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How do you feel about the whole work-life balance?

I ran across this article on Jezebel and it sparked several ideas in my mind.  Let me quote some of it for you:

“The judge dismissed sexist comments presented as evidence as hearsay (there was no hostile work environment claim being prosecuted), and saw no evidence that women who took leave because of pregnancy were treated differently than those who took leave for other reasons….

“…The law does not require companies to ignore or stop valuing ultimate dedication, however unhealthy that may be for family life,” she wrote, citing, approvingly, business gurus like Jack Welch (General Electric CEO) who dismiss the idea of work-life balance, reflecting the “free market employment system we embrace in the United States.” As for special consideration to pregnant women’s role in society, she wrote, it “may be desirable,” but it is not “required by law.” She continued,

“Whether one thinks those consequences are intrinsically fair, whether one agrees with the roles traditionally assumed by the different genders in raising children in the United States, or whether one agrees with the monetary value society places on working versus childrearing is not at issue here…. The fact remains that the law requires only equal treatment in the workplace.”

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The NY Times also has an article about this. The best quote from it is:
“A female employee is free to choose to dedicate herself to the company at any cost, and, so far as this record suggests, she will rise in this organization accordingly,” she wrote. “The law does not require companies to ignore or stop valuing ultimate dedication, however unhealthy that may be for family life.”

I’m conflicted because I’ve seen both sides of this issue. On the one hand, I have been paid less than my male counterparts for many jobs that I have worked, despite my dedication and hours put in. On the other hand, I’ve worked with some pregnant women who were untouchable. For example, I’ve seen a pregnant woman physically assault someone and it was blown off as ‘pregnancy hormones’ and they were protected due to their pregnancy status.

However, I feel that women have a lot of pressure put on them to have a child. Once they have the child, if they continue to work, it seems that the woman has pressure put on them to make sacrifices in her career to take care of emergencies, or stay home with the child.

Once the woman tries to re-enter the workplace, is there prejudice against them if they want to work a normal 40 hour work week (or less) than their male counterparts? I’ve certainly seen evidence to support this, which is why I find the case above shocking. I’ve seen women treated differently for being pregnant. I’ve seen women treated differently for merely being women.

I know that I cannot long-term work more than 60 hours a week without health consequences. Short term, it’s not a problem, but long-term it has caused me health issues. I’ve been very vexed in the past when I’ve accepted what I was told was a 40 hour a week position with occasional overtime (stipulated as once every few months), only to find out that they really meant 50 to 70 hours every week, and that my expectations were unrealistic even though I had it in writing.

Many studies have indicated that the 40 hour work week produces the peak productivity without diminishing returns. This article states:
Research by the Business Roundtable in the 1980s found that you could get short-term gains by going to 60- or 70-hour weeks very briefly — for example, pushing extra hard for a few weeks to meet a critical production deadline… The Business Roundtable study found that after just eight 60-hour weeks, the fall-off in productivity is so marked that the average team would have actually gotten just as much done and been better off if they’d just stuck to a 40-hour week all along.

I definitely feel a work-life balance is important, because I want to spend time with my loved ones. I feel it’s unhealthy to work 50-70 or more hours a week indefinitely.

So what do you think, is this fair? Should our society have a work-life balance? Should the work week be 40 hours on average? Should it be more than 40 hours? And do you feel the ‘glass ceiling‘ is still intact?

Also, for my International readers, what is the typical work week for you? What’s your typical vacation time like? Does your country have a work-life balance? How are women treated?