Thursday, December 4, 2008

Governor’s gaffe and family responsibilities

I’m a huge fan of Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell. We share a common passion – Philadelphia sports teams. Although, I’ve never been involved in beaning Jimmy Johnson with a snowball.

Earlier this week at the National Governors Conference, he made a huge gaffe when a microphone picked up the following comment about President-elect Obama's choice for Secretary of Homeland Security, Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano:

Janet's perfect for that job. Because for that job, you have to have no life. Janet has no family. Perfect. She can devote, literally, 19-20 hours a day to it.

On, Campbell Brown correctly points out that if a man had been Obama’s choice, family responsibilities would never have been raised by anyone as an issue.

Gov. Rendell’s off-the-cuff comment runs in stark opposition to President-elect Obama’s own goals. The following comes from the President-elect's website, as one of the key policy points for his administration:

Protect Against Caregiver Discrimination: Workers with family obligations often are discriminated against in the workplace. Barack Obama and Joe Biden will commit the government to enforcing recently-enacted Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidelines on caregiver discrimination.

For employers, Gov. Rendell’s comment illustrates that we still have a long way to go to eliminate unconscious biases that form the maternal wall. To combat these biases, decisionmakers need to ensure that all employment decisions are based on ability and performance, free from preconceptions about an employee’s outside responsibilities.