While more women are reaching leadership positions in a wide range of professional fields, research indicates that full gender equality in the workplace is still aspirational. The Wellesley Centers for Women, Wellesley Club of Atlanta, and The Lola, a women-focused coworking space, joined together in November 2019 to discuss how these two truths impact women’s careers.
The program, titled, Making “Work” Work for Us in a Changing Economy: The Elusive Quest for Work-Life Balance, Social Good, and “Making It” as Women, took place at The Lola in Atlanta, GA. Attendees included Wellesley College alumnae, friends of WCW, and members of The Lola. Layli Maparyan, Ph.D., executive director of WCW, and Sari Pekkala Kerr, Ph.D., senior research scientist and economist at WCW, engaged guests in a conversation about women’s entrepreneurship and the many ways women today balance their work and family lives.
Dr. Maparyan asked guests to consider this question: “How do we still do the things that we want to do, not just meet obligations, but do the things that our heart drives us to do with our families and other aspects of our lives?”
Dr. Kerr discussed her research on the gender pay gap, family leave policies, and women’s and immigrant entrepreneurship. Specifically, she shared findings that indicate college-educated women earn salaries similar to men when they first join the workforce, but the pay gap grows to about 55 percent in the first 20 years of a woman’s career, when marriage and childbirth are likely. Dr. Kerr noted that research-informed policy changes, whether at the national, local, or company level, can support women throughout their careers and help close these gaps.
Shelly Anand ’08, Sonya Khan ’99, and Han Pham ’01, founding members of The Lola and Wellesley College alumnae, were instrumental in organizing the event. Anand, a member of the Council of Advisors of WCW, shared that her motivation for bringing these networks together to have this conversation was not only to shine a light on a critical social issue, but it was personally meaningful as well.
“I am a working mother. When I go home, I have what’s come to be known as the second shift -- eating with my kids, bathing them, reading to them, putting them to bed,” Anand said. “When I talk to other working women and working moms -- we are always talking about the work-life balance struggle.”
Attendees at the event shared similar stories about the difficulties of juggling work and home. Having these conversations, highlighting women’s experiences, and sharing how research-informed solutions can shape a better world are key ways WCW drives social change. In calling attention to these issues, we take one step closer to gender equality, social justice, and human wellbeing.
November 26, 2019