November 26, 2013 Practice Points

Work-Life Balance Concern Shifts to Singles

By Joanne Geha Swanson

The public buzz on work-life balance tends to focus on the efforts of working mothers as they strive to achieve the delicate balance between family commitments and job responsibilities. A recent post by Golda Calonge on the blog Ms-JD.org, however, takes a look at recent discussion about single professional women and whether they are being unfairly expected to pick up the slack for their married counterparts. Ms-JD.org refers to this phenomenon as “singleism-prejudice” and “discrimination directed at married people.”

The blog reports that single, childless women interviewed by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg for her New York Times bestseller, Lean In, and by Ayana Byrd for her Marie Claire article, “The Single Girl’s Second Shift,” were disproportionately asked to work late and to take the lead on projects, while their colleagues with families were preferred for flexible work arrangements. The authors suggest that the troublesome result is that these overworked single professional women forgo social opportunities to meet marital prospects.

But the blog post notes that the authors perpetuate singleism by focusing on a very specific hetero-normative demographic (that might not, for example, include the LGBTQ population) and by universalizing single women’s motivations to create work-life balance. Also disconcerting is the “absence of men” from this dialogue and the “interchangeable” references to professional married women and working mothers without challenge to “the archetype of a nuclear family” that may no longer exist.

Keywords: woman advocate, litigation, Singleism, women, married, single


Copyright © 2016, American Bar Association. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or downloaded or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association. The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of the American Bar Association, the Section of Litigation, this committee, or the employer(s) of the author(s).