My dad, a textile executive and part storyteller, spent many dinner hours entertaining me with anecdotes from his office. He encouraged me to ask questions, talk through problems, and listen.
I started my business 21 years ago while raising two daughters. When they were growing up, some days seemed overwhelming, but with the help of a husband who made parenting a 50/50 endeavor, we made it through and I am grateful for a life that has always been full.
Now, as the topic of work and family bubbles up from social media to dinner tables, men and women are speaking out.
Through the whirlwind of the last two decades, I have not had a strong point of view about the topic of work and family. I certainly never thought of myself as a feminist. Like many women of my generation, we just put our heads down and get the job done. But the conversation is good, not just for women, but men, too. And this year, two things have put me in the middle of it.
I have five senior staff members pregnant at the same time and I am president of the New York Women in Communications group. Through a survey of its members, I learned that large numbers of women are dropping off mid-career. As leaders, we need to create workplace environments that help them stay in the game.
If we wait until the big answer comes along nothing will happen, so let's begin with small solutions. Provide staff with a degree of flexibility. The advent of technology means efficiency and client service does not have to be sacrificed.
Creating a corporate culture that recognizes the realities of employees' lives can be as simple as instituting a policy of not starting meetings at 5:30pm. One mom in our office recently recounted that at the beginning of an unscheduled meeting at day's end, I asked her if she needed to go home to relieve her child care. It was a very small thing for me, but meant a great deal to her.
We also instituted a curriculum called Outside/In to bring news and trends from the outside world back to the agency and clients.
Let's use the ongoing conversation to ignite long-term career development. We won't be able to solve everything, but we can foster work environments that - in the words of my father - encourage each other to ask questions, talk through problems, and listen.
Liz Kaplow is CEO of Kaplow.