Forks Along the Gold-Plated Street

Single Western Mom sent me an interesting article about women who leave Wall Street, The Fork in the Road, which ran in the New York Times while I was drinking the Disney World Kool-Aid two weeks ago. A bunch of posters have mentioned the article on the blog as well, so I thought it was worth hearing what everyone thinks.

My views about Wall Street were shaped during the 1980s and 1990s, first when I lived in New York City and nearly every man I met worked on Wall Street, and later at Wharton business school, which feeds a steady stream into Wall Street firms (including DH). The elite, exclusive, hard-charging world of Wall Street is certainly not for everyone, male or female, child-free or child-encumbered. However, all working women, whether or not you've worked on Wall Street, can learn something by studying Wall Street dynamics because of the extremes found there.

First, the money. Prepare to be shocked. Outside of the risky world of entrepreneurship, there are few ways to earn more than Wall Street investment banking jobs, in which 20-somethings fresh out of college start at about $70,000 per year in the analyst programs. MBA associate salaries start at twice that and go up by about $75,000 per year as employees prove themselves, and CEOs can make as much as $20 million a year.

Second: There are few more challenging places for a woman to work. After all, look at the top Wall Street firms' long-documented history of discrimination against women, the most infamous of which involved Smith Barney, Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch. The work itself is incredibly demanding, the hours hellish, the bosses and clients mercurial, the internal competition intense. But I also believe that the men who dominate Wall Street consciously or unconsciously protect this most lucrative of enclaves so that the competition they face remains largely knowable, predictable, Caucasian and male.

The Times article makes many excellent observations about women's struggles on Wall Street and top firms' ambivalence about changing the way they do business. These observations apply, to some degree, to women's progress scaling the fortress walls of companies everywhere; we're back to Catalyst's pyramid with a workforce that's nearly 50 percent female with only a tiny percentage of women at the top. "Bank executives ... say they have had limited success staunching the flow of women who leave midcareer. ... On average, women represent 33 percent of top banks' analyst class [and] only 25 percent of incoming full-time associates. Women constitute just 14 percent of managing directors, the top executive tier at most banks. ... Investment banks and brokerage firms typically lose women when they are in their 30s. ... Pulled to have children and pushed by a less-than-rewarding workplace and often uninspired mid-level management, they leave."

The article tries to emphasize good news over the longer term that I agree applies to many other industries as well:

"All of this has accompanied a subtle but crucial sea change for women throughout the business world. Twenty years ago, the gender debate centered on breaking the so-called glass ceiling that kept women out of executive suites, gaining equal access to the workplace and securing equal pay for equal work. Today, concerns more often revolve around reshaping the very architecture of Wall Street work in order to keep women involved, including...diversity goals and reaching out to female employees with families."

In other words, we're inside the castle and now we've got to focus on renovation.

What remains to be seen is whether Wall Street and other industries will in fact keep changing and transforming to attract and keep top female employees -- and whether enough women can stick it out on Wall Street and in other elite industries to make sure the new architecture, which will be designed and implemented largely by men, actually benefits women.

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  August 21, 2006; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Moms in the News
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". . .which will be designed and implemented largely by men, actually benefits women."

Wasn't this Linda's whole point? That unless women stayed in they weren't going to reach the top to make decisions?

Posted by: Hmmm. | August 21, 2006 7:49 AM

The news is equally bleak in the law about women leaving the profession mid-career and still not having many women in the upper echelons of power positions.

Having been an attorney in the D.C. area for 15 years, and having interviewed many women attorneys across the country for stories on this topic, it's clear that while there has been a lot of talk about the handful of women who become managing partners at their law firms, there are still innumerable roadblocks for women and it doesn't look like they'll be coming down anytime soon.

Just as on Wall Street, new attorneys start at outrageous beginning salaries, the hours are hellish at large law firms, and many women leave mid-career when it becomes impossible to juggle family and career. And, yes, those making the decisions about promotion opportunities, quality of work received and learning the "secret handshake" are still mostly white men. Until there is a professional and social sea change in how work and family responsibilities are viewed at large, institutional workplaces like investment banking firms and law firms, women will continue to be faced with the Fork in the Road, keeping professional power and opportunities consolidated with those who already have them.

Posted by: PunditMom | August 21, 2006 7:56 AM

Same here in the engineering field. While there are plenty of women who are now entering the previously male-dominated engineering careers, and some have even made it to supervisory and leadership positions, the vast majority only reach the middle management level.

The process for them almost always is the same; enter the profession, begin rising in the ranks, marry, have children, and either drop out of work altogether or decide to work part time. Only a very few have both a family and a successful career (defined as rising to supervisory/management positions).

Posted by: John | August 21, 2006 8:02 AM

I started this past January at one of the wall street firms you listed in your article. I am ultra left wing feminist,who spent the last 7 years in non-profit. I left to take the corporate job with better pay and benefits, and without the daily heartache. I researched carefully into the policies and benefits before accepting the position.

So far, I am advancing steadily, am treated equally, and still find time for altruism in my daily life. I am still new enough that I can't see the top of the castle yet to describe the demographics, but I will tell you that my boss is a woman, her boss is a woman, then her boss is a man, but his boss (regional vp) is a woman. I also haven't been to our New York office so I can't say about actually being on "Wall Street" but from DC, it looks pretty good.

I also work 35 hours a week, same as most others, which is our full time hours, and noone bats an eye. Of course, sometimes I work a little more if the project or days events call for it, but it is pretty rare (maybe once a month if that).

Posted by: woman on wall street | August 21, 2006 8:19 AM

Leslie's choice of the adjective mercurial fits my fleeting impression of Wall Street. Was senior at Ivy League college majoring in economics. Flown down to Manhattan to interview with Shearson Brothers/American Express. I interviewed separately with three male partners/associates, and then was taken to lunch by all three of them. Felt very special indeed. They basically told me at lunch they absolutely were hiring me, and personnel would send offer letter to my college address in coming days. I then went for what I thought would be a perfunctory appointment with woman from personnel. I could tell she didn't like me from the start, and she was very coy about start date, details, etc.

When nothing landed in my mailbox during that next week, I called one of the three men, who explained that personnel wouldn't let them hire as many recent grads as they wanted, but they were on the case. He was very cordial and friendly. I believe I called woman in personnel as well. She told me there's no job for me because I lacked an MBA (then why were they interviewing B.A.s??).

I ended up taking a job with the government, another job with a NGO in Paris the next year, and then at age 25 finding myself married with an infant (very young for a college graduate in my area to have a first child) who's starting college this September.

I guess I don't have a good impression of Wall Street, and hearing about their $20 million salary/bonuses upsets me whilst driving around in my 1995 Taurus station wagon.
C'est la vie.

Posted by: suzanne | August 21, 2006 8:23 AM

Fascinating reading. I notice that some of my most successful female friends and colleagues are in careers without managment tracks. Instead of moving higher in a structure where expertise in a subject area takes a secondary role in place of managing others, these women work out of content expertise. Many of them are self-employed (writers, knowledge-experts, and consultants) so they would fit the earlier data about women opting out to run their own businesses.

I like to call this strategy as an opting-other, rather than opting-out.

Posted by: College Parkian | August 21, 2006 8:26 AM

"these women work out of content expertise"

It's amazing that so many intelligent women are eased out of the money and power positions....Many men fear being bettered by a woman and so make the playing field unfair (not all men, but a lot of them). We need more women in the halls of power---be it Wall Street, government, business, law or medicine so that change can happen. As long as women are kept out of leadership positions, men will predominate the lucrative and powerful fields.

And I bet that women stick to areas where they can be self employed for the same reasons that earlier in the last century Jews became doctors, actors and athletes and then later African Americans became actors and athletes---one became a success based on skill. As opposed to Wall Street where being white, male and willingness to play the game gets you entree into the world of wealth.

Just thought I'd throw that out there :-)

Posted by: Anonymous | August 21, 2006 8:41 AM

While I've opened the article in a new tab, I gotta say my first impression of this post is...."And?"

I used to be a vertebrate paleontologist (hence the screen name). Sure, there are some women working in it, but it's still basically a field of caucasian males. This is not a phenomenon exclusive to Wall Street - it's just that the monetary stakes are higher.

The "hard" sciences are still pretty male dominated. I had a tenured math professor in college (late 80's/early 90's) actually admit on the first day of class that he didn't think women should be taking math and sciences, and that he thought it wasn't appropriate we wear pants to class. He would politely answer even the most asinine questions from the male students, but belittle and bully any female students who asked questions. (I dropped the class because it was an elective, but not before blasting the end off the curve of the first test, and then having the pleasure of informing him I was graduating at the top of the Geology department that year.)

I had one professor in my department tell one of my female colleagues that her writing was "too flowery". I read it - sure, it was a bit too verbose for a technical paper, but it was more appropriate to say it needed a tighter edit. Which was what the male students were told.

I had to stop being a geologist because of medical issues, but I also admit that it got *really* old after a while dealing with the "what's a pretty girl like you doing in a field like this?" garbage. Over time, colleagues and contractors would realize that I was good at my job (and didn't expect any special treatment) and stop the constant comments, but it was a pain in the butt until that plateau was reached. I'm not a feminist, but it was just annoying and distracting.

Things do appear to be getting better as some of us Gen-Xers are getting older and into more managerial type roles, but as long as some of those older men are in the positions where they have a say over young women's work experiences in the engineering and science fields (and influencing young men at the same time), you're going to see the same problems for some time to come.

Posted by: Chasmosaur | August 21, 2006 9:05 AM

Jeez, Chasmosaur, what indeed *would* it take you to accept feminism? What do you think that term means (you know, to you)? Without feminism (which is a term used by John Galsworthy to describe Irene (as a feminist) in The Forsyte Saga, written at the beginning of the *last* century), you might not even have entered that field. You might not even considered it as being in your realm of imagination at all.

But, okay, go ahead and *not* be a feminist. And then keep complaining about the state of things for women.

Still scratching my head.

Posted by: sooze | August 21, 2006 9:17 AM

to poster "woman on wall street" - you are definitely not working on the real Wall Street if you are working 35 hours a week. I venture to say you are probably in a support staff position and that can mean anything from admin/HR to accounting. What Leslie and the NY Times article were describing is the life of client service Wall Street personnel - those in investment banking, trading and the like. As an MBA I must say the temptation was great to go for a banking job but I just couldn't do it because it leaves absolutely no time for family life. It really doesn't have to be that way. Many of my friends in banking say it's not like they are being productive the whole time. There's a lot of work being given to them at the end of the day that needs to be done by morning or last minute changes to presentations and such that makes the workday everlasting for them. The only conclusion one can draw from this is that the powers that be want the status quo of white male dominance to continue. I agree that it's not just banking that has this reputation, law and medicine are also pretty bad - it's sad really that prestigious careers tend to go hand in hand with lack of work-life balance.

Posted by: fabworkingmom | August 21, 2006 9:24 AM

Sometimes the problem is not just the company. If you are a lawyer or consultant (probably others things too, but these are what I know best), you can be expected to work crazy hours because of your *clients.* My boss may be fine with me leaving every day to pick up the kids, but if a client demands something at the end of the day for 24-hour turnaround, or needs me on a call at 5:30 pm, or offers us a new contract but wants us to come onsite to negotatie it--tomorrow....there's not much you can do. It's not like I can hand off a trip or a fast turnaround assignement to another person if it's a project I've been managing for a year. We do our best to manage our clients' expectations but to some degree, they perceive it as "I'm paying your firm 250 thousand dollars to do this project for me, so I want it done when I want it done." I don't know how to make the work-life balance better, when our day-to-day activities are dictated as much by our clients as by our senior staff.

Posted by: Arlmom | August 21, 2006 9:37 AM

College Parkian, you make a good point. I am a "subject matter expert" and as such am able to work for myself as opposed to struggling to achieve for someone else. Most of my successful friends are also "opt-eithers". I don't know if Linda Hirshman would approve, but I'm not sure I care!

Posted by: PTJobFTMom | August 21, 2006 9:40 AM

Hmmm. - The "blaming the victim" approach is unhelpful. It ignores the fact that maybe there are structural and societal barriers to women working their way to the top. It's not as simple as "Just do it" when many of the forces that allow men to succeed conspire to prevent women from doing the same.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 21, 2006 9:43 AM

Arlmom has it right about consultants and their sometimes-insane client demands.

My wife works for an engineering consultant, as an engineering designer. I've lost track of the number of times she has called home and told me she would be working late because of a last-minute change or deadline that just --had-- to get done before the next day. One session like this was 44 hours straight (yes I wrote that correctly)!

She's the only woman in the office with no children, and it 'just happens' that she is often the one asked to stay late to get critical work done. A lot of that is mainly because she is their best, most experienced designer, but I wonder if part of it is the perception she has no familial committments.

We're trying to start a family now, though, and I've told her once she's pregnant she will need to be more assertive about more realistic and rational work hours.

Posted by: John | August 21, 2006 9:46 AM

Addendum to anecdote about interviewing with three male investment bankers, and then female personnel officer eliminating me from competition --

I have without exception found my male bosses to be more fair and more objective than the female bosses I've had, so my initiation to the world of Wall Street was simply an introduction to the world at large. Books like "Backlash" have resonated with me.

Back to running another day of "Camp Mom" -- county fair, museums, parks, swim team, etc., before trying to work more hours after Labor Day.

Posted by: suzanne | August 21, 2006 9:46 AM

I definitely see your point about needing to meet your clients needs but there is a way to make things easier for your employees by giving them the flexibility to complete the tasks in a way that works for them as long as they meet the deadline. For example if a client needs something by the next morning, you could allow your employee to go pick up his/her child from school and then work from home on the project if that is feasible or you could have an emergency babysitting service so a babysitter can watch the child if the employee needs to come into the office. There are a myriad of ways to satisfy the client while at the same time granting employees flexibility. We just need to be more open minded.

Posted by: fabworkingmom | August 21, 2006 9:55 AM

I have been consistently surprised by the number of women (and men) who have posted over the weeks who have said, in one form or another, that it makes sense for the mom to be the SAHP because the father makes significantly more and "all the mom's paycheck would go to daycare." So, I am less surprised by the report that many women take that fork in the road to exchange demanding careers for being at home or a PT position. What I do wonder about is WHY the husband so often makes more and what has enabled that disparity to continue.

My guess is that the answer to both the disparity and the number of women fleeing Wall Street may be the same. A man can work the crazy hours and demanding job if there's a wife at home. Very few women have the same option. An article in the last year or so analyzed why so many women associates are leaving the large law firms. Lack of mentoring was a big component, but most telling was the fact that 80% of male associates had a wife who was at home full time. Less than 2% of the women had a the same situation.

It seems to me that when a family tries to balance home and careers, the "balance" is often achieved by the woman reducing hours or opting out of her "high stress, demanding" career. Not so much for the man, who may be expected to work more in order to support the family on a single salary.

My personal experiences support my theory that this disparity exists and that the woman is still (a) expected to stay home when possible; (b) a man is expected to be able to work longer hours because his wife should be taking care of house and kids; and (c) there is an unspoken expectation among employers that a woman associate or professional will chose to opt out down the road. I was at Wharton in the mid 1980's and things for women were dreadful. In a class of 200 undergrads, about 10 of whom were women, the youngish male finance professor would not answer questions from the women students. Period. We resorted to standing, then making our ways into the aisles, then walking toward the front of the class just to be acknowledged. Things hadn't changed much by 1997 when I went to law school. I was denied a scholarship because " they had never had a single mom with 2 children graduate in the top of the class." The two "traditional students" who received the scholarships were in the bottom and I did manage to graduate in the top 10%. Prejudice and discrimination against women in academia and professions seems to be alive and well.

Sorry for the length, I needed to rant this morning.

Posted by: SS | August 21, 2006 9:59 AM

fabworkingmom, I know there are ways to make it work, in the sense of being able to get the work done. I have used emergency sitters, asked my husband to leave his job early more times than I can count, even had in-laws fly in to cover child care dropoffs/pickups when I have to travel. But I would not consider getting emergency babysitters and bringing work home so I can stay up all night (or work all weekend, like I just did) to be a way to achieve "balance." All of these things mean time away from my family. And at some point I have to wonder if it is worth the aggravation or if I should quit and be an independent consultant and just say I'm available to work 40 hours a week. That will limit my desirability as a consultant (and my compensation and my career growth, etc. etc.) but if the only way to manage your work/life balance is to opt out of "full time" work because your clients are unreasonable... It's not a great situation.

Posted by: Arlmom | August 21, 2006 10:02 AM

I am an engineer by training. I used to work for the DoD. As a chlidless woman, I didn't find the climate too bad-- many of the older men in the organization had daughters my age, and seemed to treat me the way they hoped their daughters would be treated. However, my childless supervisor seemed to have a grudge about mothers wanting flexibility (fathers and single employees were given a lot more freedom that way). There were just enough folks high up in the organization like that to keep me from seriously considering staying after our first was born.

IME, just having women high up in an organization won't necessarily do mothers any good, if the only women there don't have much of a life going on outside of work.

And yes, I could have stayed and fought the entrenched power to become one of the first mothers high up in the organization, but frankly, I didn't like the job that much and didn't want to sacrifice my family's quality of life to marginally improve one small corner of the government.

Posted by: yetanothersahm... | August 21, 2006 10:02 AM

To sooze:

See - that's the thing. While I admit the stuff got annoying, it was actually no more annoying than any other workplace politics (at least for me). It was just the one that would pop up the most.

If I hadn't had my particular medical issues (which are personal), I would have stayed in the field. Because I was successful at it, something I attribute to my hard work and native intelligence...and those I attribute to my parents (good parenting on the former, luck of genetics on the latter).

Because I was raised to believe that my gender is inconsequential to my work. And while I may have had a few more hurdles than my male counterparts, I got over them without problem. Exactly because I have that attitude. I never saw myself as a "Woman Geologist" - I just saw myself as a Geologist.

Was all the stuff I went through annoying? Yes. But my attitude actually kept my maltreatment to a minimum. I didn't rise to the bait, I just shrugged off the stupid comments. I worked just as hard as the men without asking for any special treatment, and they appreciated it. I actually thanked them if they told me I looked nice that day, instead of giving them a lecture on how it was inappropriate. And I was actually *nice* to them - when I had to work with them as a group, I always addressed them as "Gentlemen" (even if they weren't being particularly gentlemanly).

And you know what? After a time, I got treated like a lady, in that I got respect for my person and my opinions. Sure, there were the guys who would still make snide comments and belittle me, but the majority kept that behaviour in check. One guy would always pipe up "Lay off Chas - she's good people." Note the last word - gender neutral.

Basically, I became part of a team, plain and simple. Because I never saw myself as the "token girl" of the group. Just as a professional who had something to offer. In time, many colleagues would prefer to work with me over equivalent men, because they could see I was far more competent.

Maybe that's really what feminism is all about - getting the equal treatment. But no one is actually entitled to someone else's respect - you have to earn it. And that's the way I go about it. And I do bow my head to the women of the 60's and 70's, who allowed more doors to be open to me - but once I got through the door, staying inside it was my load to bear.

But the way I've seen feminism practiced among the women of my generation...they use it like a blunt tool. ("I am woman, I am better than you.") If any person came up to you in the workplace and acted superior without proving themselves, you'd shun them - male or female.

The fact is, we *all* want to be treated with respect. Yes, it's going to take women a bit longer to get there because of historical values....but *now* is the time to see some of those shifts, as the older men are retiring. Because that mindset is starting to thin out, allowing gender footing to start to become a bit more equal.

I just think that acting like people who happen to have a second X chromosome instead of beating men over their heads with it is a better way to go. More diplomatic and better in the long term. Because equality won't happen overnight - it will take time and patience - generational patience. Then again, I was a geologist - I had to learn to think of time in the longer-term.

And besides - when women want to do something in a field, they'll do it. There are plenty of powerful women in history - maybe not quite so many as men, but determined women will get to where they want and deserve to be. It's not easy, but it's not always easy for the men who get there either.

That's my take on it. Please stop scratching your head ;)

Posted by: Chasmosaur | August 21, 2006 10:09 AM

"Prejudice and discrimination against women in academia and professions seems to be alive and well."

Amen sister.

Now look at the following hyperlink. Very sad. It is a story on CNN about a bible school teacher, for 54 years, who was fired by the pastor b/c she was a woman! For those who don't believe that the right wing (literal interpreters of the bible) are wrongheaded, read this:

And I agree with the poster who was critical of chasmasaur for saying "I'm not a feminist". I agree with everything you have said, chasmasaur, you just need to learn more about what feminism really is and not how it is portrayed by the extreme right. It's not a dirty word, it's a movement that has allowed you many rights women couldn't have generations ago.

Posted by: working mother | August 21, 2006 10:23 AM

"But the way I've seen feminism practiced among the women of my generation...they use it like a blunt tool. ("I am woman, I am better than you.")"


So not true. It's one thing to be let in on the entry level, it's another to be discriminated against on your way up the leadership ladder. You may have found things tolerable while you were junior, but now that you are out of the game, you haven't felt the humiliation of men, with less experience and intelligence, advancing above you for no other reason than they are a man.

When I was junior in my position (male dominated), sure I experienced stupid sexist behavior and I ignored it and accomplished much. But as I've gotten older, it's apparent that a glass ceiling exists and there are those who sabotage you for reasons related to your gender.

I don't ever recall any women in any of my phases of life acting entitled to anything because they are a woman. You need to substantiate that with facts...otherwise it's just an inflammatory assertion.

Posted by: To Chasmasaur | August 21, 2006 10:28 AM

Doesn't feminism also allow women to be and believe what they want? Like being a SAHM or a working mother or believing what Chasmosaur does?

I'm not so sure I am down with the feminism label either because I don't think it has to be a label or a certain definition of how women perceive their selves.

Posted by: scarry | August 21, 2006 10:33 AM

I think it's the Constitution of the United States of America that "allows" women to be and believe what they want.

But whateve definition of "feminism" you subscribe to, I don't think any definition includes "feminism is bad" or "there's no need for feminism."

Posted by: to Scarry | August 21, 2006 10:44 AM

fem·i·nism ( P ) Pronunciation Key (fm-nzm)
1) Belief in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.
2) The movement organized around this belief.

Posted by: Feminism | August 21, 2006 10:45 AM


See, I worked with women who had that attitude. That has been *my* exposure to feminists.

Perhaps that's not correct and not the true nature of sophisticated, complex, layered feminism. But I *have* seen women of my own age (mid-30's) act that way.

I have seen female bosses hire only female interviewees, despite a male candidate actually having better credentials. Simply because they feel the woman "is naturally better" (a quote that has always kinda haunted me).

I had a female doctor once who would only refer to other female doctors, even though male doctors may have been better doctors.

I have been present at meetings of female bosses who have belittled other men behind their back and tried to sabotage *their* careers.

And by the way - I'm still a professional, just not a geologist. I have worked with men who attempted to sabotage me - I just managed to dodge the bullet (or the knife in the back) by being proactive.

Does it suck? YES. But I've also had female bosses try to do the same. Actually, the female bosses I've had have been ar more sneaky and manipulative than the male bosses, to be honest. And that's *my* experience - just mine. It does, regrettably, help form my opinions.

Again - these are *my* experiences. Maybe I've been unlucky to work with very extreme feminists or women who wear the term badly. But again, my experiences. Perhaps it was my initial field - Geology is a hard life, no matter how you slice it. Lots of physical and intellectual work - you're not always at your best.

I guess I'm just a humanist, not a feminist. I firmly believe that bad behaviour and bias is not actually exclusive to the male gender. You just try to overcome it wherever you find it.

Posted by: Chasmosaur | August 21, 2006 10:45 AM

I went to a historical female college that went co-ed sometime in the late 70s early 80s. I am not sure of the exact date. But when I attended it was more like 70% female and 30% male. I think today it is probably closer to 50/50. Anyway, I majored in mathematics in the late 80s early 90s and I did not experience any of the prejudice that the geologist writes about. I went to graduate school in the early to mid 90s at a large state university in statistics. Again, I did not experience any prejudice for being a women. I don't think I experience any of it now in the work place. I used to work for the US Census Bureau. The bureau has a large number of female statisticians and women in management. I wonder if it only hurts certain technical and scientific jobs. Statistics in general is a male dominated field. I just got lucky in my first job. To scarry-I think the feminist movement was about making choices. There is nothing wrong with a women or man saying they want to be a SAHP. For some families, that is the best balance possible.

Posted by: Lieu | August 21, 2006 10:52 AM

Chas (if I may call you that), you make excellent points. And I was one of those women in the 60s and 70s who stood up for our rights -- and pushed. I'm about to turn 60, and I look at young women who think it's all done now and they can just sit back and reap the harvest which was planted, watered, fertilized and otherwise nurtured and protected by others who came before them. What they get, however and often, are serial rude awakenings. Yeah, it's the eternal vigilance standard.

You did what worked for you, and I admire that. In my experience, many people try to put the word and the concept of feminist (and feminism) into a rigidly defined box, which it isn't - by any stretch. It is what it is, passed and filtered through our own life's template. It is really an individual concept. But to deny it because of how someone else wears it, instead of owning it yourself, to me doesn't make sense (and I'm *not* accusing you of doing that).

No more scratching. . . .

Posted by: sooze | August 21, 2006 10:53 AM

(I know this is going to sound stupid, but I am going to say it anyway because every now and then the world needs stupid people.)

I am new in my career field (graduated collge in '04) and have yet to run up against any gender discrimination. That could be for a lot of reasons: I'm still new so I'm not anywhere near the top where most of the discrimination takes place (at least that is what I think from reading the comments above); women broke into my particular field awhile ago and paved the way for a lot of us; but I think part of it comes from my generation.
I don't think (now this could be where the supid part comes in) the younger generation (us millenials as we're being called) sees gender as much as other generations do. I think this is due in part to all the hard work that those who have gone before us have done in the work force and getting equal treatment. It will be interesting to see where we are in 10-15 years when the recent college grads are in the hiring/firing positions and how common gender discrimination is.

Posted by: Melissa | August 21, 2006 11:02 AM

Yes, to scarry, I understand the constitution. However, I also understand that a lot of women I know who call themselves feminists also look down on SAHM because of opting out, taking on a traditional role, not staying to fight the good fight, etc.

I was just trying to make the point that we don't have to be the same to strive for the same kind of acceptance. We don't deserve anything because we are women; we deserve it because we are the best at when we do-period! And, I also think that women are harder on other women more so than a man could ever be. This blog should be evidence of that fact. Yes, I said it. I have had a harder time working for and around women than men.

I'll take the sympathetic man saying "you know my wife had to work and raise kids, go ahead and work from home tomorrow so you can care for that sick child." Over the "I had to do it, so you can do it to. Take vacation or have someone else watch the kid" attitude any day. The latter is what I see a lot of, so much for the sisterhood!

Posted by: scarry | August 21, 2006 11:02 AM

Okay, one more thing to Chas (my last post came after a couple of your others) -- when I am in the position (for whatever reason) to refer matters to other attorneys, I *always* look to refer to other women in the first instance -- and, yes, they are very capable attorneys. I do this because they are women and because I believe women must help other women. I do *not* refer to woman I do not like, nor who I believe will be detrimental to the potential client. Ever. The client always comes first.

I have also referred matters to men. But my initial template is for women. I have also received referrals from men and from other women. We interact because we have built up relationships over the years which have established the trust threshhold which allows these referrals to happen.

But if women stop helping women, who benefits? Sure, there are an abundance of (*^*%) women out there. And the same with men. Gravitate to those with whom you can work, and try to deal with those others the best way you can. But a support network among women in business (whatever that business might be) is imperative if this society is ever going to be truly productive and remunerative to everyone.

Posted by: sooze | August 21, 2006 11:03 AM

On the issue of disclaiming the lable "feminist," from what I've read in social science stuff this may actually be a good thing. Any label that ends in "ist" is generally equated with a person who is attempting to spread a new idea through society. Once that idea has taken root and is no longer a minority view, the "ist" label becomes associated with extremists because it is assumed that the idea/values are widespread. This has happened in the environmental movement - over the last thirty years or so, as environmental values have become mainstreamed and most people assume that most other people want to protect the environment (though there is not necessarily agreement on how or at what cost) the number of people self-identifying as "environmentalists" has declined dramatically. Because the original values are widespread throughout society, the label itself is now associated more with extremists who are still oustide the mainstream.

I wonder if this has happened to some extent with the term feminism - because it has become a mainstream idea that women should be accorded equal treatment (though again, no agreement on how to implement or measure that), the label is getting moved to more extreme positions. Though I know the right-wing has done a lot to demonize feminism, my guess is that most intelligent and thoughtful women like Chasmosaur aren't swayed by that as much as by the feeling that their beliefs are moderate/mainstream and they are not extremists.

Sorry if this didn't make much sense, I was up very late last night (balance? What balance?)

Posted by: Megan | August 21, 2006 11:05 AM

Looks like all good articles are in NYT these days :))

Here's another one -- from Judith Warner, who sees something portentious in Katie Couric's non-acceptance of a job-related stint in Iraq.
Unfortunately, the article is the TimesSelect section and thus unaccessible without subscription. Perhaps Leslie could pull some strings to get it reposted in this blog area for the benefit of the reveling readership.

Posted by: Chiming In | August 21, 2006 11:15 AM

Mellissa - your post was not stupid at all - but it is naive. I say that only because I was in your shoes a few years back. I really didn't understand what the whole gender fuss was about as I excelled in school and in my career as well as any man. Then I became a mother and everything changed - not that I didn't do as well but that I realized that the corporate system is set up to only reward those who are willing to sacrifice a huge part of their lives to the job. I saw that men for the most part are more willing to do that mostly because they have wives that stay at home. Women who put in the time required for high powered jobs are more often than not childless or are comfortable spending little to no time with their children (very few women are okay with that). That's when you start to see that the gender balance is pretty much tilted to men in the corporate sphere. I hope it will be different in 10-15 years but I bet you'll see that many of your colleagues who are female will be checking out of the workforce by that point to raise kids - maybe even you Mellissa.

Posted by: fabworkingmom | August 21, 2006 11:15 AM

I have to agree with the poster who said she's found male bosses to be more understanding of the issues facing women and in particular mothers. I have also found that to be the case. I used have a dual reporting relationship to the CHRO and the CIO. One was a man, the other a woman. I told them both I was pregnant with my first child on the same day (though at different times). His reaction was to jump up and give me a hug (he was normally EXTREMELY undemonstrative) and a week later, send me a Mothers' Day card. Her reaction was to say "Oh, really?" and then ask what my plans were for holding down the fort while I was out for maternity leave. Over the course of my pregnancy, he continued to work with me to assure me that things would be covered so that I "could focus on the baby" (his words). She kept making demands for schedules of availability.

This is just one example of quite a few that come to mind during my 18-year career. It's as if certain women who are successful feel they need to haze, rather than mentor, other up and coming women. I don't get it. I'm quite successful in my profession, and I've always tried to coach any of my staff (male or female) on any level of the food chain if they've got potential for stardom. A woman can really be her own worst enemy in the workplace.

Posted by: Thought | August 21, 2006 11:18 AM

"the corporate system is set up to only reward those who are willing to sacrifice a huge part of their lives to the job. I saw that men for the most part are more willing to do that mostly because they have wives that stay at home."

How is this bias? You didn't have to have kids, your husband can stay home, or you can choose to hire a nanny. That's not bias, that's work.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 21, 2006 11:19 AM

to anonymous poster - I'm not sure where to start with your comment. First of all saying it's a choice to have kids is a moot point, of course it's a choice but most people are not willing to be childless just so they can be successful at work. Secondly, why does someone have to stay home? Is it unreasonable to desire that a talented couple be able find jobs that are intellectually stimulating and financially rewarding and don't make unreasonable demands on their time? Thirdly - of course you can hire a nanny but you don't want the nanny to be the only person your children see on a daily basis. What exactly is your point? That work has to be a life sucking enterprise? I do not subscribe to that notion!

Posted by: fabworkingmom | August 21, 2006 11:28 AM

you put in the incredible hours, you do a great job, you play the political game, you get the big bucks. Male, female, whatever.

Posted by: experienced mom | August 21, 2006 11:35 AM

August 1, 2006
Guest Columnist
Mom's Balancing Act

The little media tempest over Katie Couric's non-refusal to go to Iraq is, in news cycle time, long past. Yet, I'm still hearing echoes about her "wimping out" from male journalist friends. And I'm still feeling that, by having the honesty and courage to publicly admit that there are limits to what she is willing to do as CBS's new evening anchor, she has done all of us a great service.

Couric did not categorically refuse to report from war zones. But she did say, in late May, when asked if she would go to Iraq after the CBS news correspondent Kimberly Dozier was badly wounded there, "I think the situation there is so dangerous, and as a single parent with two children, that's something I won't be doing." She later said she'd resolve questions of travel on a "case-by-case basis ... it really depends on the situation and what's happening."

In other words, if her CBS bosses told her to jump, Couric, unlike most ambitious journalists, wouldn't immediately answer, "How high?" Family considerations would come first.

It seems to me that Couric -- in her mind, at least, as the situation under discussion was hypothetical -- was drawing a line in the sand: There are work demands that are appropriate and those that are inappropriate. There are tradeoffs that are reasonable and feasible, and others that simply can't be reconciled with a life of sole parental responsibility.

Many people have said they believe that Couric is out of line. Being a top journalist, they say, is an if-you-can't-take-the-heat-get-out-of-the-kitchen situation. Others -- and these people seem, generally, to be increasingly vocal these days -- feel that Couric's sense of entitlement, her self-given right to even think "no" to a job demand, is typical of today's parents, who are always looking for an easy out from job responsibilities that the childless end up having to shoulder.

I disagree very strongly with these people. But I would, on the other hand, qualify my glee at Couric's statements with the recognition that the freedom to say -- or even think -- "no" to potential job demands is a privilege enjoyed by very, very few working people. To do it, you either need to be so desirable as to be all but indispensable or so financially well-cushioned that you can afford the fallout from the worst-case consequences of your actions. Couric, of course, is both. Most of us are neither.

Extrapolating from what Couric was able (at least verbally) to do to what most women and men might or ought to do would be a disservice; it would steamroll over the realities of most people's lives. But still -- let's just fantasize for a moment. Imagine that more women like Couric -- women of influence and means, women who have choices and the freedom to live comfortably with the consequences of their choices -- started throwing down a gauntlet at work to say: This I will do (my job, all that it reasonably requires), and no more.

No jaunts abroad just to "show the flag." No less-than-essential meetings or face-time lunches. No excess evenings out wooing clients, no night-time heroics. No posturing. No preening. Just the essentials.

It might be deemed a trend. It might -- like all trends involving women of privilege -- be perceived as a new norm. Imagine that: Ten-hour days boiled down to eight. Eight-hour days boiled down to six. It's what working mothers already do -- when they can get away with it. It's what working fathers ought to do -- if they'd dare.

I've never been a big believer in male or female essences (though discussions of them amuse me to no end). I've never quite bought into the notion that if women ruled the world they would change it, making it greener, and nicer, and more peaceful, life-affirming, collaborative and zen. But I do think that working mothers have a mode of operating that is different from that of the cultural mainstream and that ought to be more widely emulated. Born of necessity, it's about priorities and efficiency and cutting to the chase. If we're lucky -- and if the attitude polls showing that the rising generations of fathers want to spend more time with their kids prove true -- it might well spread in the future.

A future in which work and family could be put in the proper perspective would be a fantastic thing. If only we could make doing so viable for people less privileged than Katie Couric.

Judith Warner is the author of "Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety" and a contributing columnist for TimesSelect. She will be on vacation during the rest of August, and return in September.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 21, 2006 11:38 AM

the point is that it isn't bias. they aren't saying, "you can't work all the hours because you are a girl." she is saying she doesn't want to.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 21, 2006 11:42 AM

For me, the most intriguing part of the "Forks" article was the comparison of women from different generations and how they have been working with and through the challenges of Wall Street. The same patterns mentioned in the article are being borne out by the posts today (and these are some of the BEST posts I've seen on the board; we've got some amazing women here).

The women a generation ahead of me (I was born in 1965) really took a chance to make things better for themselves and for those of us who followed. The women born post-1980 often take so much for granted. We discuss balancing our work lives with our family life; not so long ago a woman could be fired simply because she was pregnant.

And yes, I find it easier to work for a man, and I have flourished working public affairs in male-dominated industries (fire service and law enforcement). Sometimes it is easier being an estrogen-based life form in a testosterone-driven industry. But I take none of this for granted and salute the women who paved the way for me to make the choices I have made.

Posted by: single western mom | August 21, 2006 11:54 AM

To Fabworkingmom: You know what you're right, I didn't even consider women who work and have children, I was just speaking from my own personel experiances. It will be interesting to see what happens when I do decide to have kids and what issues and challenges that will bring in my working career. I know that the women I work with who have kids are able to leave work early to pick up their kids from school, and can take off early on Fridays to spend time with their families, but I'm not sure if I'll have the same courtesy because we're in different fields. (even though we work for the same company we have different job duties.)Hmm...this have given me a lot to consider, thank you.

Posted by: Melissa | August 21, 2006 11:57 AM

This is such an interesting topic to explore. Does anyone here have any first-hand experience on Wall Street? I have many friends who work there, but none of them are parents yet.

Posted by: Emily | August 21, 2006 11:59 AM

What Single Western Mom says is so true. I was talking last week with my mother and grandmother about working while pregnant. My grandmother told me she'd tried to hide her first pregnancy for as long as possible, but her supervisor caught onto her in her 7th month and let her go. My mother did the same, but her boss figured it out at the 6th month. I couldn't believe that so recently as 30+ years ago, pregnancy was cause for termination. Thirty years is not a long time.

Great posts today, everyone.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | August 21, 2006 12:02 PM

I think a more compelling case needs to be made to employers about why it makes sense to the bottom line that they should fight to keep their female employees (through workplace accommodations, part time schedules, etc.). Otherwise, why shouldn't female employees with kids (who apparently often leave once they become mothers or else demand special treatment.) be seen as liabilities rather than assets? (And yes, I'm a married woman w/no kids who is tired of all the griping and demands for preferential treatment by those woman who've made the decision to have kids, but have not worked out in advance with their DHs a fair allocation of the child rearing. Instead, they look to us, their colleagues, to pick up the slack). In my experience, these employees are less productive and earn less for the company than the rest of us.

Posted by: Just a thought | August 21, 2006 12:11 PM

DH? Spell it out. Oh wait, it sounds lame that way too.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 21, 2006 12:14 PM

'earn less for the company'

right, people lose sight of the fact that companies exist to make money. thus the most productive employees should be rewarded. This is not fair to employees with other things in their lives besides the career, but this is about profits, not charity.

I think if everyone (men and women, with children and without) refused to work excessive hours, companies would be forced to adapt and become more family friendly. I'm afraid that's not going to happen, that some will always be willing to prostrate themselves in the chase for the almighty dollar.

I'm 47. I see many more companies with family friendly policies in place now, compared to 25 years ago. I hope the trend continues.

Posted by: experienced mom | August 21, 2006 12:36 PM

To just a thought:

What's the difference if you leave early for a doctor's appointment or your coworker leaves early to take a child to the doctor? I absolutely do not dump my work on coworkers; there is no one else here who does my job. I had to take my daughter to the dentist on Friday (I schedule both of our appointments together so I only leave early once). I left two hours early, and I took work home with me. No one suffered because I left two hours early.

That's the thing: there is an assumption that working parents are less productive. What about childless coworkers who have sick parents? Or lifestyles that are not conducive to showing up on time (i.e., those who stay out partying on work nights...I've picked up slack for those folks).

There is definitely a bias against working parents, mothers in particular. For those of you who stay late...after hours...and complain when your coworkers with children leave ON TIME, then perhaps you should negotiate NORMAL working hours. I chose my job based on a 40-hour work week and very little travel. I turned down a much better paying job back in WDC because it would require three hours of commuting and 25%travel. I started a new life in Arizona based on a good work-life balance.

Work-life balance isn't just for parents...

Posted by: single western mom | August 21, 2006 12:42 PM

>>That's the thing: there is an assumption that working parents are less productive.>>

That is the bias that no one wants to admit to, but is pervasive and affects women in particular. I was asked to be on a new project. I said I couldn't. It was assumed that I said this because I'm expecting and will be on leave in a few months. Actually, it's because I am already working about 60 hours a week and cannot take on another project (and there were others who could do it, it didn't have to be me). But some of the people in my group were like, "oh, it's great that you're pregnant, you don't have to do that X project"--in front of others in the group who have no idea what I'm working on or how busy I am. So now they are probably all buying in to the "mothers slack off and others have to pick up their work" thing, which is just not true.

Which reminds me, someone posted earlier about men treating women better after they announce that they are pregnant than women supervisors. I have worked with some men who assume that you are going to leave or go part-time after you have kids. The female managers expect that you will continue working, and so focus on the interim-management and transition-back planning, instead of assuming you are giving up your career. I'm not saying all men are like this, but there is definitely an element of condescension/sexism when they focus on the pregnancy and not the post-baby work plans--it's because they assume you don't want to keep working. And I'll bet these are the same men who don't get why you need work/life balance--if you want to spend time with your kids, just quit!

Posted by: to single western mom | August 21, 2006 12:49 PM

Someone wanted so info on wall street people with kids? My husband is an investment banker for a large bank (in Charlotte). It is a ton of hours (not sure what the poster who only works 35 hrs does).

These jobs are not possible on a part time basis. You learn and develop your skills that help with the next deal. Besides parttime would imply you are watching the clock, something people in this position don't do. They get handed things at all times expected to turn it around by the next morning. They are working with clients all over the world in different time zones and that company on the west coast will get it for you when they get around to it. These jobs involve a lot of night and weekend hours.

The females who work with my husband have either adapted to the hours and handle it great or they move to a different job within the bank. It is a choice that many of the males have made as well. These jobs are not for everyone, but I cannot think of too many jobs that fit everyone. They all have certain groups they are going to appeal to. Wall Street jobs involve giving up a lot that most people are not willing to do. Missing your child's very first day of kindergarten, only three days paternity leave are just a couple things that have recently happened. That is why they are paid the amounts they are.

Posted by: mwh | August 21, 2006 12:50 PM

I've been working for different companies, large and small for 20 years. Mostly for professional IT firms, but small shops as well.

People speak of a bias against parents -- assuming that they are less productive because they leave to take care of their kids, as opposed to others (single/childless) who leave early to wait for the cable guy, or something similar.

I've never seen this bias. I'm a dad. I have to go get my kid when his temp spikes (because I'm closer and wife can't make it there in less than an hour). Nobody gives me any more grief than they would if I were leaving early to get a haircut. I'm a Sr. Manager, and I don't give any grief in this area either.

Is it possible, JUST POSSIBLE, that some over-stressed, mile-a-minute parents imagine/invent/perceive this bias where it does not exist? Could it be a hypersensitivity?

I'm not trying to be condescending here. But I know that as a parent you are naturally juggling quite a bit, and it can be easy to worry about things that don't really materialize as problems....

Posted by: ?Question? | August 21, 2006 12:51 PM

Regarding the comments on termination because of pregnancy -- it can and still does happen. But the companies are a bit smarter; they'll say the reason is for poor performance. Uh-huh, poor performance that just happens to be so unbearable once you become pregnant that you have to be let go.

Performance can be subjective most of the time, so it's an easy reason to use. Combine that reason with the reality of at-will employment, and there you have it.

When I became pregnant the first time, I waited about four months to tell my female boss, because I knew she wouldn't appreciate it (being the "wonderful" boss that she was). But I saw her looking hard at my stomach before I announced, and the secretary said she had wondered if I was pregnant when I finally did announce. Suddenly, after some evals that were fine, there was a bad eval right after I announced. When I refuted the eval, I was "downsized." The resulting legal action was which settled. But I've heard stories of women who faced similar terminations (or reneging on job offers) within the last few years. Many woman are afraid to fight such discrimination legally, for fear of being blackballed or labeled as a trouble-maker.

If you don't fight or stand up for yourself, the corporate world will always make excuses not to accommodate you.

Posted by: theoriginalmomof2 | August 21, 2006 12:52 PM

"[W]hy shouldn't female employees with kids (who apparently often leave once they become mothers or else demand special treatment.) be seen as liabilities rather than assets?"

I'm not so sure that getting "special treatment" is in fact a liability if you're talking about working a part-time schedule. I work four days a week, but I also make 80% of what my colleagues make. I've been told by management that part-time workers are the best deal around. It's been the experience in our office that those who work part-time get about the same amount of work done, but at less cost. Not because they are taken advantage of by working hours on top of those they are supposed to work, but because they are very efficient. They know they can't work late because they have to pick up the kids, so they spend less time at the water cooler, eat lunch at their desks, etc. They also prioritize well, so that the things that absolutely have to be done that day get done, but those that can wait are done only once the real emergencies are through.

I agree that as a general matter moms should not get preferential treatment over non-moms when it comes to who gets time off, etc. For example, if you work in retail, why should you always get Christmas Eve off over your childlsess co-worker because you have kids? If it means that much to you, get out of retail. But if your child is sick and your husband is traveling, what else can you do? And is the office really hurt by someone leaving early to pick up a sick child, if she takes sick leave, and follows up on any projects from home? I realize that the situation varies according to your job responsibilities, but it seems to me in most cases where there is a true conflict, there is some way in which the person who has to give priority to home makes up for it later, whether it be in less sick leave available or having to pick up the slack at another time.

Now those moms who use the fact that they're moms to beg off projects consistently may be another matter, but I don't see that happening where I work.

And the Warner article was great. Thanks to whoever suggested that it get posted. So much of what takes away from personal life - "in-person" meetings, face-time, etc. - just aren't really necessary to be a good employee. Employees and employers alike need to figure out what's necessary and what's just window-dressing so everyone - people with children and people without children - can have less complicated lives.

And ditto on male versus female bosses. Of my last three bosses, the one I had trouble with was female. Of course, that may have more to do with the fact that my male bosses each had children and wives that worked outside the home, whereas the female boss had not yet had children and didn't have an understanding of what it was like to juggle both job and children.

Posted by: Sam | August 21, 2006 12:54 PM

I can completely relate to the attorney posts. There are very few midlevel or female senior associates at large law firms mostly because it is impossible to balance work and life. I have been working insane hours (weekends, eating dinner at my desk every night). I barely have the energy to shower so I can't imagine how I would deal with kids in my situation. I know for a fact that I will not stay at the firm for too long b/c I want a job where I can have some semblance of a normal life outside work and that does not seem possible in the law firm setting.

Posted by: dcattorney | August 21, 2006 12:56 PM

To ?Question?

Please see 12:11 posting from "Just a thought."

Fortunately, though, I don't see bias against parents where I work. I'm appreciating my job more and more!

Posted by: Sam | August 21, 2006 12:58 PM

Some good posts today. single western mom, when you say work-life balance isn't just for parents, you're spot on. So many times, when we were single and "something came up" at 5:25, the singles got (t)asked to do it. Often, it's the same with working holidays, when the singles are asked to work so the marrieds can have the day with their families.

Experienced Mom, I'm 48 and I've seen lots of flexibility inserted into the workplace in the last 25 years. It's great! Of course, technology and HR policies don't always keep up with each other....but the coming trained worker shortage will drive the policies for the rest of our working lives.

Scarry: welcome back! Missed you last week.

Posted by: Dad of 2 | August 21, 2006 12:59 PM

Sam, not exactly. 12:11/Just a thought asserts lesser productivity from parents at her workplace as fact.

I'm asking if, from a parent's perspective, they can objectively determine whether people would believe this about them (less productive) if it were NOT true.

Or alternatively, as parents, should we all just assume all our co-workers think we are slackers, and have chips on our shoulders accordingly?

Posted by: ?Question? | August 21, 2006 1:04 PM

umm, good to be back. I had a computer problem. Well, actually, I spilled some water on my laptop. Great to see a dad on the board. You make a good point about the shortage of workers in the future. I think that when companies find themselves needing all employees, things will be better for everyone.

Posted by: scarry | August 21, 2006 1:05 PM

To ?Question?:

If you are senior level management, no one is going to question anything you do : )

There is definitely bias against working moms. It happened to one of my former coworkers back in NoVa. We had a change of supervisors, and we got a childless boss that made Miranda Priestly of Devil Wears Prada look like a saint. My former coworker was reprimanded for taking too much sick leave when her daughter was hospitalized...even though she had more than enough sick leave accrued. When she became pregnant with her second child, she left and found a part-time job that works well for her and her family.

It happened to me as well. I unexpectedly had to take off two annual leave days with my daughter, and I was verbally reprimanded, even though I had accrued leave and took work home with me (my boss's boss had words for her over this, and I was never again harassed). However, two other employees in our department were allowed to take a week vacation that they had not yet earned; one had to pay back the money because she quit shortly thereafter.

Posted by: single western mom | August 21, 2006 1:07 PM

To Scarry: at least you (presumably) weren't flying, then :-)

Posted by: Dad of 2 | August 21, 2006 1:10 PM

I hate to say this, but Scarry, there will not be a shortage of willing workers until this country starts rounding up illegal aliens and sending them back to their home countries.

Posted by: Never Happen | August 21, 2006 1:11 PM

To Never Happen: there's already a shortage of cleared/clearable workers in my industry. Governments can't (for a variety of reasons) hire qualified people now, so many jobs are going unfilled or are being contracted out.

Posted by: Dad of 2 | August 21, 2006 1:14 PM

To ?Question?:

You are the boss -- of course, no one gives you a hard time. That said, I do think there is an element of taking the behavior of a couple rotten apples and extrapolating it to the group. And sometimes, the people whose comments sting the most are peers not bosses.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 21, 2006 1:19 PM

I work in a major Wall Street Firm. First in London and now in DC. My firm has allowed me to live in DC and commute to NY which in a strange way has given me a great deal of flexibility with my time in DC (I think they have been very very good to me).
I think I would echo an earlier comment-- when talking about "Wall Street" I think you should distinguish between client facing employees (revenue generating) and non-client facing (to include HR, legal, corporate affairs, IT, marketing and to a great degree finance). The flexibility and number of women in these 2 areas of firms differ greatly-- as does comp.

Posted by: UP | August 21, 2006 1:33 PM

I have a sneaking suspicion that a lot of the complainers -- the moms and dads (mostly moms) who gripe about the lack of family friendly policies and unfair bosses, etc., are not such stellar performers and were never stellar performers (even before they had children), and that maybe that's what contributed to the "unfair" treatment and their perspective on family friendliness. There are an awful lot of people who aren't that great at their jobs, you know? And no one likes to complain as much as the people who (wrongly) feel they've been mistreated when in fact they were slacking out loud on the job and someone finally took action.

Look, most of us have to work, and yes, it would be nice if we could find time to do all the things we want to do with our families or our pets or our charities, but there's that paycheck thing. Suck it up and move on.

Posted by: Hmmm | August 21, 2006 1:38 PM

OK, where do you guys work? I work for a federal agency and I have not seen any bias towards working mothers. In fact, my employer is extremely supportive every time I ask for sick leave for my kid. They were also very supportive when I was pumping. And if you want to know what interrupts the work day, try pumping for 18 months. Each day, I spend 1 1/2 hours a day during my normal day to pump milk. Also they came to me with a proposal to work a part time 4 day week. I agree that part time works out best for both sides. I do the same amount of work for 10% less salary and benefits, and I have the work balance that works for me and my family. A win win situation. I do think the same part time arrangement in my office may be harder to come by if a father or a single person wanted the same schedule. In my line of work, everyone pretty much does their own work, so no one is picking up slack for anyone else. No one is helping anyone else either.

Posted by: LIeu | August 21, 2006 1:41 PM

To Hhhmmm:

Those are the assumptions that allow the bias to continue. I've done such a good job with my agency here in Arizona that I have been invited to participate in a panel by a national organization to help other states replicate the public affairs success we have had in Arizona. I was in Baltimore two weeks ago at a national forum and our work was hailed on two different occasions.

I worked my way out of poverty; this is something that could not be accomplished by a slacker.

Assumptions are a dangerous thing...

Posted by: single western mom | August 21, 2006 1:50 PM

Heh, just to be clear, I'm a Sr. Manager, not a Sr. Executive. I'm in a customer-facing role, not a count-the-money role. ;-)

But I do the point that the higher up you are, the fewer the number of people there are that can influence (read:destroy) your career and work/life flexibility. Still, my boss (VP, female, no kids) and her boss (Sr. VP, female, adult kids) have never given me any grief at all when I have to run out to go get the kid. Maybe it's because they are women and are more sensitive to this, but I prefer to think it is because they know I won't drop the ball on anything. I won't allow a personal crisis to become a corporate crisis.

I know I'm rambling but I don't know what to think. I'd hate to think people now see me as less capable/dependable b/c I am responsible to my needs. But I don't think they do. And, I know that the managers reporting to me extend their staffs the flexibility to optimize their productivity within the constraints posed in a client-service business. Maybe it's the culture of this company and we're just lucky to have it.

Posted by: ?Question? | August 21, 2006 1:52 PM

Lieu asked - okay where do you guys work?
I actually have a pretty good deal at the job I currently have. However, Leslie's post was about the lack of balance on Wall Street and other high powered environments. Of course there are many jobs out there that will allow you to work reasonable hours, have a part time option etc. But when it gets to the jobs where there is real money making potential - that is not the case.

Posted by: fabworkingmom | August 21, 2006 1:52 PM

"Is it possible, JUST POSSIBLE, that some over-stressed, mile-a-minute parents imagine/invent/perceive this bias where it does not exist? Could it be a hypersensitivity?"

Uh no. When a father takes time off to address one of his kid's issues, he is a hero. That is part of the bias against mothers in the workplace. Anytime a women takes time to do something for their child, she is viewed as not doing her fair share or some such thing.

And me thinks there is a lot of generalizations about female bosses. Too many anecdotes to back up a dangerous assumption.

To thought, perhaps your perception of your two bosses, one male and one female was not accurately portraying reality. I believe that when you are expecting children, the parents-to-be should be planning their lives with care and consideration. A boss asking what your plans are with regard to leave and when you are coming back is just good management. If my male boss hugged me and behaved as you describe, I would be suspicious and wonder why he was behaving this way.

There is management literature that talks about the differing ways that men and women lead. Men, in general, tend to be top down. Women tend to be more team oriented. I've preferred working for women because I found senior women in my field to be good role models. I did have a bad female boss, but she was just a bad person with, what I believe, mental health issues. My worst boss was a man.

So we only hurt ourselves when we put forth generalizations about women that very likely are not true. As people have done in earlier blogs, substitute blacks for women and you'll see how evil it is to make these assertions.

And I agree with those that the tide is slowly changing. When I was the head of my department, I had 2 males, gen Y types, one with kids the other without who told me that they value their personal time. They had jobs that provided some flexibility and I believe fairly family friendly, but I was aghast at the forwardness. When I was younger, I would never have been that upfront. And it was my supervisor, a male, who when unhappy with the perceived unproductivity (not true) of my group who said "I did it, my wife did it, tell them to get nannies and get to work...."

Posted by: working mother | August 21, 2006 1:54 PM

Working Mother said: "When a father takes time off to address one of his kid's issues, he is a hero. That is part of the bias against mothers in the workplace. Anytime a women takes time to do something for their child, she is viewed as not doing her fair share or some such thing."

That is baloney. Men just make less of an issue over what they need to do when it comes to balancing family with work. Women fret, women discuss, women angst. Ad nauseum. If more of us just asked for what we need, instead of complaining that our company is not family friendly, I think we'd be surprised how frequently these requests are granted (always assuming of course that the employees who ask are good performers).

Posted by: Hmmm | August 21, 2006 1:57 PM

I tend to agree with you for some situations, but it's not fair to generalize that all complainers must be bad employees. There are bad employers out there and bad bosses. Far too many.

I will say, in my experience as a department head, I have seen "bad" employee parents. The ones who refuse to have proper childcare such that they are continuously not doing their job. I'm not talking about the once in a while where an emergency comes up or a need to leave for a doctor's appointment. I'm talking about people who feel entitled to say they are not working certain days and hours because they kids. Or impose on their colleagues when they do not make adequate arrangements to pick their kids up. Or the ones who lie about being called up for military duty. There has to be some meeting part way on the part of both the employer and employee. I think that it is easier for the workplace to make accomodations for good employees. In my experience it is the "bad" employees who ask for the most accomodations. The employee cannot expect the workplace to totally bend to their needs. If you can't do the job, then quit and do something else.

Posted by: To Hmmmm... | August 21, 2006 1:57 PM

You make good points, but I have to ask who on earth would lie about being deployed? What a stupid thing to lie about. It's so easy to check it out.

Posted by: Hmmm | August 21, 2006 2:00 PM

You are so wrong. I assume you are a man because you obviously have no insight. And your generalizations about women "fretting" is sexist.

I have been witness to male supervisors wondering if a mother on leave is coming back. I've heard them complain about how long they take off. I've never heard them say that about the fathers. In fact, I've heard them praise them for being such good "family men".

I personally do not tell anyone why I need to leave early. If I am asked, I give a non-kid related reason. The guys do it and people say awwww...isn't he a great father? The women in my department are castigated.

Posted by: To Hmmm... | August 21, 2006 2:00 PM

good job single western mom. I'm glad to see that you are making a difference at your job while keeping balance with you daughter and other life issues. Good for you!

Posted by: scarry | August 21, 2006 2:02 PM

I never said my employees were intelligent :-). As part of our company's policy, I asked for a letter from her CO and when I didn't get it by 1 week before her supposed deployment, I contacted our HR office that sent her a letter saying she will be in violation of her contract if she doesn't show up for work or produce the letter. Three days before the supposed deployment, she e-mailed me to tell me the deployment was cancelled. The reason I suspected all along it was bogus was because her husband, also in my department, told a colleague that his wife was going to have to take time off because if their childcare issues. It was 2 days later that this deployment thing came up. I went beyond the call of duty to help them with their childcare issues, but after 8 months of their shenanigans, I asked whether they can do the job as agreed to or one or the other would need to leave. You have to understand this is not a 40 hour a week job! Full time was considered far less and the rest of the mothers in the department, myself included, did not have a problem with the hours. Bad eggs. Part of the reason I left. These were just some of the people I didn't want to be associated with.

Posted by: To Hmmmm | August 21, 2006 2:06 PM

I know that Leslie's post was about Wall street but a lot of people talking here are not from wall street. I was just curious were they were individually working. Like government, private industry, small law firm etc... I am just curious if this much inflexibility exists in lower powered jobs. Or is every one here in a high powered job?

Posted by: Lieu | August 21, 2006 2:10 PM

Sorry, you're wrong. I am woman, hear me roar. And as for my lack of insight, I get paid an awful lot of money for it in my job, so I'd say you're wrong there, too.

And why on earth is it sexist to say that women fret? Are men not allowed to fret? Is there some sort of connotation to the word "fret" of which I'm not aware?

And I am sorry that your work experience hasn't allowed you to deal with fair and balanced people. I have never in my life heard anyone make "aww" noises about the reason anyone is taking off work. Do you work at a preschool or something?

Posted by: Hmmmm | August 21, 2006 2:11 PM

Working mom, all due respect, your life experience no more constitutes universal evidence than does mine. We both have our anecdotes.

And it seems that neither you nor I would subscribe to the notion that "When a father takes time off to address one of his kid's issues, he is a hero." And it sounds like we're both fairly senior people. So why do you assert that as fact?

I'll add yet another wrinkle to this debate....

In the first several posts (and Leslie's) most posters were making the distinction between "male" and "white male." Later on, the ethnic qualifier was lost. I'll submit to you that it is far easier for white woman (you?) to climb the corporate ladder than it is for a black male (me). (See table group #12). I only cite this because I reject the notion that I am part of some favored class that makes me a "hero" when I need to go attend to my family. I understand that to be your perception (or past experience?), but that doesn't make it fact.

I know your posts speak of the evils of generalizations, yet you seem to indulge in same, or at least extrapolation from limited experiences and anecdotes.

Posted by: ?Question? | August 21, 2006 2:13 PM

To the poster who wrote: "I have been witness to male supervisors wondering if a mother on leave is coming back." I am a woman and I wonder that all the time. I think companies should have a rule that if you take maternity leave, come back and then quit within 3 - 6months, that you should have to pay back maternity leave. Not that this is a scientific anecdote at all, but have you ever peeked on parental message boards? I am astounded when I read questions like "Not returning after maternity leave...when to tell the boss?" and all of the respondents say they don't think there is a "responsibility" to tell your work you aren't coming back because you are "entitled" to your paid leave. I think if you take paid maternity leave and plan on quitting as soon as you come back, it is almost the same thing as stealing. And, as the previous poster noted, it creates a bad work environment where folks expect that you aren't coming back when you say you are.

Posted by: JAT | August 21, 2006 2:17 PM

I raised 2 kids and dealt with illnesses etc. while working for the government. These postings raise a pet peeve of mine - people who take sick leave when their kids are sick (gov't rules say you are only supposed to take sick leave to care for another if that person has a contagious disease). I always took annual leave. Otherwise you ARE getting an unfair advantage over childless colleagues - assuming that sometimes you get sick too, you are taking twice as much sick leave (for you and for your child).

Posted by: WashDC | August 21, 2006 2:24 PM

To JAT: When I took 4 1/2 months maternity leave, my leave was already earned. It was a combination of sick (8 weeks) and annual leave. I do not feel obligated to pay them back because given I walked in and quit one day, the agency would be forced to pay out my annual leave and hold my sick leave in case I ever went to another agency. I also think you really can't factor in how you are going to feel after having a baby. Certainly, some people know a head of time they will quit but for some women, they are just sweeped up with emotions after a baby is born. I cried the first day back to work. I think it was a 50/50 chance, I would have not returned on that first day. But all along I had planned to come back. You just can't really understand how it will make you feel till you go through it. And the emotions are different for each women and maybe with each pregnancy. I think a hard and fast rule, just punishes some families who make a legitimated decision for their families.

Posted by: Lieu | August 21, 2006 2:27 PM

WashDC: Annual and sick leave is alloted equally to childless people and people with children. A childless person is entitled to take just as much sick leave as someone who has a child. I often come to work when I am feeling only so so because I need my sick leave for my child. Just about everything for a child is contagious. I do not take sick leave attend an event for my child; like a party or a school concert. I take annual leave. I do take sick leave when she goes to doctors, speech therapist, and illness. Also in my agency sick leave is paid out upon retiring. Childless people can bank more sick leave and eventually get a bigger pay out. One of my childless friends fully admits to taking sick leave to go play golf. He justfies it as a mental health day. I know some people who are child free who get haircuts with sick leave. Hey, I figure you earned it and it is really none of my business. No one has ever questioned me taking leave for my daughter. And trust me, she gets sick a fair amount. I had tons of sick leave before she arrived.

Posted by: Lieu | August 21, 2006 2:29 PM


"I think companies should have a rule that if you take maternity leave, come back and then quit within 3 - 6months, that you should have to pay back maternity leave."

I think it depends on how you got paid for maternity leave. At my previous job, I got my maternity leave paid for through sick, vacation, and comp time that I had accrued in the seven years I had been there. I ended up leaving about 5 months after my maternity leave ended. I had thought I might leave soon after but it wasn't really planned. This was a place where you wouldn't receive any compensation for sick or comp time when you left. I personally felt fully justified in taking all this time because why should I be punished for not calling in sick once a month like some people. Your leave is all part of your compensation package.

Maybe I just don't work in the right segment of society but most places that I know about don't offer paid maternity leave as a benefit above leave earned.

Posted by: Rockville Mom | August 21, 2006 2:31 PM

"These postings raise a pet peeve of mine - people who take sick leave when their kids are sick (gov't rules say you are only supposed to take sick leave to care for another if that person has a contagious disease). "

I don't know when you're talking about but now there is something called Family Friendly leave that allows you to use your sick time for sick kids.

BTW, I tried to post this once and it disappeared; hopefully it won't show up twice.

Posted by: Rockville Mom | August 21, 2006 2:37 PM

I think Rockville Mom is right. I've been told by our HR people that I am supposed to take sick leave to take care of sick children, and that I could use it to help my parents out when my mother had surgery.

In answer to Lieu's question, I work for the federal government. And we have no paid maternity leave. All accumulated sick and annual leave.

Posted by: Sam | August 21, 2006 2:39 PM

Let's see...whenever I am with other mothers and we discuss the issue of how each parent mothers and fathers do things for their children, when I make my assertion "Men who do one thing for their children are heros, women who miss one thing are bad mothers...", there are knowing glances. Why do you all praise the dads who change diapers? No one is praising the mothers for doing this. Geez, if dads don't help, then the mothers do it all. No one gives a mother any credit for bringing up the kids, but I've heard over and over again (working) men referred to as "great family men". Never have heard that about working mothers (in the workplace).

And about the "fretting"---you used more terms than that with negative connotations. That is generalizing about a gender and perpetuates nasty sterotypes. Not all women stew about their need to do things for their family on work time.

And to "?Question?", what does your race have to do with what I was talking about. I didn't bring race into the discussion. In my experience, I find that black males in my profession do better than ALL females with regard to "moving up" the ladder. My former mentor is African American and shot above everyone else, not because he was black, but because he played the "boy" politics. And he made some disturbing comments to me about why women don't ascend as far so that is why he is not longer my mentor (he is unethical in my opinion and advised me to play the same immoral game). As far as I'm concerned, in the game of gender politics, my experience is that race doesn't matter.

Posted by: Hmmm... | August 21, 2006 2:40 PM

Sick leave usage for family members changed. You may not be aware since your kids sound older. I worked under old and new leave usage rules. The new are much better. check for specifics. I also worked without flextime, comp time, leave charged by 1/4 hour (as opposed to old days of whole hour only). People are not necessarily taking advantage - just have better rules. And the newer, younger employees don't appreciate what they have since they didn't work under old rules.

Posted by: toWashDC | August 21, 2006 2:40 PM

To WashDC:

We actually have a payroll code for "family sick leave taken." I work for state government.

Again, this all goes back to making employment choices based on family friendly policies.

Posted by: single western mom | August 21, 2006 2:44 PM

I worked indirectly with the Wall Street culture for 5+ years as a software vendor. Like big law firms, consulting shops and the like the prevailing attitude is that time is money and what have you done for me lately. Lots of people, male and female, burn out from the constant demands of this type of environment and seek employment that offers balance. From what I saw a client facing Wall Street job offers tremendous financial pay-off that is the culmination of years of networking, building your sales book and the like. If you want a 40 hour week and flexibility look elsewhere -- you can't call clients at 11 pm or not be on trading desk during market hours (9:30 to 4 plus with "morning call" at 7:30 and client calls right up until the open).

Posted by: Product of a Working Mother | August 21, 2006 2:45 PM

I worked indirectly with the Wall Street culture for 5+ years as a software vendor. Like big law firms, consulting shops and the like the prevailing attitude is that time is money and what have you done for me lately. Lots of people, male and female, burn out from the constant demands of this type of environment and seek employment that offers balance. From what I saw a client facing Wall Street job offers tremendous financial pay-off that is the culmination of years of networking, building your sales book and the like. If you want a 40 hour week and flexibility look elsewhere -- you can't call clients at 11 pm or not be on trading desk during market hours (9:30 to 4 plus with "morning call" at 7:30 and client calls right up until the open).

Posted by: Product of a Working Mother | August 21, 2006 2:46 PM

To Sam: I think the whole federal government does not offer paid maternity leave. There is a proposal for 12 weeks of paid maternity leave. But I think it will be a while, if ever, before that passes. I have not heard of too many private companies that offer paid maternity. I agree with Rockville that it is just a not a real issue because so few companies offer paid maternity.

Posted by: Lieu | August 21, 2006 2:47 PM

I've seen the 'I'm back from maternity leave - and I'm quitting' thing myself. Had a coworker (who worked from home, already had two kids at home under age 10, and had a husband who didn't make lots of money) have to go on maternity leave early (by three months) due to complications from carrying twins. In the meantime, her husband got a MUCH better job. She came back from almost 6 months of maternity leave (paid for primarily through short term and long term disability that was company sponsored) and quit the same day, giving 2 weeks notice. It really stinks - especially if you are in a small department.

Luckily for me and my department, I'm the major breadwinner in our house. I'll be coming back to work after maternity leave (when I finally do get pregnant) regardless of how much I may not want to - otherwise, we may not have a house!

Posted by: RebeccainAR | August 21, 2006 2:49 PM

I actually agree with JAT. Many companies pay short term disability as a part of a maternity package. I had 8 weeks of short term disability, one of which was taken as vacation (first week had to be taken from our PTO balance), 2 weeks paid family leave and 2 additional weeks of vacation I had already accrued. I came back, but if I hadn't, I dont think the company should have been obligated to pay my family leave OR short term disability.

The current laws require a company to hold your job, or an equivalent job, for you during maternity leave. In many cases, this means that everyone else in the group is picking up slack for what the mother was not doing at work. Calling up 10 weeks into maternity leave and informing them you aren't coming back is not fair to the company or the people who had to fill in while you were gone. If they had been able to replace you upfront, they would have already gotten someone into the job and started training.

Posted by: Jolie | August 21, 2006 2:58 PM

"I didn't bring race into the discussion"

Hmmm, I was having a back-and-forth with Working Mom, who DID bring race into the discussion with: "As people have done in earlier blogs, substitute blacks for women and you'll see how evil it is to make these assertions."

I think your wires are crossed, as she and I were having a back-and-forth.

I did read with curiousity your statement that "black males in [your] profession do better than ALL females with regard to "moving up" the ladder." Do census or other stats bear that out, or are you basing that statement on the experience with your mentor. Please don't think I'm saying you're wrong -- I just have no info on what your field is or where your numbers (taking "ALL" as a number) are coming from.

Posted by: ?Question? | August 21, 2006 3:05 PM

"Of course there are many jobs out there that will allow you to work reasonable hours, have a part time option etc. But when it gets to the jobs where there is real money making potential - that is not the case."

I'm not really sure what there is to be discussed about this. It seems only obvious that those people who are not only qualified (with education, experience, skills, abilitiy) but who are also willing to dedicate their lives to a company SHOULD be making the big money.

If you don't want to dedicate your life to a company, then don't do it. But then don't complain when other people make more money than you do.

Posted by: what's the question again? | August 21, 2006 3:07 PM

She said - "whenever I am with other mothers and we discuss the issue of how each parent mothers and fathers do things for their children, when I make my assertion "Men who do one thing for their children are heros, women who miss one thing are bad mothers...", there are knowing glances. Why do you all praise the dads who change diapers? No one is praising the mothers for doing this. Geez, if dads don't help, then the mothers do it all. No one gives a mother any credit for bringing up the kids, but I've heard over and over again (working) men referred to as "great family men". Never have heard that about working mothers (in the workplace)"

The key to your statement is "Whenever I am with other Mothers." Because whenever I am with other fathers, we groan about how our spouses take us for granted and quantify our contributions based only on the tasks THEY do. Women who head famiilies that are barely scraping by can at least get sympathy from liberals and (decreasingly) the Gov't. Men who head families that are scraping by are seen as lazy, miserable slackers by society and by every single relative in their wife's family.

There are two sides to all these stories.

Posted by: To Hmmm Part Dieux - | August 21, 2006 3:10 PM

I work in a state government office, and our sick leave policy allows me to take sick leave to care for any member of my immediate family when they are ill. I can also use my accrued annual leave for the same purpose.

I also am granted the same amount of leave as a woman for the birth of a child (12 weeks), and hope to get to use that benefit within the next year or so!

Posted by: John | August 21, 2006 3:13 PM

>>If you don't want to dedicate your life to a company, then don't do it. But then don't complain when other people make more money than you do.>>

But if a law firm will pay you $150K a year to work 80-hour weeks, why won't they hire you for $75K a year to work 40 hour weeks? Or $100K a year for 60-hour weeks? That's the question. Why is it all or nothing? Why is there no possibility of flexible work at some of the high-paying jobs?

Posted by: The question, again, is... | August 21, 2006 3:19 PM

Hmmmm, Wall Street and a balanced life. Sing with me, "which of these dont go together."
I have worked ina Wall Street type job since college. Hours were inconceivably long when I started in IB, and then were really 24/7 when I started trading. I am one of those crackberry people who basically is always in touch with markets and clients, but I am always in touch with my family too. Walking a chewing gum at the same time ya know.
I know some women who have done very well in the moneygame but many have taken the opportunity to exit the rat race when it comes. I cant leave to go start a business, get a more family friendly hour schedule. I have to be here during market hours, and I have to know what current market conditions are, have been and might be. Re-entering the trading arena after months away-much less years would be tough for anyone...

Posted by: Fo3 | August 21, 2006 3:23 PM

"Men who head families that are scraping by are seen as lazy, miserable slackers by society and by every single relative in their wife's family."

How would anyone know your income unless you tell them?

Posted by: Anonymous | August 21, 2006 3:25 PM

>>>But if a law firm will pay you $150K a year to work 80-hour weeks, why won't they hire you for $75K a year to work 40 hour weeks? Or $100K a year for 60-hour weeks? That's the question. Why is it all or nothing? Why is there no possibility of flexible work at some of the high-paying jobs? >>>

That IS a good question. But is there evidence that they are letting white men work the 40hr/$75k and 60hr/$100k slots, but NOT working moms? Because if not, then the employer is treating everyone equally. Not fairly, but equally.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 21, 2006 3:28 PM

"I also am granted the same amount of leave as a woman for the birth of a child (12 weeks), and hope to get to use that benefit within the next year or so!"

John, is any of that paid? Is this something special with your company or are you talking about you rights through FMLA? Because FMLA DOES guarantee that if you take up to 12 weeks off in a year for the care of an immediate family member, they have to hold your job (or an equivalent job). BUT they can require that you take vacation leave to pay for part of it, accrued sick leave and any additional balance be unpaid. Basically, its up to a company's discretion how they pay, or IF they pay, FMLA benefits.

However, giving birth is considered a disability, which is why short term disability often pays for 6 or 8 (c-section) weeks of leave - its not actually to care for the child, its that it is seen as taking 6 or 8 weeks to recover from birth.

Posted by: Jolie | August 21, 2006 3:30 PM

"Men who head families that are scraping by are seen as lazy, miserable slackers by society and by every single relative in their wife's family."

How would anyone know your income unless you tell them?

SHE can tell them, because SHE isn't embarassed by it, because society does not hold her to a standard. And even if others don't know a number they make assumptions based on hand-me-down clothes for the kids etc.

Why is a woman embarassed by her dress size when no one else needs to the exact number?

Posted by: Anonymous | August 21, 2006 3:32 PM

Rockville Mom, your husband's employer offers 8 weeks of short term disability for maternity leave. :) (Not paternity, as you know, and unfortunately for you guys!) However, this same employer--a university in DC--does not provide sick leave for family members. Sick leave for employees is unlimited through a short term disability plan, but only for employee sickness. Caring for sick kids, parents, etc., had to be done with annual leave, which I hated, especially because my son required a day in the hospital every month when I worked there. Fortunately, I had a flexible boss who let me make up the hours working at home. I'm glad the federal government--my husband's employer--changed their ways on this as well. I don't think that people with family members to care for deserve any more leave than anyone else; you should get a set amount, and how you use it ought to be up to you. I would have traded my 8 weeks of "free" maternity leave for kid sick leave that at that job!

Posted by: niner | August 21, 2006 3:33 PM

(knows) the number, not (needs) the number at 3:32.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 21, 2006 3:34 PM

"I didn't bring race into the discussion"

No, I am "working mother" and I did not make any assertions about race other than to suggest that negative generalizations are harmful and if you substitute another group for "women", then you can see how insidious the comments are. Since when is it ok to attack one's gender?

And in my profession, I have seen more than one black male ascend due to playing the "boy" game. I won't say what the profession is because I don't want anyone to know my identity, but I've heard black women in my field complain and they have valid complaints. While I agree with blacks in general are discriminated against in the workplace, this is a discussion about women and mothers. And men in general, have less problems in many workplaces getting promoted.

Posted by: To: ?Question? | August 21, 2006 3:38 PM

The Street pays well enough so you can have a balance life -

on vacation, or by remote control.

HAHAHAHAH, Pay cannot be scaled pro-rata accross the demands of the job. Officers of a bank, investment bank, hedge fund etc, dont get paid by the hour, they get paid to produce.

When markets get quiet, I get to type on this blog. When markets are active - I work at all hours of the morning. I probably get underpaid given what I produce since the MD's around here probably know I value my short commute with a young family nearby.

Posted by: Fo3 | August 21, 2006 3:42 PM

I think the person who raised the question of "underproviding" males in a family is making an interesting point and one I had not thought of......I think the double-standard might come from a few bad/wrong assumptions. First, that women are not inherently as intelligent as men and may not be "intrinsically made" for high paying jobs, or second, that working women, in addition to their paying jobs, then must go home and cook/clean/care for children while men's main job is achieved through "breadwinning." Each assumption is wrong on all counts - thanks for bringing this one up. Very interesting.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 21, 2006 3:42 PM

One more thing to add to Fo3 comments -- traders and salespeople on the West Coast work East Coast hours (my clients came to the office between 0400 and 0430). Try balancing that. (and no when the market closes at 1 pm Pacific you aren't always out the door by 2 pm).

Posted by: Product of a Working Mother | August 21, 2006 3:51 PM

It's not clear to me why underproviding men or women give a hoot what anyone thinks of them......

Posted by: Anonymous | August 21, 2006 3:52 PM

Question to those of you who have experience in the following fields: how does the life of wall street compare to that of say a professional lobbyist (either for a lobbying firm or for a specific organization)?

Posted by: 215 | August 21, 2006 3:53 PM

I must admit I quit my job during my maternity leave-- I did come back to work for 2 weeks. What was I supposed to do? The only pay I received while on maternity leave was my own accrued leave. I suppose I could have told my supervisor that I wasn't coming back before I went on maternity leave, but I needed my health insurance for the birth, and so I couldn't risk being fired.

Its always inconvenient when a coworker quits, but they have the right to do it.

Posted by: yetanothersahm... | August 21, 2006 4:02 PM

repeat after me, men are bad, men are bad, men are bad.

My God some of the people on here sound like a bunch of crazed feminist who think we live in the 60s. Oh wait, white men are bad, white men are bad. There that should do it.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 21, 2006 4:05 PM

I would imagine people can tell your income based on lifestyle choices: size of house, neigborhood, clothing, vacations etc... Sometimes, lifestyle choices can be decieving but my guess is the low income families do show it. I also guess the men feel bad because they still see themselves as the primary bread winner. It was a good point. I am glad that poster brought it up.

Posted by: Lieu | August 21, 2006 4:05 PM


Yes, that is the standard, unpaid FMLA leave time I was talking about. I can use my vacation/sick leave in that 12 week period if I wish so I'll keep getting paid, or I can take it off as unpaid leave (not hardly!). I don't know what kind of benefit my wife has on this subject, though; she works for a small company (<15 people).

Since I've got 181 days of sick leave accrued already, though, I think I'll use them when the time comes...

Posted by: John | August 21, 2006 4:11 PM

To 215:

Some of my work involves lobbying, but I am doing this in Phoenix, not WDC. Big difference, and a conscious decision on my part when I left the metro WDC area.

Some folks have noted that some jobs simply are not family friendly. I have known a few firefighters, male and female, who were not awarded primary custody in divorce simply because of their work schedules (usually 24-hour shifts). That's a pretty severe consequence for a professional choice.

Posted by: single western mom | August 21, 2006 4:11 PM

To all those who are saying that if you can't do the time then you don't deserve the pay I think you are missing the point of Leslie's post this morning and indeed the point of this blog. This blog is about how to manage work-life balance and the post was how those who prize balance miss out on opportunities that they have the skills to do but don't want to/ think they need to sacrifice the time that is usually expected in those positions. A lot of time spent in those jobs is not directly related to productivity - therefore the argument is that the status quo impacts working parents who value their time. It amazes me that people post such judgmental posts like "complainers must be bad workers" when the point of this blog is to discuss work-life balance. If you don't agree that work-life balance is a priority then you are reading the wrong blog.

Posted by: fabworkingmom | August 21, 2006 4:13 PM

Just a thought here ... when a woman comes back from maternity leave and then quits, even if it was her "right" to do it, it creates uncertainty in the workplace the next time another woman (who may have no intention of quitting after giving birth) gets pregnant and goes on leave.

It is "gaming" the system in my opinion if you know you are not coming back and is especially unfair when that time could have been used to find a replacement and/or distribute your work among other people.

Posted by: 2 cents | August 21, 2006 4:19 PM

I agree with 2 cents...that is very selfish, mainly because you know they are holding your job for you when you know you are not coming back. Usually when people quit, they give notice and (in my case) train their replacement.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 21, 2006 4:23 PM

repeat after me, men are bad, men are bad, men are bad.
My God some of the people on here sound like a bunch of crazed feminist who think we live in the 60s. Oh wait, white men are bad, white men are bad. There that should do it.

And you sound like an uptight idiot. I don't think anyone has said that "white men are bad". They do dominate the power structure and therefore have advantages that women don't have. Go back to your garbage dumpster....

Posted by: to anonymous poster 4:05 PM | August 21, 2006 4:25 PM

I agree with you too.

One of my employees was pregnant and had a bad complication with #2. Immediately after that, she told me that she didn't think she could come back after the birth. We discussed options because I didn't want to lose a valuable employee and decided on a prn schedule for her. She delivered a healthy baby and I'm hoping that in several months or a few years, she'll come back full time. If she had just cut out after the birth without notice, we might not have had such nice feelings toward her and would not have worked out this arrangement that will benefit both her and our company.

Posted by: To 2 cents | August 21, 2006 4:26 PM

2 cents: so when "should" a pregnant woman who plans to quit tell her boss? And why is this situation different from any other time an employee quits? In your opinion does taking earned sick leave demand that an employee be extra loyal?

For the record, I did everything in my power to avoid leaving my coworkers in the lurch, but I couldn't afford to cost my family thousands of dollars by going above and beyond.

Posted by: yetanothersahm... | August 21, 2006 4:34 PM

If you're taking leave you have earned, there's nothing wrong with taking it (you should!) but the more notice you can give, especially if you don't plan on returning, the better. If you have paid leave through short term disability (I used this for my kids), I don't think you should take it if you don't plan on returning. It is a benefit for workers to help them through a short term medical condition.

Posted by: maternity leave | August 21, 2006 4:41 PM

There was an article this past weekend in the Post, I believe, that discussed the changes in our welfare system that is making it harder for mothers to go to school and work. Apparently the changes proposed are to take away subsidies for childcare. The story talked about a couple of women who brought themselves out of poverty by getting a degree and then getting decent jobs and profiled another mother who earned minimum wage who would never be able to afford reliable (good) childcare on her wages. They credited the childcare subsidies for their ability to provide for their children. Also proposed are not counting school as the equivalent of work so disqualifying them from subsidies.

Perhaps a blog on mothers who are in the lower SES groups--in poverty to lower middle class who struggle and who now may be dealt a worse blow by new welfare to work policies being proposed. It would be interesting to see what ideas people could come up with to address this problem.

Posted by: To Leslie | August 21, 2006 5:03 PM

I saw that article. Basically it no longer allows people on welfare to claim education classes as "work", so in order to keep getting paychecks they are limited in how many hours they can go back to school. It's a stupid, narrow interpretation of the rules.

Posted by: John | August 21, 2006 5:30 PM

"But no one is actually entitled to someone else's respect - you have to earn it."

You have this totally backwards--everyone IS entitled to someone else's respect--until you forfeit it. Forgetting this means judging people by what they earn instead of who they are, and discounting SAHP as people.

Posted by: Fract'l | August 21, 2006 6:59 PM

;You have this totally backwards--everyone IS entitled to someone else's respect--until you forfeit it. Forgetting this means judging people by what they earn instead of who they are, and discounting SAHP as people.'

and what the heck does that have to do with the price of tea in China? (My grandmother used to say that, in case you think I'm making stuff up.)

This type of comment has been blissfully almost noexistant today. I guess some people just want to pick a fight. This comment has nothing to do with the topic(s) today, which have been thoughtfully and repsectfully discussed for a change.

Posted by: experienced mom | August 21, 2006 8:21 PM

This type of comment has been blissfully almost noexistant today. I guess some people just want to pick a fight. This comment has nothing to do with the topic(s) today, which have been thoughtfully and repsectfully discussed for a change.

Not to mention using exceptional grammar and spelling skills! :-)

Posted by: Hmmm | August 21, 2006 9:00 PM

To - To:?Question? from 3:38:

"And in my profession, I have seen more than one black male ascend due to playing the "boy" game."

Yes, and I've seen a woman sleep her way into a big raise and promotion.

Our one-off anecdotes mean nothing.

Working Mother, I asked if it was Just Possible that parents sometimes perceive that people feel they aren't pulling their weight when maybe they aren't really perceived that way. The fact that you cannot even conceive of it being a creation of your own mind trivializes this discussion, in my opinion. And you without fail wish to place the victim label only in the woman's lap?

OK, moms are universally dismissed, oppressed and discriminated in the workplace, while dads are all hailed as heroes if they glance at their kid's picture on the desk? Yeah, I've got it now. Such an extremist opinion really inspires me to do what I can to change affect real change to real problems (snark alert.)

Posted by: ?Question? | August 21, 2006 9:43 PM

And my mother used to say 'Who died and left you boss?"

Would it have been more on topic if s/he'd corrected Leslie on capitalizing GOD, as you did recently?

Posted by: to experienced mom | August 21, 2006 10:22 PM

Me thinks you are the extremist. Not a very intelligent read on my comments. Good night and I hope you chill out after a good night's sleep. You are too tightly overwound.

Posted by: To: ?Question? | August 21, 2006 10:24 PM

But if a law firm will pay you $150K a year to work 80-hour weeks, why won't they hire you for $75K a year to work 40 hour weeks? Or $100K a year for 60-hour weeks? That's the question. Why is it all or nothing? Why is there no possibility of flexible work at some of the high-paying jobs?

Posted by: The question, again, is... | August 21, 2006 03:19 PM

I can't speak for all jobs, but with mine, it takes a long time to ramp up for a specific project, be a subject matter expert. There's not a lot of redundant knowledge on my teams, everybody's a specialist. And if you need the "expert" to push it out, that's a 60-80 hour week.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 21, 2006 10:28 PM

lots of people on this blog don't like white men. Read the blog, if you can or maybe I should paint you a picture. Oh, I am so held down by the white man. I spend allmy time on a blog, but the white men, oh the horror.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 21, 2006 10:38 PM

And my mother used to say 'Who died and left you boss?"

Would it have been more on topic if s/he'd corrected Leslie on capitalizing GOD, as you did recently?

How do you spell touche? Well anyway, I deserved that!

Posted by: experienced mom | August 21, 2006 11:36 PM

To: ?Question? "Me thinks you are the extremist. Not a very intelligent read on my comments. Good night and I hope you chill out after a good night's sleep. You are too tightly overwound."

Intelligent? Methinks is one word. Check yourself.

I maintain that you want to wrap yourself in the victim label, and have made ABSOLUTELY NO concrete argument to justify it. You stand on anecdote and emotion. With debate skills so poor you should be ashamed to show them in public.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 22, 2006 8:48 AM

To Experienced Mom, Fract'l was responding to a poster who said that no one is entitled to respect, you have to earn. The original poster said this an excuse for the sexist comments and attitudes held by her coworkers. It definitely needed to be commented on.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 22, 2006 9:04 AM

And as a follow up to my comments at 9:04 AM, there are some of us who think that people should be treated decently as the base-line starting point. It's not something to be "earned."

Posted by: Anonymous | August 22, 2006 9:07 AM

I'm late posting back (all alone with my daughter this week, so evenings are hard), but I think if you have accrued sick/vacation leave, most places will pay you that in a lump sum when you leave, so there is no harm at all in quitting before using the leave. But taking the leave and then quitting, often without coming back, isn't fair. As someone else earlier said, it also causes uncertainty for the next woman who gets pregnant, and even worse, can cause discrimination. My manager would barely even talk to me before I went on maternity leave about my plans for a work schedule when I got back (no more 9 - 6, I'd have to work 8-4) because "well, you will never know how you feel". So when I came back, and proceeded to work the hours I had been telling him for months I would be working, he had an issue because I was leaving so early (his manager, by the way, had already approved my schedule).

John, above, is planning to use his accrued leave to take time off for the birth of a child. And while I think thats GREAT that he has that much time and can do it, I doubt it has ever even entered his mind that he will take the leave, call near the end, and quit.

As for the woman who didn't tell them she wasn't coming back because she didn't want to risk losing her health benefits - well, I'm pretty sure you would have a discrimination suit if you had been fired in that circumstance. Additionally, COBRA exists for exactly this reason anyway, and could have been used. She would probably have found a supportive environment, however, if she had said, "I really want to be a SAHM after the birth of my child, so I am giving you all this notice so we can find a replacement for me and I can train that replacement before I leave my job." Now, however, they had to hold the job and make do until she informed them she wasn't coming back, which puts them in a bind.

Posted by: Jolie | August 22, 2006 9:22 AM


I sometimes come across as snarky online, but I am honestly trying to address your points:

1. I don't believe it's discrimination to fire someone who has informed you that they plan to quit, even if she is pregnant (I'm not a lawyer, but I know people do get fired when their boss finds out they are looking to leave, and pregnancy shouldn't protect you from being fired legitamately).

2. COBRA is VERY expensive. It might have also changed my benefits-- I don't know how to research that without letting HR know you're thinking of quitting.

3. The federal government does not reimburse employees for unused sick leave when they quit.

4. My manager would have been supportive, but my "real" supervisor was a jerk, and if I had told my manager he would have been required to tell my supervisor, and who knows what would have happened.

5. I believe the only way they could have hired my replacement before I left would have been for me to formaly submit my resignation, which would have ended my health benefits on or around my last day. I DID quietly try to organize all my work so that someone else could easily step into my job, and I came back for 2 weeks after the baby was born. I called a few weeks before I came back to let them know I was going to be a sahm, and they made no effort to hire a replacement immediately, so training a replacement wasn't important to them, I guess. Since our work was project based, they were able to plan for my absence fairly effectively.

6. I don't think leaving another way would have changed the attitude of my jerk supervisor toward the next pregnant woman. The other guys I worked with all had working wives and understood clearly that being a SAHM is not the norm.

Posted by: yetanothersahm... | August 22, 2006 12:58 PM

I can't believe I have to point this out, but have you considered that the female partner was concerned with how SHE was going to get along and take care of her family while picking up your slack while you were on maternity leave, and that the male boss was just acting the way he normally would because he assumes that you're going to be like his SAH wife? HELLO! You do not live in a void. Try to think of people other than yourself and you might be surprised to learn that no one is out to get you.

Posted by: To Thought | August 22, 2006 1:54 PM

"I guess I'm just a humanist, not a feminist. I firmly believe that bad behaviour and bias is not actually exclusive to the male gender."

Sigh, okay, one more time. Feminism is not about making men the enemy. Feminism does not posit that only men behave badly and make mistakes.

Feminism fights patriarchal society, which is being perpetrated by men and women to this day. It's about inequality, not about forcing men to lick our boots.

Please, if you learn anything from this blog, learn what feminism really is and STOP parroting what the media and religious right are telling you.

Posted by: To Chasmosaur | August 22, 2006 1:58 PM

As a point of reference in the ongoing debate of childless employees and working parents...

The weekend schedule for the rest of this year was just distributed in my office. I (the only childless person in my group) have been assigned the weekends of Labor Day, Halloween, Columbus Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Coincidence? I don't think so.

But I need the paycheck, so I'm not going to complain to my boss. Amazing how "flexible" you can be when you really need to pay the mortage. Just ask any blue-collar worker!

Posted by: Meesh | August 22, 2006 2:10 PM

You may need your paycheck but if you actually want a solution, you do need to complain. Going with the flow isn't going to change the situation. Most (normal) people aren't going to think it odd that you don't want to work EVERY holiday. And you may not be saying this but don't blame the parents in the group. Blame the boss. It's their responsibility to be fair and equitable. Others aren't going to have the same impetus to change how the holiday weekend work days are distributed. They may not have even noticed that they're all assigned to the childless one. They're probably just happy not to have them assigned to them.

Posted by: To Meesh | August 22, 2006 4:15 PM

I appreciate your reply, and I do plan to say something because there's no way I'm working on Christmas.

But a little background (for fun), there are five of us in the office. Everyone got the schedule and everyone can see every other person's name on the list. And they (all four) met to make the schedule while I was on vacation last week. I can certainly blame the parents.

But I understand your view.

Posted by: Meesh | August 22, 2006 4:24 PM

I guess there's some blame to go around this time. I still stand by what I said regarding the boss though. They should be looking at the big picture in terms of what's fair. But everybody met when you were out and decided this? It seems like a conspiracy. You'd have thought someone would take at least one or two of the lesser holiday weekends. That would have been a little less obvious. Good grief! And good luck!

Posted by: To Meesh | August 22, 2006 4:34 PM

Meesh, Where are you in terms of seniority? That matter too.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 22, 2006 6:01 PM

If you're still reading, I'm pretty low on the totem pole. ANother person and I have the same responsibilities, then we have a boss. The other two people have different job functions. So essentially the work load was divided between me and this other person (who has kids).

On the plus side, it's overtime money, so I can't complain too much. I just wished they had asked instead of just assumed.

Thanks for the advice and sympathy, though!

Posted by: Meesh | August 23, 2006 4:48 PM

At a company where I used to work, disputed vacation times went to whoever had more seniority. I was in a department of 5 and, at least in theory, only one person was supposed to be off at a time. There was one woman there who'd been there 15+ years who was most senior who would always always take off the week after Christmas. No kids, by the way. To me, it's great to have seniority but you've still got to be fair. After a few years and changeover in staffing, I was at the top seniority-wise. I specifically didn't take all of the ideal holiday times because I didn't think it was fair. Sometimes it does just come down to that. Of course, now where I work, I must admit, one of the best things is that when I choose to take time has very little impact on others. So, for all extents and purposes, I can do what I want within the confines of how much leave I have.

Posted by: To Meesh | August 24, 2006 12:09 PM

I recently talked to a friend who revealed that an SES manager in one (key) federal Department recently administered the Myers Briggs test to an office staff on the expressed theory of worklife improvement. However, the real purpose was to find out how to make the life of a certain employee miserable according to an that whatever the work circumstance best suggested by the personality test could be controverted... now that's an SES manager that should be fired in my book.... your government at work spending taxpayers' dollars to make a top employee's life miserable? (According to the insider, the "unsuspecting victim" is the office's top performer--apparently the SESer is so jealously competitive that it has become a psychosis.)

Posted by: Anonymous | September 5, 2006 7:42 AM

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