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Walking the Tightrope: The Tensions Between Work and Family in America Today

For tens of millions of Americans the stress of juggling the competing demands of work and family is a primary concern-second only, perhaps, to concerns over earning a livable income. In today's economy, we are earning more, but working longer hours and spending less time with our families. Unsurprisingly, we are usually less happy than before. Stress over time pressure is perhaps universal, a result of changes in the American workforce over the past three decades and of the never-ending demands of a "24/7" workplace ethic. Too many Americans find themselves tied to their work through cellular phones and e-mail.

Hedrick Smith, Executive Producer and Correspondent for PBS's recent nationwide special on "Juggling Work and Family" (2001), joins us at the Athenaeum for a talk sponsored by the Berger Institute for Work, Family and Children and the Gould Center for Humanistic Studies. Smith draws on the experiences and daily obstacles of high tech managers in Silicon Valley and assembly line workers in the Midwest, alike. He reports on the strategies progressive companies use to ease the pressures on employees raising children or caring for their own elderly parents. Exploring the structural and cultural norms in America, which were formed a half century ago, he questions whether or not these norms are appropriate in today's society.

Having recently completed the series on work and family, Smith previously hosted twelve prime-time PBS specials and series on issues as diverse as Washington's power game, Soviet perestroika, the global economy, and teen violence. For 26 years, Smith was a correspondent for The New York Times. A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, he served as Chief Diplomatic Correspondent on the team that produced the Pentagon Papers (1971).