I'm not referring to the apparent flagrant inequity that appears to be a cornerstone of the Wal-Mart lawsuit.
There will always be inequity in pay - - and usually the inequity is on the side of women because they are, most of the time, the designated primary care-giver once they become a parent.
I think where the equal/balancing act gets skewed is in the importance a parent plays in the life of a child. Once you're a parent, YOU view your career differently (even if you do not want to admit it in writing or publicly).
For a few, they will hire nannies or have extended family that plays the role either of primary care-giver during working hours - or emergency care giver when the child is sick, school gets cancelled, etc.
But - for the vast majority of women - they will make the conscious (and correct) decision to put their career in 2nd place because their child needs them NOW. It won't matter what project is due, what deadline may be missed or meeting not attended - - they will be with their child.
Most men do not face this challenge - and consequently - by upper management - - they are seen as the contributors who will always be ready to work the extra hours, do whatever it takes, to get the job done. Ask a room full of men and women at work (between Sept & May) what they're most concerned about every day between 3:15 - 3:45. 90% of the women will say they're waiting to hear from their children that they are home safe. Most of the men will answer along the lines of working on whatever is in front of them.
The world of work is like athletic competition - - it is a game. The biggest difference is the work game lasts for years - - athletic competitions only last for short periods of time, followed by long periods of down-time.
I've never had a client say they were glad they put their company first - - but I've had 100+ rue the fact they missed too much of their child's growing up and they cannot go back and relive it.
For most of us, our children are our legacy, not our career.
People are working longer. It looks as though they'll raise the retirement age to 70 (for now). Companies will become more diverse and the greatest challenge will be older/experienced workers managed by younger, well-educated professionals. And age matters. By that I mean, the older worker brings knowledge (and sometimes a set way of doing things); the younger worker brings new ideas, a fresh set of eyes (and a resistance to suggestions from those who are older).
It has many of the characteristics of the military. Junior grade officers are usually younger than many of their subordinates. The advantage for the military, is people wear their rank on their shoulder (or sleeves) and show respect according to rank. In the civilian world, the rank isn't as obvious and the respect has to be earned. Dr. Ken Eastman, Professor @ Oklahoma State University, defined the differences as:
Civilian - no authority (it must be earned based on leadership, ability to work with a team)
Military - authority driven (rank is respected first, person second)
Whenever I'm working with someone who is older than their manager, it becomes clear that mutual respect is the most difficult to retain. Yet, without it, dissension will be a condition-of-the-day. Good news???? When you do resolve the tension, the results will be amazing.
Add to this mix those two fearful words, stuck together - sexual harassment - no wonder there is tension in the workplace.
There are workable solutions - but if it takes 2 to tango, it most assuredly takes 2 to get along.