A family member of mine who runs his own business recently told me he was hesitant to hire a woman who just got married because she would end up taking maternity leave and he would have to “scramble to find a replacement”. And here I am with an 8 month old daughter, coming off my own maternity leave, running my own business. I was angry and sad to hear his comment. And yet part of me understood why he would make a choice like that. As a business owner, it is a hassle to find a replacement. But I am certainly not going to let that stop me from hiring the most qualified person for the job.
The truly sad part to me is that he is focused on the “cost” of finding a replacement rather than the other costs associated with his decision. Women represent 51% of the population in the US the last time I checked and all companies who do not treat us equally are losing out on untapped talent. Some companies get this, others do not. I believe the ones who do not will eventually fall behind and that is why I have hope. It can take some conscious effort to start to re-balance the scales. For example, until men take an equal amount of paternity leave, there will be a negative bias towards working mothers. There are companies, like Facebook and Quora, that are trying to right the balance by instituting paternity leave, and strongly suggesting their male employees take the time off. I applaud that. It can be done – hello Sweden!
Maternity/paternity leave situation is just one example of how women are not equal in business
There are a whole host of others I don’t have the time to mention (want to talk about the time I was working on Wall Street and told I couldn’t go to Las Vegas for important meetings because of the “inappropriate” things that would go on….and when the CEO of the company we were dealing with asked why I wasn’t present at the meeting he was told I was tied up with something else. Oh, and p.s. because I’m a go-getter I had already booked my flight and was literally on the plane, on the tarmac, when my boss decided it would be unseemly for me to go to Vegas. I couldn’t de-plane and was set to land late at night, so my firm booked me in a second hotel in Vegas and instructed me to stay away from the conference center and fly straight home the next morning.
Yes, this really happened. p.p.s. couldn’t I have gotten into a lot more “inappropriate” things in Vegas all by myself rather than in a conference center tied up in meetings?!? p.p.p.s. all I did was order “poor-me” room service and a movie). Ok…apparently I do have time to mention some other examples. I guess there’s a lot of pent up frustration in me! I have had my share of unfair treatment as a woman in business. And, rather than focusing my energy on being a victim or complaining about that, what I’m interested in is asking “What is it I really want?“.
Having senior women in leadership position is, in my opinion, what we need to tip the scales. That’s a BIG motivator for me in running my business, Akoya, whose mission is focused on empowering women and especially female leaders.Sheryl Sandberg is re-igniting the revolution…and she got parking for pregnant women. It’s both the BIG and the little things that make a difference. I think we’re well on our way…and it’s a long road. In the end, I’m optimistic.
And when I feel down or scared, I look at my precious little daughter’s face and I know, I have to keep going. I want to keep going. I’m doing it for both of us.