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Katharine Zaleski's Apology Should Inspire Us All to Treat Working Moms Better

Posted by Donna Levin on 5 Mar 2015

Let's make organizational culture more supportive of working moms.

Good for Katharine Zaleski.

She is, deservedly, getting plenty of love and pub this week for being refreshingly self-aware and owning the role she, as a woman, once played in making the workplace inhospitable for working moms.

“For mothers in the workplace, it’s death by a thousand cuts – and sometimes it’s other women holding the knives,” Zaleski wrote for “Fortune,” in a piece in which now-CEO apologizes to the mothers she’s judged or passively held down. “I didn’t realize this – or how horrible I’d been – until five years later, when I gave birth to a daughter of my own.”

And good for Katharine Zaleski for doing something about it, for aspiring to give career-minded working moms a third option – one between “leaning in” and “opting out.” She’s doing this as co-founder and president of PowerToFly, a job-matching platform connecting women with digital and tech jobs they can do remotely.

But it's not enough for us to simply congratulate Katharine Zaleski.

We must take a hard look at ourselves, and challenge the structures and systems that have led us to the point where working mothers feel like they only have three options. Because gender diversity isn’t a women’s issue, it’s everybody’s issue.

Explaining the vision for PowerToFly, Zaleski writes: “By enabling women to work from home, women could be valued for their productivity and not time spent sitting in an office or at a bar bonding afterwards.”That’s a fantastic start. The next step is one we must all take together.

The day before Zaleski’s "Fortune" piece hit the web, the New York Times published a piece titled “Fewer Women Run Big Companies Than Men Named John.” In fact, for each woman executive at S.&P. 1500 firms, there are four men named John, Robert, William or James.

Let that sink in for a minute.

Helping highly skilled working moms find good digital and tech jobs is fantastic. It will help countless women continue their careers while maintaining a healthy work-life balance. But it’s only the tip of the iceberg.

Distributing female talent to remote roles doesn’t cut to the core of the problem – that organizational culture is not particularly family-friendly and women, who are often the default parent, are disproportionately affected. 

We, as business leaders and executives, need to take a long look in the mirror and identify what we can do within our own organizations to prevent women – and all parents – from ever feeling like they only have two choices: never see your child or give up your career aspirations.

Now here’s what I’m challenging you to do, and it’s the simplest step enterprises can take to help the working moms, new dads and all other caregivers in their workforce: Focus on results.

That’s it. Focus on results – not when or where the work gets done, or how many hours are spent in the office. And do it for your entire workforce – not just the moms, or the remote employees. 

Do this and your organizational culture will become more family-friendly, more supportive of work-life integration. You’ll be rewarded with more engaged, loyal and productive employees.

So Tell Us: What are your ideas for improving gender diversity in the workplace? How can we take the PowerToFly philosophy of focusing on results and apply it to workplaces everywhere?

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Care.com Co-Founder Donna Levin

Donna Levin is a co-founder and Vice President of Public Policy and CSR for Care.com. In this role, she is dedicated to discovering innovative solutions to the growing global care issue, helping shape local, federal and state matters as they pertain to families.

 

Supporting new parents at work


 

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