Queen Bees at Work

It's one of the thorniest, least-discussed issues for working women today: How to deal with the more senior woman who has sacrificed family for her career and believes that the "hard way" she got ahead is the only way to advance. Part-time, flex-time, staying home with a sick child, leaving work early to watch a soccer game -- you don't get leeway from her because no one gave her any sympathy when she was struggling to balance work and family (or no family).

Today, we've got more than 40 years' worth of women entering U.S. colleges, graduate schools and professional workforces in record numbers. Workplace norms are changing rapidly -- I only have to think back to the floppy ties and slipped-off wedding rings that were common practices in the early 1990s when I got out of graduate school. Today, it's natural that we see generation gaps among working mothers of different ages. But this disconnect between women at work can be tricky and destructive. How do you reach out for help from a woman who doesn't want to help you?

Deborah Epstein Henry, founder of Flex-Time Lawyers, a national consulting firm advising law firms, corporations and lawyers on work/life balance and the retention and promotion of female attorneys, observes this phenomenon in consulting to law firms. "You see the junior woman lawyer not being able to relate to or not wanting to model herself after the so-called Queen Bees. This generation gap interferes with mentoring and advancement opportunities in the workplace. All women could be more productive in the workforce by supporting each other's choices rather than judging them."

Do you identify with other women at diverse professional levels? Do the struggles facing older -- or younger -- female colleagues draw you closer together or further apart? Have you had a boss who juggled work and kids differently than you -- and judged or penalized you for your choices? What strategies have helped you turn a Queen Bee into your friend and mentor?

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  November 5, 2007; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Conflicts
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This really is a serious problem at law firms (IMO). You look at female partners and almost all of them fit into one of two categories: (1) childless (and often unmarried) or (2) had children after becoming partner (i.e., in their late 30s/early 40s).

To a certain extent, I sympathesize. These women have made significant personal sacrifices to get to where they are and see us younger associates just wanting it all. But it never ceases to amaze me that often times, these female partners are our (young female associates) worst enemies and the white shoe, traditionalist male partner tends to be so much more supportive.

Posted by: londonmom | November 5, 2007 8:29 AM

OT: Wanted to let you guys know that I will be expecting my second child late next summer. I am only 6 weeks pregnant, so it is still pretty early on. Anything can happen. Must have caught it from Scary and Emily.

Scary, how are you doing? How is the little one?

Emily, are you hanging in there?

I have found that the women who put a 100% into their careers are still fairly understanding. Because they know they either made the ultimate sacrifice of no family or had as much trouble as we do balancing work and family. Maybe more trouble. But I think they can also put it into perspective of it is a different time now. Things are just radically different. I have found them supportive. But that seems to be a different story then what I hear other women tell. I still find men, either are really supportive or don't want to hear about it.

Posted by: foamgnome | November 5, 2007 8:50 AM

Foamgnome -- Congratulations! That is wonderful news. You must be thrilled.

I agree with londonmom that this is a huge problem in law firms, most of which are also struggling to retain valued female associates once they start a family. We just lost a 6th year associate who was up for partner next year. She left for a completely different type of job, and she said the primary reason she was leaving was she wants a life. It's hard to bill 2200 hours a year and have time for a family.

Hopefully, I'll have more on this subject later, but we have conference in our office today and I have to fly.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | November 5, 2007 9:27 AM

"All women could be more productive in the workforce by supporting each other's choices rather than judging them."

As could men.

Posted by: chittybangbang | November 5, 2007 9:31 AM

That's great news Foamy! I have a image in my head of 2 cute little foamgnomies busily playing in a highly structured, enriched environment. My prediction: it's a girl!

God bless you! :-)

Posted by: DandyLion | November 5, 2007 9:40 AM

I was on a discussion panel at a law school about 7 years ago, and they asked:

"What do you think the challenge will be for this generation's women entering the work force?"

Of course, they meant, entering the work force as new lawyers.

I told them that their challenge is to demand to be paid in FULL for their work, not to accept what the women who went before them accepted - "part-time partner" track where you do 60% of the full-time work, but only receive 40% to 50% of the pay.

If women lawyers can't stand up for themselves, what about women in factories or who work as housekeepers?

The women who have been in the workforce longer (and I've now been in it 20 years) should not expect others to do more and expect less simply because you might have. You should encourage improvements in working conditions and not parrot the typical trial lawyer's brag:

"I was thrown into court and had to sink or swim."

Those who went before should offer training and guidance, but should never advocate that the old, unfair ways that you survived should continue.

Posted by: jdavoli | November 5, 2007 9:41 AM

Mr. foamgnome wants a boy!

Posted by: foamgnome | November 5, 2007 9:42 AM

Foamgnome - congratulations! Fantastic news. We are just waiting for our little one to arrive. Any day now...

I would be interested in hearing about other professions. My experience is limited to big law firm life, but I would imagine this is an issue that affects women in a vast array of industries.

Though it does seem to me that some industries - for example, IT - are inherently more flexible and tend to have more senior women who have been able to juggle work/family life and therefore are better mentors. Problem with law firms is that it is almost impossible to truly balance a family life with working at a big law firm. So most of us women who want some balance tend to opt out of the partnership race and leave.

Posted by: londonmom | November 5, 2007 9:50 AM

Congrats foam! That's wonderful news!!

When I worked (7 years ago) in consulting, I found that the majority of women were not helpful to the younger women. The men with whom I worked were almost all supportive and interested in helping me find my way professionally. There was one woman I worked for who was a great mentor and great help to me. I'll always be grateful for her efforts. She was an exceptionally successful and confident woman - that must have had something to do with it.

As an aside, did anyone see the NYTimes piece yesteday about the lawyer mom who had stayed home and wanted to get back in? I was laughing out loud at the comments about what a successful SAHM she was since her kids got in to Ivy League schools (as if that's the only reason one might stay home and the main measure of success as a parent) as well as the commment from the mom who wondered if her kids would have done better if she had been at home, "would they have played 5 instruments?". YIKES!

Posted by: moxiemom1 | November 5, 2007 10:04 AM

Congrats, Foamgnome! For background, please see FoamGnome's Guest Blog from February 2007, "Foamgnome Weighs in on 'One'" http://blog.washingtonpost.com/onbalance/2007/02/draft_foamgnome_1.html.

Hope you have an easy pregnancy. Keep us posted on the transition from one to two.

I have had some older female professionals be helpful -- but oddly, the most helpful ones were HR professionals at Johnson and Johnson and the Washington Post who had never had kids. The worst have been women who felt forced to choose their work over their kids and are bitter about it. They have this attitude of "I sacrificed so you can too." They look down on flextime, time off, and other arrangements, even if your work productivity remain stellar. They are so tough that that are out of touch with today's reality, where flexibility is more common for men and women.

I also recently met a fantastic, very understanding, top female executive from Hewlett Packard. She had a lot of good advice. But she horrified me when she said she had NEVER once been home to trick-or-treat with her four children. They are all grown now, and turned out great. But I felt sorry for her --that she missed a lot of the fun and joy of parenthood.

Posted by: leslie4 | November 5, 2007 10:08 AM

Regarding other careers -- CPA's. My cousin's wife is a partner in a NY firm and they have three kids between 7 and 13. It's always been a "joke" that no one sees her from January until April 16th. Thankfully my aunt and uncle are semi-retired and close enough to help in the childcare area, but I don't know how much longer that will last with the teenager. Side note -- they all go to private school, too so they run LONG days as they have since daycare at 6 weeks. And my cousin's truck driving job has him out of the house for weeks at a time (we think he has the best of both worlds, LOL).

Posted by: DLC1220 | November 5, 2007 10:10 AM

"But she horrified me when she said she had NEVER once been home to trick-or-treat with her four children. "

Huh? How abut her husband?

Posted by: chittybangbang | November 5, 2007 10:12 AM

I don't think this is particularly a gender question. Look at almost any article about Gen Y in the workplace, and you'll see the same schism. 40+ year olds think Gen Y are slackers who don't care about their work. Gen Y see themselves as managing life balance better than their predecessors. Then they want to be paid the same as those who are putting in the effort. But that's the trade off, and not an unreasonable one from the employer perspective. The gender issue here may be more about the mentoring comments. Men seem to do it more. Maybe it's because they had it so they've seen how to do it, whereas women didn't feel they had as much help. Or maybe women think it's not a plus to be seen as "nurturing" in the workplace. Maybe they're still having to work too hard on their own advancement to put much effort into someone else's. Thoughts?

Posted by: topicaltimely | November 5, 2007 10:27 AM

Congrats Foamgnome!

Since you're a statistician I might be able to get away with this citation: while in grad school at Purdue many years ago, I spent one semester on staff as a statistical consultant to faculty & grad students throughout the university, helping them design and analyze their experiments. One of my "clients" was a PhD candidate in Biology, whose thesis topic included an assertion, when a child is conceived from the first act of intercourse between the parents in more than a week, it's statistically more likely to be a boy. While if the child is conceived from the third or more such act in 48 hours it's statistically more likely to be a girl. There's no statistically-valid indicator for frequencies in between. (Supposedly it has to do with men's bodies creating chromosomes at different rates based on the frequencies, which was the real topic of her dissertation.)

You and Mr. foamgnome can take that as you see fit - those of us on this blog are far too cultured to ask for any more information.

(Darn, now I'm going to have to dig around and see if that dissertation was ever published - I graduated and left about two years before the researcher did.)

Posted by: ArmyBrat | November 5, 2007 10:31 AM

MoxieMom do you have the link to that NYT article? I missed it. Sounds really good. Can you post it for us?

Posted by: leslie4 | November 5, 2007 10:34 AM

Can do leslie. I think it was a good article from the perspective of returning to work and the challenges faced, I think the idea of SAHMhood,why one might stay home and measures of successful parenting were laughable. Here's the link, draw your own conclusions.

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/04/nyregion/nyregionspecial2/04Rparenting.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

Posted by: moxiemom1 | November 5, 2007 10:41 AM

Speaking as a man, and as a non-lawyer (computer/engineering field) - the issue seems to be that many of those who have 'made it' of either gender tend to want the newer generation to have to face the same challenges they did. There seems to be little interest among the non-enlightened in changing the system to make it easier for the younger crowd. That includes work-life balance as well as many other issues.

It's changing, slowly, as more and more women and men with families and working spouses make their way to the top. When I was a Fed, we used to joke that changes happen one Senior Executive at a time.

Back in the '80s, my office got a new employee - a woman just back from maternity leave. The childless female boss took her to lunch - and gave her the lecture right then and there about how she had to decide whether she wanted to be a 'career woman' or a 'mother with a part-time job' and act accordingly. The new employee was shocked - she'd never encountered that from any other supervisor, male or female. I doubt that still happens, but you never know.

The key is that, as both men and women succeed who have working spouses and children, there's more support for similar people to succeed. In general, any time I've had a boss with a working spouse and children, there's been no problems at all with work-life balance issues. On those occasions when I've had a single boss, or a boss with no children, or worst of all a boss who's been divorced because of lack of work-life balance, I've had to make it clear that my work-life balance decisions will take precedence over my continued employment with that organization, if it comes down to it.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | November 5, 2007 10:41 AM

I think this is mostly a problem of human nature- the arguement goes that if *I* had to suffer to "make it," then you are damn well going to suffer, too.

Case in point- look at drs. It has been shown over and over again that the horribly long hours that are worked by residents are bad for doctors and worse for patients, but the med school folks are completely reluctant to change the system because they view it as some kind of proving ground. They don't want to let the new drs off easy, even though no one benefits from this having drs who are too tired to function by the ends of their shifts.

I think it's a similair thing for women in certain positions- they think "I never got flextime or a job-share, so I'm sure as heck not going to give those benefits to you, you pansy."

Posted by: floof | November 5, 2007 10:43 AM

I have found that the women who put a 100% into their careers are still fairly understanding. Because they know they either made the ultimate sacrifice of no family or had as much trouble as we do balancing work and family. Maybe more trouble. But I think they can also put it into perspective of it is a different time now. Things are just radically different. I have found them supportive. But that seems to be a different story then what I hear other women tell. I still find men, either are really supportive or don't want to hear about it.

Posted by: foamgnome | November 5, 2007 08:50 AM

foamgnome - many congratulations for an uneventful and wonderful pregnancy!!

My experience at two large, and one small (less than 100 attys) lawfirms, mirrors foamgnome's. I currently am with a firm with more than 650 attorneys, give or take an acquisition. Our older female partners are willing to mentor, are open to a variety of different career paths and choices, and are only impatient with whining and lack of work ethic -- just like our male partners. In fact, if there's a lack of mentoring, it's either from the 30 - 45 year-old crowd. They're too busy seeking personal balance to put the non-billable time either to mentor less experienced lawyers or to seek out good mentors, as the case may be. The older female attorneys appreciate how important mentoring is to the business and to the mentees, and they invest that time.


*******************

"But she horrified me when she said she had NEVER once been home to trick-or-treat with her four children. They are all grown now, and turned out great. But I felt sorry for her --that she missed a lot of the fun and joy of parenthood."

Posted by: leslie4 | November 5, 2007 10:08 AM

Unless you take Halloween as a metaphor for something larger, and I don't, how can you conclude that someone missed a lot of the fun and joy of parenthood simply because they didn't prioritize holding the flashlight one night a year?? My kids are much more interested in family time together on the weekends, like visits to the planetarium, baking brownies, going to visit cousins, raking and jumping in leaves then they are about which parent helps them weigh their candy on October 31. Sheesh. Leslie, You are judging another woman's parenting choices in the same manner which you often condemn and over something so trivial and isolate as to render your conclusion over-the-top. Silly wabbit. Maybe your new acquaintance figured out that the key to balance is establishing good priorities. *snaps fingers* What a concept.


Posted by: MN | November 5, 2007 10:44 AM

I still see 2 types of women at work who have children. Those who do their work, and responsibly work out child care issues, and those who spend most of their days talking to their children on the phone, and complaining about how "hard they work." I guess it's human nature that for every good employee, there's someone trying to take advantage.

Posted by: gm123 | November 5, 2007 10:52 AM

I'm finding this myself actually - both the generational divide and the woman-who-sacrificed divide.

What I find interesting to add is what happens when aging parents come into the mix. I think that's when Gen X/Boomers sort of start to feel more on the same page with Gen Y/parents of younger kids again.

Posted by: shandra_lemarath | November 5, 2007 10:54 AM

We had a "queen bee" professor in grad school. My advisor finally had to warn me that she was "not my friend" and I kicked her off of my committee. I had a very helpful woman professor I added, but I also found that there was little correlation between gender and support.

Posted by: shandavegh | November 5, 2007 10:55 AM

Congrats, Foamgnome! That's great news.

In a mostly male dominated field (even tho about half the grads in the math dept seemed to be women - no hard stats on that, tho), I am many times the only woman in the room - that has changed a very small amount more recently, but not much at all. It seems many of the men don't necessarily know what to do as mentors (see: faculty in Math depts - sometimes it's tough to see how they get themselves dressed daily - I think most of them have some sort of asberger's). So most of the places I've worked many people might have the technical background but not as much the people skills to pull of the mentoring. And with few women in the management positions, I can't say.

My mom told my sister (BA in psych in 1984) that she should try to get a male boss rather than a female boss (please note: mom didn't hold a real job after 1962 - this was hearsay from her friends), because female bosses were more difficult to work for - true or not, this was the perception. I don't necessarily think that's true - but I haven't really worked for many women (altho the ones I've worked for, for the most part have been fine).

ArmyBrat: I have heard (it's somewhere in the 'old' testament) that having sex in the first part of your cycle more likely gets you a girl, the latter part of your cycle, a boy (i.e., I think one is fertile about 48 hours a month - so in the first 24 hours, one would get a girl, second, a boy). Supposedly, this has been 'proven', but how one would do that, i don't know.

Foam: if you're curious, you can go to the chinese fertility chart. It's fun:

http://www.ovulation-calculator.com/ttc-tools/chinese-conception-chart.htm

Don't think it works, though...:)

Posted by: atlmom1234 | November 5, 2007 10:59 AM

There were no females on the faculty in the dept where I went to school (I don't think there were any in the stat dept either). So it's hard to say.

Another anecdote: re doctors, almost: in grad school, it seems to be the same thing - for those getting PhDs - where the profs (esp. advisor) abuses their students, and it seems as if they do it cause they went through it themselves. Just an observation, as I don't have a PhD

Posted by: atlmom1234 | November 5, 2007 11:03 AM

"faculty in Math depts - sometimes it's tough to see how they get themselves dressed daily -"

That may be the same reason for the bad breath & dandruff! Yuk! What is the deal with these folks??

Posted by: chittybangbang | November 5, 2007 11:04 AM

chitty: it's just the way it is - for whatever reason, the smartest among us lack certain other skills - at least many of them seem to.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | November 5, 2007 11:06 AM

"It seems many of the men don't necessarily know what to do as mentors . . ."

Some of them don't know what to do to mentor women, in particular, e.g., taking them along on trips with clients to executive men's clubs may not be appropriate, LOL, and fewer women then men play golf at the competitive, weekend- warrior level. Once you take golf and strip joints off the agenda, some men have no earthly idea how to mentor a person. Fortunately, this breed is diminishing rapidly.

Posted by: MN | November 5, 2007 11:10 AM

First of all, congratulations to Foamgnome on her good news! And best wishes to her, Londonmom and Emily for smooth, uneventful pregnancies and problem-free deliveries.

MN is right re Hallowe'en per se (rather than as a metaphor from something larger). Most years we'd go away to visit my grandparents -- definitely a family-oriented activity, although not conforming to Leslie's norm for that semi-holiday.

I think ArmyBrat is correct that as more women (especially wives and/or mothers) enter, remain in and/or return to the workforce, Queen Bees may be proportionately on the decline (let's hope!). And that as a consequence, more males than ever in the workforce will become more reasonable about both their own and their female relatives' desires to balance work and family concerns.

Of course, sometimes a Queen Bee is a Queen Bee at all stages of her work and family life just because she's a major beeyotch. I had one for a boss years ago, and believe me, her grown kids and ex-husbands suffered worse at her hands than even we employees did, because at least we got to go home to escape her (well, provided we didn't answer her off-hours phone calls!).

Posted by: mehitabel | November 5, 2007 11:12 AM

MN: that's funny, but probably not completely off base. However, it's so strange to me - I see mentoring as having someone to discuss life/work issues with - to help you maneuver the ways of the working world/the particular office you're in.

I don't see men doing that in strip clubs. Just sayin'.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | November 5, 2007 11:12 AM

I am 26, unmarried and childless but hope to be married and starting a family in the next couple of years (fingers crossed, of course).

I am lucky because my 40 year old woman boss, who has two children under the age of three and may be trying for a third soon, is an exceptional role model: she is a top level corporate executive who struggles visibly but commendably with work-life balance. She has shown me that it IS possible to have a successful career and feel good as a mother. I love celebrating her family's successes with her, such as when her younger daughter started walking!

Posted by: JEGS | November 5, 2007 11:13 AM

Per the Queen Bees - I'm with gm123. For every mother who takes her job responsibly, there are those who don't. And everyone else is supposed to blithely accept this and take up their slack because they are mothers. That does not make for a productive or positive work place. And I think these are the women that the Queen Bees probably have the most problems accepting.

Yes, there need to be better workplace rights for those with families...but it should apply equally to those who have small children or those who have ill adult family members. Life is what happens when you make plans, and we all have to adapt.

I say you should acknowledge that the Queen Bees forged paths for women in the workplace, and that merits respect. And you should accept that they are likely to be your harshest critic - because they were under microscopes for a very long time and every move they made was criticized and analyzed.

We would do better to ask these women to ask how we could have bettered their professional experiences so they were allowed to have something of a home life - and talk them into advocating for those changes - instead of calling them judgmental or harsh.

Per the long hours for residents and doctors:

*start mini-rant*
Yes, it's exhausting to be a resident. And it IS a proving ground. Doctors have to learn to make logical and correct decisions when they are tired, and that's part of what residency is about. I can't count the times my father (who is a physician) has been woken up several times during a night - and sometimes even had to head into the hospital and come back home - and then had to go back into practice the same day. And still make all the correct decisions for his patients' care.

To be a doctor, you have to learn how to function well on small amounts of sleep, because that is a part of your profession for the rest of your working days. (I remember a colleague of my father's who first looked on my choice of paleo as a profession with amusement, then said "You know what? You are smart - fossils don't call you at 2:30 am - they can wait until morning.")

Or would you rather have the young woman who needed two days to finish her boarding exams and then demanded extra time to breast feed be your doctor? She - to me - currently epitomizes the entitlement that some mothers entering high-performing professional fields feel they deserve.

She can't possibly see you or yours in the middle of the night because it's inconvenient for her - you've interrupted her sleep! Guess that urgent medical problem will have simply have to wait...
*end mini-rant*

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | November 5, 2007 11:17 AM

Moxiemom (and Matt): While you were reading yesterday's New York Times, did you happen to notice the clue at 116 Across in the crossword puzzle? Eek! I never would've known the answer -- would've had to have deduced it from solving a fair number of the intersecting Down clues -- if I hadn't been reading the "On Balance" blog this summer (LOL!).

Posted by: mehitabel | November 5, 2007 11:22 AM

MN: that's funny, but probably not completely off base. However, it's so strange to me - I see mentoring as having someone to discuss life/work issues with - to help you maneuver the ways of the working world/the particular office you're in.

I don't see men doing that in strip clubs. Just sayin'.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | November 5, 2007 11:12 AM

Okay, in all seriousness, atlmom, I agree that mentoring is about having someone with whom you can discuss the issues you identified. The relationship that sets the stage for mentoring has to exist, though, before mentoring can occur. At least in my experience, the relationship develops, and most mentoring occurs, in informal settings: on a flight together to a client meeting, in the car headed to a client site or off-site company event, on the golf course, or before and after the Lion's Club meeting, the Association of Corporate Counsel meeting, the Chamber of Commerce meeting, or the annual American Heart Association walkathon. That time spent together outside the office nurtures the relationship and creates a setting where mentoring occurs. Expecting an executive to stop in the middle of his or her day and mentor someone with whom he or she doesn't have a comfortable relationship is unreasonable. He or she is under pressure to produce during the workday. That's not how men have been mentored historically, and women shouldn't expect to be mentored in that manner either: efficient and self-serving though it may be.

Some men, not all men, not even most men, socialize by means of group trips to strip clubs with or without clients. It's one means of establishing a common bond of normal guyness and of introducing a mentee to client contacts. It's also only one example of why old-style mentoring is per se gender-limited.

Posted by: MN | November 5, 2007 11:31 AM

Or would you rather have the young woman who needed two days to finish her boarding exams and then demanded extra time to breast feed be your doctor? She - to me - currently epitomizes the entitlement that some mothers entering high-performing professional fields feel they deserve.

She can't possibly see you or yours in the middle of the night because it's inconvenient for her - you've interrupted her sleep! Guess that urgent medical problem will have simply have to wait...
*end mini-rant*

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | November 5, 2007 11:17 AM

Chasmosaur, Not to derail your point or this conversation, but the young woman you hold up as a problem ("the epitome of entitlement") is intending to pursue a career in clinical research. She poses no threat to America's healthcare system.

Posted by: MN | November 5, 2007 11:37 AM

It is somewhat similar with grad school/academia, as atlmom1234 said. I got a doctorate in the biology field, also did postdoctoral work, before looking for a 'regular' job where I had time for a family. I worked for two advisors, both women, who chose not to have families so they could dedicate their time to research. One, in her fifties, realized she regretted that choice. Another faculty member (female) told me it would be irresponsible to get pregnant while doing a postdoctoral fellowship (she adopted after she got tenure). The two other women in our department both waited until they got tenure in their 40's to have families.

It is well documented that while at least 50% of the graduate students in the life sciences are female, many institutions report only 20% (or less) of the tenured faculty are women and ~30% of the tenure-track faculty are women.

Posted by: kbkelm | November 5, 2007 11:50 AM

I still think men or women who sacrifice family for careers are idiots. There is nothing worse than a retired person telling you what they did 20 years ago at Dewey Cheatum and Howe Law firm. As if anyone cares, then they moan that they don't have any relationship with their kids or grandkids. Go chat with those oh so important people at work if they even remember your name.

Posted by: pATRICK | November 5, 2007 11:50 AM

or, pATRICK, they take the "Now that I'm in my dotage, I'll pay attention to the kids I have with my trophy wife. I missed raising the first set."

Posted by: MN | November 5, 2007 11:55 AM

But they do have that huge inheritence they hold over the kid's head to ensure visits and "concern" in the later years.

Posted by: KLB_SS_MD | November 5, 2007 11:58 AM

Interesting to me that the executive Leslie cited is from HP. In the tech fields, HP has had a reputation since the beginning as being the "gold standard" for balance, understanding and clean management. To paraphrase the old song, Bill and Dave were enlightened when enlightened wasn't cool.

They've had a single father as CEO (Lew Platt; he was a widower raising his teenaged daughters until he remarried), and were the first large Silicon Valley to have a woman CEO (Carly Fiorina) and Chairman of the Boart (Pattie Dunn). The latter two didn't necessarily work out too well, but having Dunn as Chair made it easier to get rid of Fiorina without enduring gender-bashing charges.

And Dunn was wiped out in the scandal where it was shown that board investigators improperly and possibly illegally obtained phone records of board members and employees. But she wasn't the only one, and hey, the company gave her the opportunity to screw up.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | November 5, 2007 12:01 PM

Posted by: MN | November 5, 2007 11:55 AM

Yes you are correct but I still say BARF. Btw, the cruel thing is that women would be unable to pursue this due to biology and circumstance. So now even that is taken away from them. Deep down, I doubt they care.

Posted by: pATRICK | November 5, 2007 12:03 PM

thanks moxie. i liked it. pretty accurate portrayal of the pros and cons of working and not working.

another problem: i am at the airport right now. next to me is a mom with three young boys. she is being incredibly mean to them. swearing at them -- "shut up! get all your crap together or we will miss the plane!" the little boys (all under six) are all crying because of what she has said, and i think she spanked one of them. i never know what (if anything) to do in these cases. any advice?

Posted by: leslie4 | November 5, 2007 12:15 PM

Foamy, congrats!!

I agree that there are a number of women who have the "I did it the hard way, so you should, too." But I think there are an equal number -- if not more -- men with that attitude. I suspect the difference is that everyone expects the old male doctor is in charge of resident training to be gruff and demanding, whereas people expect a woman to be softer and more understanding. But male or female, you tend not to make it to the top of any profession by being soft and understanding.

I also think there's probably a good bit of "living what you learn" going on. When you first get promoted to a management-type position, you don't get any training in how to manage people, so you have to figure it out for yourself. How do you do that? Well, you look at how your boss managed you. And if you happened to be one of the first women to succeed at your level in your field, and your boss expected you to work 14 hrs/day for 20+ yrs, and nitpicked and criticized every single decision you made, it seems pretty logical that that's how you'd think you were supposed to manage other people (I'd call that the "whatever doesn't kill me makes me stronger" approach to management). Even if you were smart enough to realize, hey, I hated this, let me not inflict this on the next generation, without any other role models, how would you have the skills to do anything differently?

I've seen this both ways. I was lucky to "grow up" with partners who saw one of their primary jobs as training up their replacements -- so associates like me were given good work, and the partners would intentionally deflect client praise from themselves to the associates. So that's how I learned I'm "supposed" to manage associates now that I'm a partner.

I was also unlucky enough to spend a few years at a company with a legal department run by a completely evil psyco***** -- every move was micromanaged and second-guessed, criticisms were never made to a person's face, but were freely circulated behind their backs, etc. And her attitude absolutely trickled down -- even the "nice" people in the department had either been beaten down for so long that they were powerless, or had taken the passive-aggressive nitpicking lesson to heart, and a huge amount of time was completely wasted trying to figure out who to blame/duck and cover so the finger didn't point to you. I think you would have to be a pretty exceptional person to come out of that kind of environment with any reasonable management or mentoring skills.

Posted by: laura33 | November 5, 2007 12:19 PM

If one drops a toy near you, pick it up and offer to help with the rest. Otherwise, these days you have to MYOB unless she is abusing them if you don't want a confrontation.

Posted by: KLB_SS_MD | November 5, 2007 12:19 PM

Traveling with 3 under 6? That will make a person insane on their best day. Offer to help. She may melt into a completely normal human again with a little compassion.

Posted by: atb2 | November 5, 2007 12:24 PM

I'm going to vote with the give her a break group. You never know what's up. Maybe she's traveling for a funeral? Maybe her husband just left her? Maybe she's sick - you just never know. Maybe she's a jerk, but most likely she's a decent mom who is just not having her most stellar of days. Anything you can do to help entertain those boys would probably be greatly appreciated.

As an aside, several years ago, my husband was working late, so I took dinner to him and brought the kids along so they could say goodnight. We were in the company parking lot talking to daddy when one of the senior execs. walked by, stopped, came back, and said to my husband "don't miss this, don't work too much like I did. I wish I could do it again, but the wife is not interested." He shrugged his shoulders and walked away. It was a really powerful experience that we both remember and cite as we make choices for our family.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | November 5, 2007 12:22 PM

Traveling with 3 under 6? That will make a person insane on their best day. Offer to help. She may melt into a completely normal human again with a little compassion.

Posted by: atb2 | November 5, 2007 12:24 PM

I'm going to vote with the give her a break group. You never know what's up. Maybe she's traveling for a funeral? Maybe her husband just left her? Maybe she's sick - you just never know. Maybe she's a jerk, but most likely she's a decent mom who is just not having her most stellar of days. Anything you can do to help entertain those boys would probably be greatly appreciated.

As an aside, several years ago, my husband was working late, so I took dinner to him and brought the kids along so they could say goodnight. We were in the company parking lot talking to daddy when one of the senior execs. walked by, stopped, came back, and said to my husband "don't miss this, don't work too much like I did. I wish I could do it again, but the wife is not interested." He shrugged his shoulders and walked away. It was a really powerful experience that we both remember and cite as we make choices for our family.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | November 5, 2007 12:23 PM

. i never know what (if anything) to do in these cases. any advice?

Posted by: leslie4 | November 5, 2007 12:15 PM

MYOB, you have to ask? Sheesh

Posted by: pATRICK | November 5, 2007 12:23 PM

Traveling with 3 under 6? That will make a person insane on their best day. Offer to help. She may melt into a completely normal human again with a little compassion.

Posted by: atb2 | November 5, 2007 12:24 PM

Yo! OB! Fix your clock!!!

Posted by: chittybangbang | November 5, 2007 12:25 PM

I have read about the sandwich employee. The people above him/her semi retired, made and the people below him/her saying no thanks to 60-70 hr weeks, leaving that usually babyboomer worker in a quandry.

Posted by: pATRICK | November 5, 2007 12:26 PM

Wow!

Today's blog shows what happens when the writers go on strike!

Posted by: chittybangbang | November 5, 2007 12:30 PM

This has a lot to do with the piece I wrote for last Tuesday's guest blog and is something I'm struggling with right now.

I have a variation of this problem with my boss: she has three kids and works part-time, including telecommuting two days a week. She takes a TON of leave during the days she is in the office--it is very rare to have a week go by where one of the kids doesn't have an appointment of some kind, or something doesn't need to be fixed at the house, or her husband is out of town. She has also been here for 15 years and has 6+ weeks of leave per year, which she takes in spades--3 weeks here, a week there, etc. Even with all that time out of the office she frequently talks about how she has so much leave accrued that she should just take more time off.

Great for her, but not so great for her employees as it turns out. The company has generous work/life balance policies: telecommuting, flexible schedules, condensed work week, but I'm not able to take advantage of any of these because she says it wouldn't look good for one of us to always be out. So one of us (her) gets to be out all the time and the rest of us get to watch people in other departments work 4-day weeks or work from home yet not be able to do it ourselves.

Another part of the equation is that she is very conflicted about her own choices about work and family balance and it affects her employees' career growth. She will wax on about this on a daily basis--maybe she should come back full time, she used to be a big-wig here but now is invisible, other people get all the credit, etc....but then she really enjoys her time off and doesn't want her life to be all about work. Which is it?! Because she's conflicted about this she won't let anyone else shine in any way--she will delegate the work to you because she's not around, but once the final product is here, she needs to be the one who takes it to the president of the company. This often means that something will be completed on a Thursday but we have to wait until Tuesday when she's back in the office to do anything with it because she wants to be the one to present it.

Ultimately this tactic will backfire for her; as it is, her best employee, a person on whom she relies to a huge extent--and the person who does most of the work--is getting tired of the "all for me, none for you" mentality and will probably end up leaving. I will probably stay because this is a good company with good benefits, but I'm already keeping an eye out for opportunities in other departments because I want to be able to take advantage of the flexibility that attracted me to the position in the first place.

As far as a mentor, she definitely will never be one to me and I need to find someone else who can fill that role. The hard part is that I have to worry about office politics--especially with my boss's paranoid, competetive streak, she would not take kindly to me befriending another, more highly visible woman in the company. This is something I've been contemplating recently and it's funny because it kind of feels like I'm cheating on her or something!

Posted by: maggielmcg | November 5, 2007 12:31 PM

Traveling with 3 under 6? That will make a person insane on their best day. Offer to help. She may melt into a completely normal human again with a little compassion.

Posted by: atb2 | November 5, 2007 12:24 PM

I'm going to vote with the give her a break group. You never know what's up. Maybe she's traveling for a funeral? Maybe her husband just left her? Maybe she's sick - you just never know. Maybe she's a jerk, but most likely she's a decent mom who is just not having her most stellar of days. Anything you can do to help entertain those boys would probably be greatly appreciated.

As an aside, several years ago, my husband was working late, so I took dinner to him and brought the kids along so they could say goodnight. We were in the company parking lot talking to daddy when one of the senior execs. walked by, stopped, came back, and said to my husband "don't miss this, don't work too much like I did. I wish I could do it again, but the wife is not interested." He shrugged his shoulders and walked away. It was a really powerful experience that we both remember and cite as we make choices for our family.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | November 5, 2007 12:33 PM

Thanks guys.
londonmom-wishing you the best.

Posted by: foamgnome | November 5, 2007 12:35 PM

feel like i should explain more about the halloween thing. nothing personal against her. i just would be heart broken to miss it with my kids, is all. a personal thing that really hit home with me.

Posted by: leslie4 | November 5, 2007 12:36 PM

She's traveling with three young boys. I'm sure she's having a whale of a good time. Offer to get her a beverage, help put the straws in the juice boxes, throw away those clingy miniature plastic straw wrappers, pick up toys when they fall, apply bandages as necessary, answer any small boys' questions about how long it's going to be 'til we get there, offer to help her take one or more to the restroom. Isn't the Golden Rule of parenting, if you can't pitch in and be helpful, MYOB and keep your Mary Poppins perkiness to yourself?

Posted by: MN | November 5, 2007 12:41 PM

"To be a doctor, you have to learn how to function well on small amounts of sleep, because that is a part of your profession for the rest of your working days. "

Personally, I would not want someone diagnosing me or performing surgery on me 28 hours into a shift. It has been well documented that residents who work long shifts make more serious errors (I think I read somewhere like 30-40% more-and that's just the serious ones) when they are forced to work long shifts. This is one reason I make the choice not to go to a teaching hospital, and I won't until this changes- it just isn't worth the risk to me.

Posted by: floof | November 5, 2007 12:42 PM

Congrats Foamganome. That is great news!

I agree with Laura that Managers learn from those they have worked for in their past. I know that has been me. I worked for men and women who thought an 80 hour work week was the norm. Starting off my career as a manager, I ended up working like that and expecting others to do the same. But, I didn't know anything else. Now that I am a little older (33, not much) I can see where that is not reasonable. I am leaving my current job to start something with a little more balance and better expectations for my time. Now that I see things differently, I will be a better manager.

I can also understand where Leslie is coming from with Halloween. I don't have kids yet, but love the holiday and seeing all of our neighbor's kids. When our little one comes along, I will be sure to attend the festivities each year. I don't think it is really the holiday I love, but seeing how excited children get when they are dressed up. I love seeing the holiday through their eyes, which I don't feel you get every day. (Or maybe you do and I don't know it yet since I don't have a child).

Posted by: Thought | November 5, 2007 12:43 PM

leslie, I understand that Halloween must be a big deal to you, but I still don't understand why you made the leap to concluding that, "she missed a lot of the fun and joy of parenthood." Wanna 'splain?

Posted by: MN | November 5, 2007 12:43 PM

How do you not see how important Halloween is to little kids? The day they get to indulge their fantasy. The night they get to eat candy. The night they get to skip, and run and play in costumes - outside - and see their friends. The night you know they are going to smile. For someone to miss it every single year for say 15 years - that sort of shows how much else they might have missed.

Posted by: forsythej | November 5, 2007 12:43 PM

"For someone to miss it every single year for say 15 years - that sort of shows how much else they might have missed. "

Why? The father probably missed it, too.

Posted by: chittybangbang | November 5, 2007 12:46 PM

Leslie: KLB and MN are right on the money re your offering to lend a hand in a small way when the opportunity presents itself -- as it likely will, given how long the waits for flights are nowadays. Plus, their suggestions are all non-judgmental actions (since mom of 3 little ones is probably already judging herself too harshly, anyhow, despite being in a near-untenable situation).

Posted by: mehitabel | November 5, 2007 12:49 PM

We don't have that problem in the workplace. A few of the older women refuse to mentor the younger women because of differences in sexual orientation (i.e. avoiding or disliking younger heterosexual females.)

Even if we did have strong Queen Bee problems in my workplace, I really wouldn't care, because my success isn't based on who mentors me or who likes me. Success doesn't come without sacrifice, and therefore, if I want something, I'll make the necessary sacrifice. No one can give or take away my power, even if he/she is older and more experienced.

Posted by: Strawberry23 | November 5, 2007 1:00 PM

I see this as a big problem. Where I work, I find much more support from male bosses than women who don't have children or women who have grown children and didn't get the benefits of flex time, family leave, etc.

It's a sad, I think, because it's women setting other women back. We really need to band together and fight for a workplace that's family friendly because that's what's good for society as a whole (not just for moms.)

Posted by: gchen | November 5, 2007 1:05 PM

How do you not see how important Halloween is to little kids? The day they get to indulge their fantasy. The night they get to eat candy. The night they get to skip, and run and play in costumes - outside - and see their friends. The night you know they are going to smile. For someone to miss it every single year for say 15 years - that sort of shows how much else they might have missed.

Posted by: forsythej | November 5, 2007 12:43 PM

forsythe - the point is, it's NOT important to all little kids. It's important to you, Leslie, and many others. It is equally unimportant to me, my kids, and many others. It's not some big fantasy to us. It's only candy. Missing the Christmas Eve party at Grandma's? THAT would be big deal. My daughter skips around in her costumer on any given weeknight or Saturday. It's not limited to one silly weeknight. To each his own, but please don't assume that Halloween as BIG DEAL is universal.

Posted by: MN | November 5, 2007 1:07 PM

I'm a newly-married female lawyer without kids, yet. I actually liked my big law firm, but I left after a few years (once I paid down the loans) for a govt job because I wanted more free time and work that I cared more about. As firm salaries keep going up, I sometimes have a twinge of regret, but then I remember that I'm going to have time for kids and family, and I've gotten quite a trade off. If you bill 2200 hours a year (and more in the years right before and right after making partner) and stay on the regular partnership track, you're going to miss lots of Halloweens, soccer games, and other events. You can still manage to be a great mom, but there is a trade-off. I think a lot of moms feel that "having it all" means working less, being at home more, and still making partner in the same amount of time as their colleagues. That's just not fair and I can see why Queen Bees resent it.

Posted by: kackidee | November 5, 2007 1:14 PM

MN

"To each his own, but please don't assume that Halloween as BIG DEAL is universal."

Nor any other holiday or occasion.

Posted by: chittybangbang | November 5, 2007 1:24 PM

"To each his own, but please don't assume that Halloween as BIG DEAL is universal"

MN, you are so far off the mark, Halloween is second only to Christmas to a kid. Guess the hordes of kids I feed candy to every halloween is just an aberration huh? Dress up, get tons of candy, what else could you ask for as a kid. What a strange post from you....

Posted by: pATRICK | November 5, 2007 1:25 PM

gchen--you are totally right--it is a case of women setting other women back. I guess it's a sad reality that apparently women feel their gains in the workplace are so tenuous that they can't let other women share the wealth or something.

Posted by: maggielmcg | November 5, 2007 1:25 PM

The sword cuts both ways, you know. How about when you're always hearing that you can work late because you don't have kids to go home to meet; you can do xyz because your co-worker has to go to a parent/teacher conference; you can work weekends because your co-worker has to go to soccer games.

I chose to be childless, but not to pick up the slack for those who made other choices.

Posted by: SNCinDC | November 5, 2007 1:32 PM

MN, you are so far off the mark, Halloween is second only to Christmas to a kid. Guess the hordes of kids I feed candy to every halloween is just an aberration huh? Dress up, get tons of candy, what else could you ask for as a kid. What a strange post from you....

Posted by: pATRICK | November 5, 2007 01:25 PM

Huh? Are you serious, pATRICK? What is strange about agreeing to disagree? Sure, kids love free candy - 24/7/365 - not only on Halloween but on Valentine's Day and Easter or any other time. Are they in tears if they are sick and miss the class Valentine's Day party. Not so much. Sure, they love costumes. They wear them in parades and in school plays, and on weekends at least in our neighborhood.

If you think that if Gallup took a poll of kids under 10 and asked "Is Halloween the Most Important Day of the Year For Your Parents to Be With You," the pollmeisters would calculate a 100% "Heck, Yes!", you must have conked your head on the bedpost this morning. For alot of kids, it's just another trip to the mall for free food. Geez, Louise. Must we all agree on EVERYTHING??

Posted by: MN | November 5, 2007 1:35 PM

MN here's the post and your answer. You know we don't have to agree about everything but I took your post as kids are not that jazzed about halloween itself. That is patently untrue, if you were referring to hanging out with your parents on halloween,i can see your point. The main point was not experiencing the excitement of your kids at halloween because someone chooses to work instead.

"How do you not see how important Halloween is to little kids? The day they get to indulge their fantasy. The night they get to eat candy. The night they get to skip, and run and play in costumes - outside - and see their friends. The night you know they are going to smile. For someone to miss it every single year for say 15 years - that sort of shows how much else they might have missed.

Posted by: forsythej | November 5, 2007 12:43 PM

forsythe - the point is, it's NOT important to all little kids. It's important to you, Leslie, and many others. It is equally unimportant to me, my kids, and many others. It's not some big fantasy to us. It's only candy. Missing the Christmas Eve party at Grandma's? THAT would be big deal. My daughter skips around in her costumer on any given weeknight or Saturday. It's not limited to one silly weeknight. To each his own, but please don't assume that Halloween as BIG DEAL is universal."

Posted by: pATRICK | November 5, 2007 1:45 PM

Strawberry23, I admire your desire to make it all on your own, and you don't have to have a mentor, but having one can make it a lot easier.

The reality is that in any situation - whether it's working for the Government, working in a large company, or even running your own business - there is a set of unwritten rules that apply. Knowing them makes it a lot easier to succeed, and the main benefit of a mentor is that you can learn those unwritten rules a lot faster - you can learn from somebody else's mistakes, rather than your own. An old saying goes "you'll stand taller if you stand on the shoulders of those who came before you, rather than on their toes."

And I'm somewhat intrigued by your comment that "A few of the older women refuse to mentor the younger women because of differences in sexual orientation (i.e. avoiding or disliking younger heterosexual females.)" So your implication is that these women are lesbians and only want other lesbians to succeed? Or will they help men (regardless of sexual orientation) but not women? I'm confused.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | November 5, 2007 1:53 PM

Re: Halloween.

Just a personal thing with me. The HP exec was not at all sad about having missed all those Halloweens. And her kids turned out great (imagine that!). Just for me -- I want to be there for Halloween, and birthdays, and pediatrician visits, and field trips...and I'm willing to sacrifice other things, including a promotion or two, to be there. I want to be there for ME and FOR MY KIDS. I'm not judging. Motherhood is a very personal business, and each one of us does it differently, and we have the right to do it the way we see fit.

Posted by: leslie4 | November 5, 2007 2:20 PM

Lesie

"Just for me -- I want to be there for Halloween, and birthdays, and pediatrician visits, and field trips...and I'm willing to sacrifice other things, including a promotion or two, to be there. I want to be there for ME and FOR MY KIDS. "

You are right - just for you. Doesn't include me or Perry.

Posted by: chittybangbang | November 5, 2007 2:28 PM

The NYT article that Moxiemom linked to mentioned something interesting- one of the SAHM lawyers who wanted to go back to work was doing an unpaid internship first, to get back up to speed, make contacts, and get a more recent reference (previous work was 15 years ago.)

An internship actually sounds like a good idea that could be useful for a SAHM returning to work in any field. Has anyone ever tried it? Sure, it might be awkward to be the 40-year old intern among the 25-year olds, but it could certainly ease the way back into the workforce.

Posted by: barfster | November 5, 2007 3:03 PM

Hi ArmyBrat and all. What I mean is the person I'm talking about only helps herself and is a socialphobe. I wasn't trying to imply anything bad about lesbians in general.

As for having a mentor in my current workplace, there are a few who've given me the lowdown and taken me under their wing, but I've always leaned more towards being independent, and it's never stopped me. However, I do know when to ask for and accept help, so it all works out in the end.

Not that I need any help advancing where I currently work because I'm only staying here long enough to pay down my student loans and until I decide where I want to go. (Remember, I graduate college a mere 18 months ago, so I couldn't advance yet if I wanted to. I'm too young to be a manager.)

Posted by: Strawberry23 | November 5, 2007 4:06 PM

My last boss was the childless Queen Bee type--she was insane, and that's why I left my last job (she was my fourth boss in five years, I worked for her for less than a year). She turned over the staff in her department twice in three years. She was recently fired and was "escorted from the buidling," which was not standard procedure for dismissals when I was there.

But I have learned from my own experiences and I have tried to be a role model and mentor for young workers that I have hired. I think I've done well. Three went off to graduate school and are rather succesful, and a fourth just went off to law school. I stay in touch with all of them. Pay it forward, pay it back--we all touch the world. I would like to touch it with kindness.

Posted by: pepperjade | November 5, 2007 4:16 PM

I have had more issues with women bosses who were not married and had no children. When I got engaged, my non-married, non-parent female boss made my life a living hell because she was bitter that she was single. When I quit that job, I got a lecture from the senior female manager in the office (also not married, no children) that I was throwing away a good career path at company X to relocate to be with my husband. Nice role models. At my current job, my supervisor is not married and has no children, and schedules meetings at 5pm because she has no reason to leave then so why should anyone else? She is my ultimate nightmare boss as a new mom returning to work.

Posted by: laurasiegel | November 5, 2007 5:13 PM

"There is nothing worse than a retired person telling you what they did 20 years ago at Dewey Cheatum and Howe Law firm."

Oh, yes, there is. How about the woman who spends copious amounts of time talking about rashes on her child's nether regions? And then is appalled when you're uninterested?

Posted by: Monagatuna | November 5, 2007 8:26 PM

OT: Wanted to let you guys know that I will be expecting my second child late next summer. I am only 6 weeks pregnant, so it is still pretty early on. Anything can happen. Must have caught it from Scary and Emily.

foamgnome

*dances around excitedly*

Oh, that's such wonderful news, FG! I think that rates a Tim Tam!

Now go buy "The Girlfriend's Guides" and laugh out loud. Hey! It prompted a friend of mine to give his wife a really lovely necklace (AND flowers) the day she delivered their baby girl.

He informs me that his daughter still isn't enamored of his beard. I told him to use conditioner.

Posted by: maryland_mother | November 6, 2007 10:06 AM

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