Although American corporations are concerned with the problems facing two-career families -- and favor policies to help -- there is a "marked discrepancy," says a recent report, between what companies say they support and what they do.
There is a "climate of change in the corporate world," notes the report by Catalyst, a New York-based resource center for women. "A significant number of corporations . . . are motivated by enlightened self-interest to offer the assistance couples need."
But despite this "readiness to test new corporate practices," few have taken action, claims the report based on a survey of 815 two-career families and 374 of the nation's top 1,300 companies. The report, funded by Exxon Corp., explores attitudes and practices of two-career families and their corporate employers.
Nearly three-fourths of the companies surveyed said they favor flexible work hours -- yet just 37 percent have such policies. More than half favor monetary support for child-care facilities, but only 19 percent offer employes that support.
Sixty-two percent favor a "cafeteria approach" to benefits (allowing employees to choose from a variety of benefits those most appropriate to their needs), yet just 8 percent offer this approach.
Employers' concern with the stresses on two-career families, the report notes, "stems from the effect career and family problems can have on recruitment, employe morele, productivity and, ultimately, company profits." Forty-five percent of corporations surveyed said the difficulties two-career families face has not yet affected their operations.
The major problem corporations face is relocation, concludes the study, with two-thirds of the companies reporting employe resistance to moving "largely because it interferes with the career of a spouse." Although 90 percent of the surveyed couples said they think companies should assist the spouse of a relocating employe, only 4 percent of corporations have such policies. Twenty-nine percent of the companies said they would help at the employee's request.
Careers (as opposed to just jobs) were important to the couples surveyed. To participate in the study, both husband and wife had to be involved in "lifelong work characterized by strong commitment." A majority, however, said family was more important than career, and an even greater number said family would be relatively more important than career 10 years from now.
Forty percent of responding couples had children, 23 percent wanted one or more children and 17 percent had decided to remain childless. The median time wives had taken off for maternity leave was 12 weeks. Almost none of the husbands had taken paternity leave.
Couples cited "more money" as the greatest advantage of a two-career life style, with "automony for both" and "growth" as other big pluses. Three quarters of the couples agreed that their careers are of equal importance.When either career was more important, money was the major reason.
The No. 1 problem among two career couples, the report shows, is "allocation of time," followed by financial issues, poor communication and conflicts over housework.
The greatest burden for wives was "too much to do" -- not surprising, says the report, in light of findings that "women still carry the primary responsibility for home and child care." Child care, however, was more equally shared than any other task.
Wives "are more perfectionistic," says the report, and listed more physiological and psychological stress than their husbands. To make things easier, wives want more household help, more time and more liberal employers' policies.
Husbands said the biggest disadvantage for them was "not enough time together." They listed "more time" as what would help most, followed by "more success" and "more money."
Couples noted a high level of satisfaction with their marriages, and somewhat less with their careers and the way they are combining the two. Wives were more satisfied with their careers than their husbands.
Men and women self-described as perfectionists, says the report, perceived more problems and experienced more stress in combining career and marriage.