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VIP Corner: Nancy Koehn on reasons family must be a part of business values

SmartBrief is partnering with Big Think to create a weekly video spotlight in SmartBrief on Leadership called “VIP Corner: Video Insights Powered by Big Think.” This week, we’re featuring Nancy Koehn, a professor of business administration at Harvard University.

The business community is due for a change in the way it values families and work-life balance, Koehn says. She addresses this in three parts.

  • Large companies are struggling to retain top talent, half of whom or more are women, Koehn said. Improvement is needed in enabling a woman to maintain her career and have a life outside of work — including having and raising a child — that goes beyond “a kind of toggle switch” in which a woman leaves and then “tries to get back in.”
  • Corporations need to have open discussions about work-life balance, including what it means to have a family. It’s not enough to discuss “work-life balance” or “work-family,” Koehn said. What is needed is “a more nuanced dialogue that’s in keeping with the … difficulty and messiness of trying to work well and live well as a family member, a parent and a citizen,” she said.
  • Businesses don’t foster values that include men and women as units of a family, particularly among large corporations, Koehn said. Few include family as a core part of their mission or values, and “yet everyone has a family, and everyone is very much affected in terms of the possibilities and their paths by what that family is and what it becomes.”

Big Think is a forum in which top experts explore big ideas and core skills defining the 21st century. Learn more from its editors, fellows and guest speakers.

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