You spend every night at the office, cluttering your desk with takeout containers. Your coworkers with kids are out the door at 5. Does work-life balance apply only to moms?
Ayana Byrd reports on the latest type of workplace discrimination.
When Simone Allen started a demanding job as a litigation attorney at a large Philadelphia law firm a year ago, the 32-year-old packed her after-work calendar to ensure that she wouldn't spend every night at the office: guitar lessons on Monday, Pilates on Friday, and a healthy mix of dates and nights out with friends in between. But in a matter of weeks, her classes fell by the wayside; she couldn't get out of the office in time. And dating? Not in months.
Instead, she's spending most nights poring over her cases—and she's one of the only ones working such intense overtime at her office. With more than 100 lawyers on staff at her firm, fewer than five are single and do not have kids, says Allen, and overwhelmingly, those are the attorneys juggling the extra load. "My coworkers with families make a point to get home by dinnertime," says Allen, who often works through the weekends. "But if they stay late, their families will still be there. If I have to cancel a date for work, that guy won't be around the next night. I figured I'd be married by now, but I'm honestly working too hard to find the person I'd want to marry."
It's the newest form of workplace discrimination: single women who carry an undue burden at the office, batting cleanup for their married-with-kids coworkers. Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg's best-selling book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, makes a strong case for women fully committing to their careers, but this kind of non-optional "leaning in" is not what she's advocating. Instead, it's an inequity simmering under the surface in many corporate cultures, says social scientist Bella DePaulo, Ph.D., author of Singlism: What It Is, Why It Matters, and How to Stop It. According to DePaulo, "singlism" represents the myriad ways that our culture rewards married couples, from discounts on car insurance to preferential treatment in the housing market, while treating singles as second-class citizens—and it's increasing in the office.