What I Learned from the Sloan Network in 500 Words or Less

By Mary Curlew

This is my final Work and Family blog as the Sloan Network transitions in September to the new Work and Family Researchers Network, an international membership organization of interdisciplinary work and family researchers. At that time, this blog will stop operating. Therefore, it seemed fitting for me to take this opportunity to reflect on what I have learned from working at the Sloan Network.

As I have mentioned in previous blogs, before coming to the Network, I was a clinical social worker in private practice with a specialty in maternal and child mental health. I had been and am still active in Postpartum Support International (PSI), a grass roots organization that seeks to educate family, friends, healthcare providers, and policymakers about postpartum mood disorders. PSI’s primary goal is to help moms and moms-to-be, as well as their families, find the support they need following the birth of a child. To me, it seemed like a natural progression to put these skills and passion for family health to work at a job that focuses on work and family.

Although I had some idea through my clinical work about how important the interface between work and family is to our overall well-being, I have been amazed at the impact this field has had in international, national and local discussions on employee health, productivity, definitions of family and the nature of work, just to name a few.

When I first began at the Network, I thought the work and family conversation really was about employees, primarily women, and their need to balance competing demands from work and family, often sacrificing the former for the later. How wrong I was! A quick look at the Sloan Network’s topic pages proves otherwise. During my tenure at the Network, we added four new topic pages, Disabilities and Employment, Family Responsibilities Discrimination (FRD), Single Workers and Fathers, Caregiving and Work, reflecting the move away from this limited point of view.

In addition, I have gathered almost 700 research articles and reports on various work and family topics since I began managing the Literature Database in February of 2010. I also enjoy following work and family news and trends through our Twitter feed. These articles and reports reflect not only a growing awareness and interest in the work and family field by legislators, the media, and the average Joe (and Joanna), but a broadening of the demographic focus through titles such as Workplace flexibility can spur business innovation, Beyond the breadwinner: Professional dads speak out on work and family and Flexible workplace solutions for low-wage hourly workers. Of course, I can’t leave out the National Dialogue on Workplace Flexibility as a prime example of the importance of work and family research.

Thank you researchers and readers for sharing your depth of experience and insight with this “newbie” over the past couple of years. I have greatly appreciated your work, passion and intellect. I look forward to seeing the future of work and family research and collaboration emerge through the Work and Family Researchers Network. I am grateful to have been part of these exciting times.