Black people should not wear hoodies.
That’s one way to deal with the problem of people shooting black people. Maybe not the best. Who even knows. I have a friend who is white, married to a black guy and they have two sons, who, as you can guess, count as black in this country. Even she has no idea how to teach black boys to avoid getting shot.
This makes sense. But I am mystified when I see that the Global Summit for Women this year was all men. That’s the picture, up there.
TechCrunch, gospel of the tech sector, knows they have to put women in charge of telling women to have big careers, so Alexia Tsotsi takes up the torch, but she has no kids. Kleiner Perkins, top-tier venture capital firm, understands the rule that men can’t tell women how to balance work and kids, so they put Juliet de Baubigny up to the task, but she is telling women launch startups and have kids even though she’s never launched her own startup. (And, if she did such a good job of doing her job and her family, how do we explain that she just got a divorce?)
Another thing: I don’t want to hear from any women with newborns telling me they’re doing a fine job having kids and a big career. Because newsflash: You need millions of dollars to make a newborn and a startup work together if you’re a woman.
For some women the conflict between work and kids hits while the baby is growing inside them. They quit work. (At such high rates that Sheryl Sandberg has taken time to reprimand them: Don’t leave before you leave.)
For some men it’s when they take paternity leave. Like my cousin Michael Roston, who has never told me he can be on my blog, but since he’s maybe a public figure, I think I can write about him without permission.
Michael works at the New York Times which means he’s a media rock star, but not in my family where so many people work in big media that my next start-up should be me quitting my blog to start selling tickets to PR firms to come to our family Thanksgiving.
Anyway, the New York Times is recognizing that they are not as cool as Reddit or Buzzfeed, so they are going to have to compete on old-school, baby boomer terms: Benefits. And luckily, even though Gen X thinks benefits are paternalistic, Gen X wants to leave work on time to be with their kids before bed, and Michael is a Gen-Xer.
I knew Michael’s paternity leave started when I got calls from him at irregular times of day. Every day. Because taking care of a baby is a lethal mix of insanely boring and insanely important. If only it were just one. Well, but then if it were just one then it would be like going to work.
So I’d be more willing to take advice from Michael about how to have a career and a kid than I would any of those women listed above.
But then again, let me tell you about my friend, Alison, who is in marketing and definitely does not want to appear on this blog because all PR is good PR except for if it’s about not being able to deal with your kids. (So I changed her name.)
Alison works at company that is positively great for moms with kids. It’s filled with women who are doing it—it’s not like anyone is doing it like Sheryl Sandberg who has found some fairy dust equation to give up nothing — but each woman at Alison’s firm is making the compromises she chooses. Which is really what women want to be able to do. And Alison and I talk about how to figure out who is giving up what, because every woman who keeps a big career gives up something else.
We need advice about which compromises might work. Which things can we give up? We don’t have a clear answer, but we are trying, right? But the only women who will talk about how to have a big career and have kids are women who are not really doing it: either they are giving up their kids, or giving up their marriage, or they are in fantasy land telling us that when they have kids they will be able to do it just fine.
I am going to cite research that I don’t have but I wish I had, that says that 80% of women who do not have kids think they have a satisfactory solution for kids and work. And 100% of women with kids over the age of 10 say they do not have a satisfactory solution.
Why? Because when your kids can poke you on your soft spot, you can’t hide. Kids know when you pick work over them. They say it. Kids know how to pull at your strings: “All the other moms were there except you.” Kids start learning early on that moms experience guilt at a much more visceral level than dads, so the kids don’t bother with the dad.
It’s a DNA thing here, and if you don’t know that I’m right, you live under a rock. (Even moms who have stay-at-home husbands care more about the little things than the dads do. It’s just that the moms would never say that because it only serves to undermine the agreement they worked out with their husbands.)
So as I was saying, Alison is torn about work. It’s hard for her to go to work. It bugs me that Alison made me change her name, but the truth is that any woman would: talking about the pull of parenting is career suicide, which means there is little real discourse on the topic.
And what we’re left with is women writing about how women should have big careers when they have kids. Sheryl Sandberg can hold herself up as a grand role model when she tells women to keep working in high-powered careers after kids. Juliet can be a spokesperson for the (extremely male dominated) venture capital community by saying that she is successful because she didn’t scale back her career. And Kleiner Perkins supports this! Hooray women! And don’t worry about that divorce!
All these women who are currently working really hard are telling other women with kids to work really hard. And the majority of women with kids will say privately that they want part-time jobs but no one can speak publicly until they capitulate. Which means we have skewed media. A one-sided conversation, at best. But the big thing is that the majority of women are not represented in the conversation.
If you give advice to women, talk about something you know.
Let’s stop stop publishing women who don’t have kids telling women who do have kids that they shouldn’t give up. Don’t give in! Be strong! Take your place at the table!
We should stop having billionaire women telling normal women that they can do a startup. Just like me! Take the kids to work! Build an indoor playground!
And I don’t want to hear any more women with a one-year-old telling me she can do a startup with a five-year-old. It’s night and day. Find me one woman who has two kids over five and runs her own venture-backed startup who does not say it’s nearly impossible.
Actually, wait. I’ll tell you what it looks like. A startup is a race. You get money and you run as fast as you can. Everything is lickety split. But here’s what it looks like when you have kids: slow motion.
Juliet’s article came out a month ago. The responses came out days later. Sometimes hours later. My response is two months later. You know why? Because I have kids and a startup and I’m moving in slow motion.
Kleiner Perkins would never really want to fund me. I’d return their phone calls late. After the call to the cello teacher and the dance teacher, and the nanny, and the Hebrew tutor. Because you have to give up something to get something, and Kleiner doesn’t want to hear they’re behind a long line of household chores.
So Kleiner’s branching out to get more female founders. By telling them how to live their lives.
Next up: Kleiner’s all-white boys club telling black men how to not get shot. And you know something? Don’t wear a hoodie is about as useful as Juliet’s admonition to put off having kids. It’s short-term thinking that does nothing to make the world a better place.