Writing at the intersection of motherhood, feminism and my Latinidad

08 February 2016

Beyond Balance: Work, Family, Life in 2016 in Chicago


One of the top questions I get from students is "How do you balance work and life?" My top response? "I don't. There's no balance, it's a constant juggle." And I have it good in that I have a partner who is active in our daughter's life, pulls his share of domestic duties and we have jobs with paid vacation and sick days. So what are the steps to making our juggle less illogical and allow others to enjoy the benefits we participate in?

This Thursday Women Employed hosts a conversation moderated by their executive director, Anne Ladky with Susan Lambert, University of Chicago, Associate Professor in the School of Social Service Administration, Iliana Mora, COO at Erie Family Health Center and WE Board member, and Rex Huppke, Chicago Tribune journalist of the popular workplace column, "I Just Work Here."I plan to attend and live tweet the conversation, so keep an eye on my Twitter feed that evening! But to prepare, I was able to ask Iliana Mora a few questions about the topic:

1) The challenges that women face in the workplace change as our lives change. How can we best discuss this issue without it focusing solely on mothers?

First we need to recognize that our identity is much more than our job and to give equal or even greater value to the other parts of a woman’s life. We also need to start from the basic belief that everyone’s time outside of work is equally valuable and equally important. While work-life balance can admittedly be a challenge for me, I expect it and protect it for the women who work with me, regardless of their personal situations.

2) What changes has Erie Family Health Center made to help women address the challenges of the work-life juggle?

At Erie we have almost 600 employees, about 90% of whom are women. They range from housekeeping staff to Medical Assistants to physicians. We are always learning from them how to best support this juggle. Right now we offer career-track part-time work at all levels of the organization as well as evening and weekend work and parental leave to new fathers to support the women in their lives. We are also very flexible about staff’s needs and commitments outside of the job. As a leader and manager, my priority is an excellent and timely work product – not on whether it gets completed between 9 and 5.

3) As someone who works in not just a large organization, but one that serves a lot of Chicagoans, what is one thing that Erie has done to help the people you serve with their own juggle?

We know that our patients are juggling a lot and sometimes their health comes last. So we make our services as convenient, accessible and patient-centered as possible. That means evening and weekend hours, urgent care, access to medical advice 24/7 and a patient portal where patients can do their medical business online whenever they have time. Erie case managers also help our patients to address their barriers to making their medical appointments, such as offering transportation and assisting them with getting released from work.

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While registration is closed for Thursday, if you have a question you would like to ask this ace panel about work, life, family balance/juggle, please leave it in the comments or tweet me so I can pass along your questions.

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