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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Binders, Glass Ceilings and Parenting Choices

Now don't get all irked if you're conservative before you even start reading...got it?

The second debate I did not watch live.  I was leaving the office (more on that later), turned on CNN (I love XM by the way) and tuned in.

I swear to you- and I could not make this up-- the part that I heard live (we watched it recorded, later that night)- was Romney's answer to the question on women's rights.  I did not hear the original question.  I did not hear Obama's response (more on that later).  I just heard Mr. Romney.

As the hair on the back of my neck started to stand up and I clutched the steering wheel tighter the longer he spoke, I looked up through my sunroof and said "Seriously, God?  This is the part of the debate you want me to hear?"  And then I laughed.  Out loud.  Alone in my car.

Now I told you not to tune out....  so don't...

The irony of the situation and what made it funny was that I was, in fact, rushing to meet my family for dinner.  Any other night, I would have been rushing home to make dinner.  On Tuesdays, I work late and meet them at 6:30.  But had it been any other day, that's where I would have been... in the car, listening to CNN on XM rushing home.

At 5 o'clock.

To make dinner.

Just like Mitt had said.

Which is why I was annoyed.

Oddly, I started a blog about 2 weeks ago and couldn't quite get it right.  It was called "My Self-Imposed Glass Ceiling."  It was about working in a commission driven world and electing to put my family first.  Not in theory, but in practice.  A lot of people say it, few people do it.

I work in financial services.  That's all I can say about it.  I have my own independent practice.  When I first started, in my first year, I was one of the only women in our division.  I was in the top 10 of first year advisors for my entire first year.  I won awards.  I would go to conferences and be one of the few women there.  I joked that it was great- I never had to buy a drink.  Men, at a conference, trip over themselves to buy a 26 year old woman a drink.

One of the reasons I wanted to go into a non-salaried job was I liked the control I had over my own destiny.  It was like when I waitressed-- the harder I worked, the more I made.  Someone else in the same position could make nothing.  I thrive in that environment. It's unlimited.

Anyhow, about 2 weeks ago I was working on my business plan for 2013-  I was forced to accept a realization about my practice-- I could not do it all.  I had to be happy with where I was at and let the conferences go.  I had the Daisy troop now in lieu of trips to Hawaii.  And for the first time in 10 years, I really and truly let it go. For the first time I felt genuinely grateful that I had the opportunity to continue to work in a field that I am passionate about (I love what I do professionally) and not at the expense of my family.  I rarely miss dinners.  When I do, it's a big thing- to me and to my family.  I don't let things slip at the office because I don't take on more than I can handle.  It limits me to some degree, but I am comforted by the fact that I am doing the right thing for me. That's when I started the first blog.

I had had a few jobs before settling into my career.  My first corporate job out of college was for a very large beverage company.  I was put into their exclusive management training program.  The amount of women and minorities that they hired into this program was impressive.  It also was not remotely representative of the applicant pool nor the company.  When I left after 6 weeks, the VP of Diversity asked me why-- they company was really trying hard to promote "out of box thinkers" like me.  I very honestly said "When I look up, I see no one like me looking back down."  He said he understood.  He also said their program was designed to fix that.  So I countered with "But doesn't it bother you that you're the only black guy sitting at the executive table?"  He said of course it did, but he wanted to make a difference (I should also point out that this gentleman was a fantastic leader and extremely patient with a sassy 23 year old).  I said "Well good for you- I don't want to break glass ceilings.  I just want to work somewhere where there's no ceiling to break."

So I moved to Vegas.  Surprisingly, Nevada is a pretty darn good place for women business owners.  I think it's the pioneer spirit.

I stumbled into my largely male dominated field.  I have my own practice.  I spent the early part of my career listening to sports analogies given by men who couldn't throw a ball if they were given professional lessons.  I got called honey.  Sweetie.  But here's the thing-- when you work on commission, it doesn't really matter.  I set my hours.  I set my pace.  I was taking the world by storm.

And then I got married and had kids.

And then I scaled back.  Big time.

I honestly didn't mean to.  What happened was that my mother-in-law retired when I was pregnant and she offered to watch our son while I worked.  Because I didn't want to abuse that, I told her 2 days a week.  You can't find a good nanny for 3 days.  I also couldn't imagine putting a newborn in daycare.  Plus, once I had my son I realized that he slept a lot and I could get a lot done at home while he slept.  In fact, I got MORE done at home than I would have screwing around at the office.  (and eventually my MIL watched the kids 4 days as the market crashed)

So began my hybrid life of being a mom and maintaining my career.

And it was my choice.  And it worked.

And you know where I got the most crap?  Not from my broker-dealer- from the playground mommies.  My favorite lines:  "Oh, you work? I put my family first."  "Your kids really like your husband... that's so sweet...my kids only want me..." (said in a very judgmental way).

But here's why the hair was standing up on the back of my neck as I listened to Mr. Romney talk about what a great job he did hiring women... and it's not specific to him because I honestly do not think he meant it to be offensive (which sadly is what made it so upsetting).  Just like my first employer thought they were doing me a favor by offering me the opportunity to change the world (I just wanted a job, not a mission), he thought he was doing a favor by expecting less of women- less hours, etc.  We needed to be accommodated as if being female was a disability.  And again, this is not the first time I heard something like this.

While I was leaving to be with my family that night, my business partner who does not have children, works until 8-9 pm every night. She does not need to be accommodated to make sure she's home in time for dinner.  Her husband is a chef.

Our family dinner time is invaluable to us.  FAMILY dinner.  That includes my husband.  He doesn't want to work until 9 pm either. Because if family values are stinking important it should mean the entire family.  Family values do not mean that the mother does everything.  What on earth makes Mr. Romney think that it was okay for all those men, all those years to miss dinner?

But I have to say the whole binder thing really upset me.  How can someone be in business for 30 years and not know any qualified women for positions?  This isn't 1972.  Or even 1985.  It was 10 years ago.  We are half the population.  He wasn't looking for a transgender, Asian, disabled veteran who spoke Swahili.  Women.  We're everywhere.  And if you don't find what he said offensive, insert "African American" ever time he says women.  "You need to have a flexible workforce if you have African Americans" "I had a binder of African Americans" that would have been a HUGE issue.  But as women we just say he misspoke.  AHHHH.

Have we not even come that far?  And by the way, MANY companies and government entities use committees to identify female and minority candidates- so my disgust isn't limited to Mr. Romney.  It was standard disgust at the whole issue. That it is STILL an issue.

And the president-- well, in his administration, women make a little less.  Thanks for the Ledbetter Act.  Sigh.

I have an amazing husband.  And while I may rush home every night to make dinner I come home to a clean house- that's his area.  He picks up the kids every day.  He can't stay late for extra meetings at his school like I can't stay for late night client meetings.

We are a team.  The Bean Team, in fact.  Our family comes first.

And yet this 1952 concept of family perplexes me.

I have many friends- male and female- who stay home with their children.  I have a lot of male friends who are incredibly engaged with their children.  They don't want to work 90 hours a week any more than a woman would.

My husband genuinely misses our kids when he returns to school in the fall- he looks forward to the time he gets with them.  They have their own after school routine.  He is not some guy in a suit who drops in to give them a kiss after they're in bed and then goes back downstairs to eat a reheated dinner in front of SportsCenter.

Because that is not a family.  That is a group of people who live together.

Employers need to accommodate fathers as well as mothers.  In fact, employers need to stop acting like they are doing you a favor by paying you.

As parents, we need to rest assured that we are doing the right thing.  My clients will miss me if I died but my family's life would be changed forever.

The workplace has changed- it changed a long time ago.  Flexibility is important to everyone- not just women.

Women are just as unique as men.  Not every woman is a mom.  Not every man is a workaholic.

Can we please just put these stupid stereotypes to rest once and for all?



1 comment:

Karen Marchese said...

I agree with you 100%. My kids are now grown & out of the house but back in 1985 I handled my family much the same as you - flexibility & engagement from BOTH parents. It is incredible how people don't even realize what they are saying...