While October 15 might have been the inaugural National Flex Day, and public discourse about work life balance seems to be taking place everywhere, it's not really happening on television. However, The Good Wife, a show that frequently espouses interesting commentary on how political the personal can and has become, recently featured a teleconferencing employee in its season premiere. This was a very rare occurrence; I watch more television than I care to admit and can't recall a flexible workplace such as The Good Wife's Lockhart Gardner being depicted previously. Issues like work life balance and policies, the achievement and gender and race pay gaps, salary negotiation, and other related topics are not all the most immediate things my peers and I are dealing with at the moment. Many of us are still looking for our first job out of college or worrying about paying our rent and paying off student loans while working unpaid internships or minimum wage jobs; we're underpaid, especially women. However, we hear and read about the longer term issues to address over the course of our careers such as work life balance, the achievement gap, finding flexible work environments, and redefining success in articles, books, and commencement addresses, and whether we're actually talking about them or not, young women are definitely thinking about them and how we'll tackle these challenges in the future.
I'm not in The Good Wife's targeted demographic so I can't speak from experience, but seeing the show feature a flexible work place, even if the teleconferencing litigator serves as a gag, makes me wonder if it's an attempt to normalize these kinds of workplace policies for the show's intended demographic, who unlike my generation of millenials, are more frequently in the positions of power to enact and implement them. Seeing a television show wrestle with these issues not only normalizes the progressive approach to them, but also expands where the conversation is taking place. I hope to see these questions addressed and more examples of flexible workplaces in our entertainment, especially in those aimed at the 18-35 demographic, because it can help normalize them for us too.
Since millenials, especially female, politically motivated ones hear the calls from our elders to not just work towards policies that allow for work-life balance but to practice them, might start seeing them in our entertainment, it could push us more to pursue these policies in both the policymaking and private spheres later on in our careers. The power of network television to change an individual's views and society are huge, we saw it happen to the Vice President of the United States. Many of us have guides for ways to practice work life balance for when we're a little older and have the ability to be flexible and balance work and life responsibilities. I have my parents who both own their own businesses, setting their own hours and switching off who was home when my brother and I got home from school, but I've also worked for people in both the public and private sectors, men and women, who telecommute, have flexible work hours, take extended maternity and paternity leave, and encourage others to do so too, practicing what they preach. However, not everyone works somewhere that has these kinds of progressive policies (in full disclosure, these were also ideologically progressive workplaces), so a medium like television displaying them will presumably have a wide ranging impact that goes much further in both shaping the minds of people currently in positions of management and authority and those who will be in the future. On a related note, we could also use more shows about working class families, both because it's unclear a show since Roseanne about working class people has really made an impact, but also because these issues are relevant for these communities as well, and would help broaden who might be impacted by seeing the conversation take place on television.
The Good Wife, a wonderfully nuanced and complex show that revolves around gender politics, did not have a completely positive portrayal of the implementation of a progressive workplace policy -- the employee's avatar was physically shut out of meetings and joked about -- but the inclusion of these issues in mainstream entertainment has to start somewhere and it needs to happen on screen a whole lot more.