3 CEOs, 2 Paths, 1 Goal for Working Fathers

Recently, two male CEOs stepped down to be more involved dads. Most working dads have to muddle through with difficult trade-offs. What we really need are "CEO Dads" who stick around and create supportive workplaces for the rest of us.

3 CEO Dads: El-Erian, Schireson and Weinberger

"Change is more likely to happen when the new generation of men in positions of corporate leadership see work-family not as a theoretical issue or one that only effects women but rather as something they see as a real challenge in their own lives."

3 CEOs

Appropriately for National Work and Family Month, over the past few weeks, two CEOs, PIMCO's Mohamed El-Erian and MongoDB's Max Schireson, made headlines by stepping down in order to be more involved fathers. I reported on both, and even interviewed Schireson for the Wall Street Journal. Thanks to reader feedback on my blog and at WSJ, I have some further thoughts on the relative importance of their decisions, as well as the actions of another CEO Dad.

Clearly, not everyone is in the financial position to make the same choices as El-Erian and Schireson. The goal, however, is to look beyond the incompatibility between an "all-in" approach to work and the time needed to be sufficiently involved as fathers.

While both CEOs forewent enormous amounts of money, they both had already attained a level of financial security that allowed them to make a clean break from work. Most of us don't have that financial freedom. We'd all be better off if workplaces made more reasonable time demands on employees, offered more flexible ways to work (such as with informal telecommuting), and better accommodated men during peak parenting times (such as with paternity leave). In this way, dads wouldn't have to drop out of work to be involved with family. Instead, they could achieve success in both of their most important life roles.

The most important aspect of the recent attention to the "CEO Dads" is that change is more likely to happen when the new generation of men in positions of corporate leadership see work-family not as a theoretical issue or one that only effects women but rather as something they see as a real challenge in their own lives. I believe this is starting to happen, and, as a result, many companies are becoming more accommodating employers in order to retain talent.

2 Paths

The more important CEO Dad, however, is the one who stayed. EY's CEO Mark Weinberger recently told the audience at the White House Summit on Working Families how, before he became CEO, he made a deal with his wife and daughters to always make time for family. As a result, he left an important meeting in China early to be at his daughter's driving test, and skipped out on the World Economic Forum to help her move into her college dorm.

Despite these accommodations of work to family life, Weinberger is considered an excellent CEO, and his visible prioritization of family, I think, is helping EY create a more family-friendly culture. I'm glad that Weinberger, like Schireson and El-Erian, "gets it" about the importance of work-family balance both in his own life and as a key to retaining top talent. I'm even happier he took a different path and decided to stay in his career. This way, he can affect change from the top of his company and demonstrate that career success and family involvement can be compatible goals- even for a CEO.

1 Goal

Ultimately, the goal is that all working parents- moms and dads -- can achieve a measure of career success while also having full lives and meaningful family involvement. When leaders of companies face work-family challenges- just like we do -- it is likely we'll start seeing significant changes to the workplace.

I hope that, when National Work and Family Month 2015 rolls around, I can report on more CEO Dads who stayed, paving the way for more working parents to lead more balanced and successful lives.

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Scott Behson, Ph.D., is a Professor of Management at Fairleigh Dickinson University, a busy involved dad and an overall grateful guy. As a national expert in work and family issues, Scott was a featured speaker at the recent White House Summit on Working Families. Scott writes regularly for the Harvard Business Review Online, Huffington Post and Good Men Project, and has written for Time and the Wall Street Journal. Scott has appeared on MSNBC, Fox News, CBS This Morning, NPR Morning Edition and Bloomberg Radio.