Every few months, it seems there’s a new article telling women how they can “have it all.” There is constant dialogue about the lack of women in leadership positions, or the lack of women in STEM careers. Many organizations now offer flexible work arrangements like telecommuting, virtual work, and modified schedules to allow women to maintain a work-life balance. Yet these programs don’t seem to work – companies that implement them still lack women in leadership positions.

The programs don’t work because they address the wrong problem. In a blog on The Huffington Post, Robin J. Ely and Irene Padavic confront the elephant in the corner. It isn’t that balancing work and life is the issue, it’s that work has simply taken over our lives. More than 10 percent of US workers put in more than 50 hours each workweek. Accountants regularly clock in 12-hour days during tax season, not to mention working weekends. Lawyers can be expected to work a 90-hour week as they ramp up for a major case. And let’s not forget that we’re now all permanently attached to our smartphones, giving our employers access to us 24/7.

Let’s compare that with other countries’ workweeks. In England, there are laws in place preventing employees from working more than 48 hours in a given week. Belgium caps their hours at 37.5, and France has had a 35-hour workweek in place since 2000. Yet here in the States, if we work less than 35 hours each week, we’re considered part-time employees. How does a 7-hour workday still constitute part-time? Meanwhile, many working women rely upon their employers for insurance – which only covers full time employees!

Ely & Padavic delve deeper into the problem, and address how it affects both halves of a working couple. It provides some interesting food for thought, and a great call to action. In the meantime, the next time you’re worried about your work-life balance, take a moment to remember that it is perfectly natural (and healthy!) to want and expect a life outside of work. If your employer thinks differently, the problem is with them.

Image Credit: Forbes