Once upon a time, the American dream was built on the ideal that hard work leads to success. Today, with the rise of technology, the message has become: work all the time or you will fail, Melinda Gates argued in her first column on LinkedIn.
On Wednesday, Gates, one of the worlds’ richest women, joined the professional social networking site (now owned by Microsoft) and immediately took corporations to task. This workaholic culture is particularly harmful to women, Gates writes, because women are still being told by society that home care and child care is up to them as well. She explained (emphasis ours):
“We’re sending our daughters into a workplace designed for our dads ..
The American workplace was set up based on the assumption that employees had partners who would stay home to do the unpaid work of caring for family and tending to the house. Of course, that wasn’t always true back then, and it definitely isn’t today …
“In fact, most companies are asking employees to work more. The American workweek has soared from less than 40 hours to nearly 50 …
“Technology has made it harder to pull away from our jobs, and easier to wonder whether a night off or a long weekend is damaging our careers.”
The result is a work ethic that hurts everyone, writes Gates. When companies demand that employees work themselves into the ground, those that want to balance career with family life lean out. Some of them leave the corporate world altogether, which limits diversity.
And those who stay are less productive. They “have to dedicate so much energy to simply keeping their heads above water, instead of thinking of ways to create more value,” she writes.