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Rewriting the Rules

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Wait a minute. As modern mothers, our choice is to go corporate and "Lean In" or stay at home?

Oh, I don't think so.

I call shenanigans. Yeah, that's right. I said shenanigans. You can go look it up. I'll wait.

Don't get me wrong. I'm a fan of the "Lean In" movement and I also completely support stay-at-home moms. This perceived choice, however, isn't one we've chosen.

The current corporate world was largely shaped in the earlier part of this century, at a time when women weren't included in the workforce. We pushed for our right to enter that world, but the culture had already solidified, and it hasn't changed much. We've had to conform to it or go home. It's still part of an inadequate paradigm that we've been told we live in.

But because it is a paradigm, it can be shifted.

The working world is still clearly stacked against female workers. Women are paid 77 cents on the male dollar. We are 50 percent of the population, but only 18 percent of elected officials and 4 percent of corporate leadership.

We haven't been in on making the rules. But for some reason, we're playing by them.

According to the Shriver Report, more than 80 percent of men and women agree that businesses failing to adapt to the needs of modern families risk losing good workers. And the fact is, businesses that support and retain women do have healthier bottom lines.

This isn't that surprising to many of us. I've watched women friends pass on jobs that won't be flexible with them -- a huge loss for the companies that aren't recognizing these missed opportunities with a large business upside.

I enjoyed reading Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In. There were many passages that echoed my own experience. I agree that choosing the right life partner is key, that we should always ask for more money, that work will usually lose if we're forced to choose between job and family. But she also writes that while she hasn't yet missed one of her daughter's recitals because of work, she probably will in the future.

What?

Why on earth would she ever let that happen? She is one powerful woman, so why wouldn't people accommodate her? If she wants to be at her daughter's recital, why would she ever let work get in the way?

It's time to end the assumption that this is "just the way it is." That's how things always seem until someone stands up and says, "No. That's the way things were."

Think back on our nation's history: The Declaration of Independence, slavery, segregation, the women's vote, landing on the moon. Take your pick. We've been able to alter the "impossible" for eons. And we'll continue to do it. In fact, it's inevitable. The task is to accelerate the arrival of change.

We are in the midst of a new wave of feminism. This time, we will reclaim femininity, assert our power and alter this work/life paradigm so it actually works for us.

The good news is, it's happening already.

Women are starting businesses, figuring out how to work from home and provide for the family financially as well as emotionally. We're going back to school in record numbers, and companies founded by women are popping up and succeeding. This trend affirms the hope that we're going to see this revolution through.

There are a few changes corporations could implement immediately to bring on the revolution and attract and retain more women:

Provide onsite day care. On average, companies that aggressively promote women have revenues that run 34 percent higher than the median. An onsite day care would undoubtedly keep more women, and profits, moving up the ranks.

Abolish the penalty for temporarily leaving the workforce. Currently, women see a 20 percent to 30 percent decrease in annual wages if they are out of the workforce for only one year. [Lean In: Chapter 7]. She's not working 20 to 30 percent less than she was before she left and this "penalty" needs to be eliminated.

Offer more flexibility as long as deadlines are met, goals are achieved and the work is getting done. To provide face time, companies could hold scheduled, in-house brainstorming meetings to ensure collaboration and personal interaction.

I don't pretend to have all the answers. But I do believe the answers are out there. The more we talk about this, the more we listen to each other and offer suggestions, the faster the changes will come.

I've been watching women over the last few years and I have never seen such ingenuity, promise, hard work and passion. We're not expecting to put our feet up and get paid. We're much more creative and dedicated than that.

This is not just a women's issue. It's a people issue. This is about more than our own financial and personal gain. Women have a profound desire to make the world a better place. I've been inspired by how many female entrepreneurs have reached out and asked how they can help since I started Better Way Moms. I am continually moved by the depth of our generosity.

I believe it's this generosity, and our passion, that will continue to fuel this revolution.

We have some rules to rewrite, and rewrite them, we will.