Daisy Dowling and Melinda Merino aim to help working parents – not just working mothers, they point out – with a trio of headlines that Harvard Business Review Press publishes in December: Getting It All Done, Managing Your Career, and Taking Care of Yourself. Dowling, editor of the HBR Working Parents series and author of Workparent (HBR, Jun 2021) and Merino, Editorial Director and Associate Editor at HBR, explained to PW why these books meet an urgent need.
What was the impetus for the Working Parents series?
Merino: Although we are launching this new series in the midst of the pandemic, it was designed long before it started, in 2019. The needs of working parents are increasingly evident in our research and in customer surveys, and when millennials started to reach the age where they were advancing their own careers while building families, we really saw that need arise. We have even seen the interest of people who are not yet parents: “I am thinking of starting this work but I want to start a family; what will the problems be?
How has the pandemic affected the way you view these concerns?
Dowling: The pandemic has highlighted these challenges. We are no longer in the position where I sneak into the pediatrician during the working day, I rush back and hope no one has noticed. We now need to be much more open about it.
Merino: The pandemic has so exposed what had been hidden for so long – racism and glaring inequalities – that everything we had already published on flexible working before March is already obsolete. We always saw work as separate from life, and you had to keep them in balance; this idea is now totally outdated. We see directly into people’s homes and the challenges they face. As a manager, I see with my own eyes during videoconferences that childcare and work are totally incompatible.
Who do you see as the readership of these books?
Dowling: Historically, the conversation around working parents, while powerful and important, has ended up living within an organization’s “women’s network”. We have planned this series to meet the needs of parents of older children, adoptive parents, LGTBQ parents and non-office workers; we added frontline health workers, police officers, and so on.
Merino: We think beyond the traditional HBR audience – managers who are trying to be successful and move forward in their organizations – and we figure out how to reach everyone who works. The issues of working parents span demographics and job titles. At the same time, there are a lot of glimmers of hope as to how working fathers are changing their entire approach to parenthood. We’re starting to see more and more male CEOs talking about how to drive change in your organization for fathers too.
What should be remembered for working parents?
Dowling: We are in a redesign. The skills and tools are going to be very different. We want to give workers freedom of action. How do you have a constructive conversation about having children and working? How to manage your time differently?
Merino: The message here is optimism. We want to show people: you can do it.
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A version of this article appeared in the 11/30/2020 issue of Editors Weekly under the title: She works hard for the money, and so does he