I am smiling to myself as I read a recent story about Katharine Zaleski, President of PowerToFly, on her journey toward empathy for the working mother. As a working mother myself, who is starting her third company, I get it. I get both sides of the story. No one understands anything about kids until suddenly they have one of their own. But I love that she made such a public apology simply for the attention it has garnered for the topic. And I love that she has been so beautifully proactive on helping to fix the mindset and the problem.
I have been a working mother as an employee, and I have been a working mother as a boss. When I was an employee with a young son, I had wonderful female and male creative directors who gave me a lot of latitude. They understood that I was working hours both in the office and at home so that I could meet and exceed expectations. They taught me well on how to act when it was my turn to make those decisions with my staff.
It’s a big topic to understand, and as a business owner, you have to have a plan. With my last agency, when I designed our new office space, one of the first rooms I built was the “Kids’ Room.” I wanted our employees, both male and female, who had children to have a fun and safe place to bring their kids if they needed it. It’s important to me that both women and men have every opportunity to be leaders in the office. When they need to go home at 4 for a child’s baseball game or to coach their sons little league team, I gladly send them on their way guilt-free. And I am so appreciative when I find them busy working at the office in the morning, sometimes before I even arrive, to help get stuff done and to balance out their crazy days.
There are so many positive ways to approach working with mothers in particular. It does not have to be “death by a thousand cuts,” as Zaleski says, often made by other women holding the knives. We have to support each other.
Zaleski admits: “I didn’t realize how horrible I’d been—until I had a child of my own.”
- I secretly rolled my eyes at a mother who couldn’t make it to last minute drinks with me and my team. I questioned her “commitment” even though she arrived two hours earlier to work than me and my hungover colleagues the next day.
- I didn’t disagree when another female editor said we should hurry up and fire another woman before she “got pregnant.”
- I sat in a job interview where a male boss grilled a mother of three and asked her, “How in the world are you going to be able to commit to this job and all your kids at the same time?” I didn’t give her any visual encouragement when the mother—who was a top cable news producer at the time—looked at him and said, “Believe it or not, I like being away from my kids during the workday … just like you.”
- I scheduled last minute meetings at 4:30 pm all of the time. It didn’t dawn on me that parents might need to pick up their kids at daycare. I was obsessed with the idea of showing my commitment to the job by staying in the office “late” even though I wouldn’t start working until 10:30 am while parents would come in at 8:30 am.
While Zaleski was on maternity leave, she read books like Sandberg’s Lean In and Marie Slaughter’s piece on “Why Women Can’t Have it All” and only felt more depressed. The message she took from those books was that you have to put up with the choices made by a male-dominated work culture to succeed and the realization that she had contributed to the problem that was now hers to sort out.
Her story continues:
While I was on maternity leave from NowThis News (a startup funded by members of The Huffington Post team), still wrestling with these thoughts, I was approached by my now co-founder, Milena Berry. She told me she had an idea to launch a company that would match women in technical positions they could do from home. I decided to quit my job and leave journalism, realizing this startup had enormous potential for the one billion women entering the workforce over the next ten years.
All the tools exist for remote work—Slack, Jira, Skype, Trello, Google Docs. Research shows remote workers can be more productive. Furthermore, millennials—with or without kids—want that flexibility, a Harvard study found.
With the help of an awesome team that’s 50% moms from around the world, Milena and I are building PowerToFly around our lives as mothers. We’ve processed over $1 million in paychecks for women who work from home across five continents and that number is growing fast. The stories we hear are thrilling.
She concludes with this:
One thing is clear. Motherhood is the future for most women. Over 80% of us will become mothers by the age of 44, according to the US Census Bureau. There are so many ways we can support each other as women, but it starts with the just recognizing that we’re all in different positions at different times in our lives.
You can read the entire article here at http://fortune.com/2015/03/03/female-company-president-im-sorry-to-all-the-mothers-i-used-to-work-with/?utm_content=buffer91504&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer.