up a strawman to attack conservatives. Merely making a general sweeping observation, lacking in precision-- you know, a typical blog comment.

Conservatives are about smaller govt and lower taxes.Smaller govt means you have more choices, because there aren't so many regulations and rules.

I won't argue with those statements.

Traditions also don't restrict choices. Traditions inform you that others have made some of those choices and found them to be bad. You are still free to make those choices, but you must accept the consequences.

Obviously a person can chose to ignore traditions and go their own way. But the consequences of doing that put limits on one's freedom; there is more freedom to being able to make a choice w/o fear of censure. And there are degrees to which traditions are imposed; from a mild rebuke to being stoned to death if you stray. As you move toward the latter end of the scale, the choice to reject tradition becomes no choice at all. The degree to which a person can deal with the consequences of rejecting tradition, will have a limiting affect on their choices.

Bottom line: Conservatives are about freedom.

I have voted for Republicans because I agree that today's conservatives are much more in favor of individual liberties than today's liberals.

However I have to note that when it comes to women's right to vote, quite a few conservatives seem unhappy with that bit of freedom.

Ben said...

Boo-hoo, people who put their careers behind other priorities don't make as much as people with careers as top priorities. My wife makes $30 an hour more than me and only works part time. Whatever, kids are important to raise right and she wants to be the one that does it.

If she decides to work full time again when they're all grown she's not the type to complain though. Everyone should be aware of the choices they make in life and the results that come with them. The government shouldn't have to protect people from making tough choices in how you run your life.

madeleine said...

"Other countries have laws that protect against overwork even for professionals, such as standard or maximum number of hours anyone can work in a week...." And that is why "other countries" are not superpowers and we are. Oops...used to be.