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Professor Stone Brings Hunter Touch To Conference at the White House

The White House held a conference on workplace flexibility on March 31, and one of the participants was Hunter Professor of Sociology Pamela Stone. As an expert on gender inequality in pay and employment and author of the acclaimed book Opting Out? Why Women Really Quit Careers and Head Home, Stone was ideally suited to take part in this first-ever look at the future of the American workplace.

The conference drew not only scholars like Stone, but corporate executives, labor leaders, government officials and equality advocates from across the nation. The purpose was to examine the dilemmas created by a workplace that has failed to keep pace with the 21st century's new working classes, including dual-earner families, single-parent households and adults who must care for elderly parents. As Stone observed, "The old model of 'dad works, mom keeps house' no longer applies. Now employers need to provide flexibility."

Stone described the atmosphere of the conference as "incredible," and added, "I think we were all thrilled that the Obamas sponsored this event right after the passage of the health care bill and that they take a deep personal interest in these issues. After all, they've been a working couple throughout their marriage, so they understand this in a very real way. The President talked about that when he spoke to us, and you could tell it came from the heart."

Stone brought a special Hunter touch to the conference. She had asked the class she teaches on work and the family what issues she should bring up, and at the top of the students' list was child care. The proposal drew positive reactions when Stone raised it in her discussion panel and is likely to be included in the conference report. The White House will issue an agenda for action based on the report.

Asked what it was like to attend an event hosted by the Obamas, Stone laughed and said, "We were all star-struck. You could tell when Michelle spoke at the opening and he spoke at the closing - everyone in the room had a camera out."

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