When I had a four-year-old, a two-year-old and an infant (and a seven-year-old who was in school all day), I had a preschool carpool that was one of the most dependable and important parts of my life.
It was the linchpin to my getting a few moments to myself. After I dropped off the four-year-old, if I managed to get the two-year-old and infant to nap at the same time, I had a few blissful hours to do things like go to the bathroom by myself or eat a meal sitting down. Nothing stopped me from fulfilling my side of the bargain—not snowstorms, temper tantrums, lice, swine flu—NOTHING. Luckily for me, Rebecca, who did the pick-up, also had four kids and knew how critical this potential window of sanity was for me, was just as dedicated. We kept up that carpool for six years, and I’m still grateful for it to this day.
Now I’m 47 and my kids are 18, 15, 13 and 11, and I’m trying to get back into the paid workforce after 18 years outside of it. I’m still not ready to go back full time for many reasons, and I’ve found that part-time work is extremely difficult to find. Ideally, I’d love to share a job, just like I did with that carpool, but that option is nonexistent as far as I can tell, and I think that corporate America is making a huge mistake by ignoring it.
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During my 18 years in the unpaid workforce, almost all of my jobs have been job shares with other women. The carpool is just the tip of the iceberg. I was a PTA co-president with three other women, and we were able to divide and conquer everything that needed to get done efficiently and with ease. Right now, I’m a volunteer leader on a political campaign with a good friend, and part of what has makes us successful is that we have different but complementary skill sets and trust each other’s opinions and instincts. By working together, we make each other and our efforts so much better. And, yes, we have a lot of fun doing it.
Outside the paid workforce, women partner together all the time in ways that allow our society to function. Why then, hasn’t that dynamic been incorporated into the paid workforce? I’m not talking about being a “team player” and pitching in to help colleagues; we know women do way more than their fair share of that at work. I’m talking about letting women partner together to share one job—dividing the work, dividing the responsibility and dividing the skills necessary to fill the position. Can you imagine what kind of creative and economic power would be unleashed if companies started doing that? It also would open up opportunities to a huge, untapped population of workers.
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Employers might object that job sharing would be disruptive and confusing for other employees and clients. But here’s the answer to that concern: This job-sharing dynamic is happening all the time, all around you (and most definitely in your own household), and it happens so seamlessly that you don’t have to see it to know it exists. Why, when we manage to make it work so well in our personal lives, would we not be able to translate that to a work situation? The answer: We would.
Corporate America, when you’re ready to start allowing employees to job share, I’ve got an army of incredibly accomplished and competent women ready to go.