I recently read a New York Times column about the “motherhood penalty vs. the fatherhood bonus.” The statistics about the wage gap and gender bias didn’t surprise me, but this line at the end stuck with me: “The data could be boiled down to hardheaded career advice: Men should festoon their desks with baby photos and add PTA membership to their résumés, and women should do the opposite.”
OK, hold on a minute. Having been involved in various capacities at my children’s elementary school, and having just helped coordinate and promote a very Austin-like school anniversary, I take issue with this statement.
In an era of massive school budget cuts, where would our school and thousands of others across the state and the country be without volunteer forces? This important work should be elevated and celebrated, not relegated to a thank-you in the school newsletter.
Yes, men, add your PTA membership and leadership to your résumés and your LinkedIn profiles; show your colleagues that you value volunteering at your child’s school. Let it be known that you are attending school meetings and functions during the workday. In the ongoing debate about and struggle for work-life balance, we should all be challenging the status quo by making it clear what’s important to us, whether that’s equal pay, flexible hours or the ability to share our time and expertise with organizations that need them.
Our little elementary school is very lucky to have the amount of parental involvement and volunteerism that it does. I worked on the recent anniversary event with a sociology professor, the owner of a PR firm, an Olympic swimming coach, and a small business owner—not to mention the school staff and faculty—all of whom volunteered their time on top of their regular jobs. And my tiny, one-off role was nothing compared to the time and energy many people give to the school year-round.
Many people list professional memberships on their resumes or LinkedIn profiles, even if the only involvement they have is writing their dues checks. Women and men, own up to your volunteering; be proud of your commitment to your local school and put it out there. Use it as a chance not only to support your school, but to expand your network, learn new skills, show off your talents, meet new people. Do it to show students—the next generation of business leaders—that men and women value their local schools and the opportunity to help.