Men Appear More Inclined to Make Family a Priority Over Work, Career
NEW YORK (AP) _ When Brandon Tartikoff quit as head of Paramount Pictures Corp. to spend time with his injured daughter, he did something that once would have been inconceivable but now reflects an important fact of American life.
The decision by one of Hollywood’s most creative executives to put family ahead of career is a high-profile example of powerful forces in the work place that are reshaping how men view their professional vs. private lives.
″I think there’s a better understanding that men have these responsibilities,″ said Dana Friedman, co-president of the Families and Work Institute, a New York-based research group that evaluates how companies handle family issues. ″It used to be that work was everything.″
Tartikoff, 42, abruptly announced Thursday that he was resigning as chairman of Paramount after only 15 months on the job. He said it was impossible to spend the enormous time required to run a movie studio while his 9-year-old daughter was recuperating from a critical car crash injury.
″Personally, I have learned the hard way that it is one grand illusion if you start believing you can be totally dedicated to the demands of your job without shortchanging your pressing responsibilities to your family,″ he said in a resignation statement.
While colleagues in the entertainment industry may have been stunned, it’s not the first time a high-level male executive or top official has resigned in recent times because family-related demands.
Perhaps the most notable example is Peter Lynch, former head of the Fidelity Magellan Fund, the nation’s largest and one of the most successful stock mutual funds. After 13 years of working 80-hour weeks, Lynch resigned at age 46 to spend more time with his family in 1990. His successor Morris Smith burned out after only two years at age 34 and moved to Israel with his family.
Earlier this year, Lee Brown, the New York City police commissioner, abruptly quit the nation’s largest police force to care for his ill wife. Paul Tsongas, the former Massachusetts senator, quit the presidential race this year so he could be with his family.
The desire by men to become more active fathers and husbands extends to all levels of the work force, not just the highly-paid. A broad range of research suggests men are actively seeking ways to keep work from consuming all their time.
A 1991 internal study by DuPont, for example, showed 56 percent of the chemical company’s male employees favor flexible work schedules, up from 37 percent five years earlier. The study also showed 40 percent of DuPont men have thought about quitting to take more flexible jobs.
At American Telephone & Telegraph Co., men now account for one of every 50 employees taking family leave, vs. one in 400 ten years ago. At the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, nearly half the employees using child care benefits are men.
To a large extent, the explosive growth of two-income families and single- parent housholds has helped redefine the role of the man as the financial provider and the woman as the primary caregiver at home. As a result, many men don’t feel that a career is a sex symbol or sacred male domain.
″The adrenalin-driven, career-driven focused guy is no longer our hero,″ said Felice Schwartz, the president of Catalyst, a New York consulting firm on workplace equality issues.
″The ideal is a man with a more balanced life, and he’s not a wimp or a sissy if he gets involved with his kids,″ she said. ″He’s really a good father.″
Others say men want to spend more time with their families simply because the pressure of working has become so intense in the past few years. Part of the reason is the economic slowdown, marked by layoffs and cutbacks that have increased stress and vastly enlarged the workload requirements of many employees, male and female.
″When you combine downsizing with having both parents working, the amount of time parents get to spend with their children is so reduced,″ said Michael Rosow, executive vice president of Work In America Institute Inc., a nonprofit research group in Eastchester, N.Y. ″Some people feel they’re lucky to spend a half hour a night with their kids.″