Balancing act

Big company starts a program to help employees balance their work and family lives, and it sounds appealing to this IT pilot fish.

"At one point I looked into the program because my grandmother was ill at the time," says fish. "Being able to have the time to assist her was important.

"She ended up recovering quickly, so I didn't actually sign up for the program."

But after looking into it, it's clear to fish that the program isn't really designed for him -- it's supposed to help the company get a more diverse workforce by attracting and retaining more women.

Then comes a round of layoffs, and fish ends up attending a series of outplacement sessions with other employees in a similar situation.

He notices how many women are in those sessions -- a much higher percentage than the proportion of women employed by the company.

"And they seemed to be younger women," fish says. "I learned that many of them had been working under a job-sharing program, where two people would work part-time to fill one full-time position."

Time passes, fish becomes an IT contractor, and he eventually ends up returning to his old employer on a contract gig.

But he hasn't forgotten about the outsized proportion of women who were laid off at the same time he was -- and one day when he's chatting with a manager he's friendly with, he asks about that.

Turns out each person in the job-sharing program was counted as a full-time position, because those employees were still getting a full-time benefits package. So when it was headcount-reduction time, if Wilma was in the job-sharing program she counted the same as Fred, even though she worked half the hours and was paid half as much.

"So managers wouldn't pick Wilma to be laid off because of her gender," says fish. "They would pick her because her work output was about half of Fred's.

"So much for diversity."

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