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Coalition Warns Against Supporting Idea With Legislation : 44 Women’s Groups Blast Concept of ‘Mommy Track’

Times Staff Writer

A coalition of 44 national women’s groups Wednesday denounced a controversial Harvard Business Review article that advocated the idea that career women with children should be treated differently by employers than their childless counterparts, calling it a “Mommy Trap” instead of a “Mommy Track.”

The Council of Presidents, which includes leaders from women’s organizations ranging from the National Organization for Women to the national Business and Professional Women’s Clubs, warned federal lawmakers and Bush Administration officials not to propose legislation based on the concept outlined in the article, commonly called the “Mommy Track.”

“Mommy Track solutions merely end up discriminating against women and hurting men,” said Irene Natividad, chairman of the National Women’s Political Caucus. “We obviously do not need a mommy trap, (which is) a second-class track for parents working outside the home.”

The article by Felice N. Schwartz, “Management Women and the New Facts of Life,” urged corporations to recognize two groups of women managers: “career primary” women willing to forgo a family to be top executives and “career and family” women who are willing to stay in middle management and accept less pay in return for more flexibility and family time.

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Schwartz, president and founder of Catalyst Inc., a New York-based nonprofit research firm that fosters the careers of women, wrote that companies should eliminate barriers to top management positions for women and, to retain women executives, should give them the flexibility to have a career and a family. “These women are a precious resource that has yet to be mined,” Schwartz wrote.

Schwartz said critics misunderstand her article and did not realize that corporate attitudes toward women have changed. “The article has touched a nerve in women who don’t have exposure to corporations,” Schwartz said. “It’s a different era. Corporations today know they need women.”

A Labor Department official said there are no plans to submit legislation on the basis of Schwartz’s concept. “I don’t know anyone who’s talking legislation about this,” said Jill Emery, director of the Women’s Bureau at the department.

Some women viewed support of special treatment of women with families as an attempt to return to sex-segregated jobs that foster discrimination and lower wages for women. “We learned after World War II that the Mommy Track is a track to nowhere for women and for economic productivity,” said Sarah Harder, president of the American Assn. of University Women. Natividad said businesses should provide flexibility for both men and women who have children. “We learned the hard way--separate is not equal,” she said.

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Men were not included in the career and family concept because major corporations, while willing to give flexibility for families to women, are not prepared to give it to men, Schwartz said. Also, women still remain primarily responsible for the care of children, she said.


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