Thursday, August 02, 2012

Ponder: Pulling the Family Card

There's lots of talk about what women should or should not do when it comes to maternity leave and their careers. The more important question is why family discussions are always single-gendered. Babies and children impact men and women alike.

Bel Rowley: "A new program. A new era, and they want me as producer."
Freddy Lyon: "They're humoring you. They don't want a woman. A woman is difficult, hysterical and you can never really ever find one who'll stay. A couple more years you'll probably want a baby."
Bel Rowley: "Oh don't speak."
Freddy Lyon: "Even if they don't say that to your face that's what they're thinking. Anything else is just your vanity making you believe."
Bel Rowley: "In what? That I can do it? That I can actually do this? Watch me."

I waited to start having a family until after I was well established in my career, over 15 years in the high tech industry, 8 years in enterprise software, and 6 years in network management. Always in the back of my mind I worried about what would happen to my career should I choose to have children. I've neatly skirted answering questions in interviews about my personal life by presenting my work accomplishments (yes these questions are illegal, but they're still asked and you're still expected to answer). Interestingly enough, I've never had male colleagues remark that they'd been asked about their plans to have a family. Yet, throughout my career, I've found that men pull the "family card" to get out of working late or assisting on a last minute RFP more than women. And when a true family emergency arises, women apologize and explain, and apologize and explain some more. The men I've known who've pulled the "family card" have offered no apologies, even when they have forced another dad to miss a planned outing with their families.

Hector Madden: "How about a brandy to celebrate?"
Bel Rowley: "I'd love to, but beyond that door women are not allowed. What is it about you men? You always need a tiny corner where we can't quite reach you. ... I've been out long enough. Some of us have work to do."
Hector Madden: "So it is true what they say. You work twice as hard as any man and none as half as good as you."
Bel Rowley: "I enjoy the company of men."
Hector Madden: "Is it true you covered McCarthy's Lincoln Day speech?"
Bel Rowley: "With a tape recorder that didn't work."
Hector Madden: "I don't believe you're prepared to give up this job for Mr. Lyon. I think you'll do whatever it takes. Take the afternoon off. You'll be out by the end of the week anyway."
Bel Rowley: "I hope you're not going to be this lax when I'm your producer."

Everyone's talking about Marissa Mayer's decision to take or not take maternity leave. The discussion should be broader. It should be about why "[t]he U.S. is the only major industrialized country not to guarantee paid parental leave nationwide." Families don't just impact a woman's career; they impact a man's career too.
It's about time that women didn't have to feel the need to apologize or explain or downplay the importance of family for fear of it impacting their careers. What year is this? 1956?
Have you played the family card?
Ciao Bella!
Credits: All images taken by Eden Hensley Silverstein for The Road to the Good Life.