I get included in a lot of lists (19 Blogs You Should Bookmark Right Now, Top 10 Aspergers Blogs, Top 100 Education Blogs, Top 50 Productivity Blogs) but I generally don’t pay a lot of attention. Lists are subjective, I don’t know who put the list together, and I mostly measure my success by if people care about what I’m writing (I usually judge by comments and social sharing) and if I’m making enough money to stay out of debt (a seemingly impossible feat).
But every now and then I am on a list that makes me giddy, and yesterday TechCrunch published a list of 30 Women who have revolutionized the male-dominated tech industry, and I am on the list. I’m excited because TechCrunch is a huge publication with huge reach in the startup industry. And in general, the staff there rips me to shreds whenever they can. So the fact that they disagree with what I write and they put me on the list makes me very happy. But also, I constantly worry that I’m irrelevant to the hard-core startup world, and this list tells me that maybe that’s not true.
I obsessed over the list all last night. I scrolled through it 50 times:
- Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook
- Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube
- Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo
- Ruth Porat, CFO at Google
- Weili Dai, CEO of Marvell
- Julia Hu, CEO of Lark
- Kim Gordon, CEO of Depict
I thought to myself: I bet I’m the only homeschooling parent on this list. But then I thought, all the women on this list who have young kids have seemingly impossible arrangements to fit their kids and work into their lives.
For example, Sandberg now leaves work each day to be home when her kids get home from school. Mayer has her kids in an office next to hers at work. Gordon breastfed in the recording studio. Wojcicki and Porat have husbands with successful careers of their own who became primary caretakers.
Each situation could not have happened without the women becoming very successful before they had kids. Because each solution requires both power and money.
To be clear, the mothers on this list were extremely powerful in their careers before age 30, which provided the ability to create a very non-standard setup to balance kids and work. And, as I’m sure you know by now, it’s only the non-standards setups that allow women to have notable careers alongside children. So women can tell by age 27 or 28 if they will be able to set up a very non-standard situation to allow for a powerful career while you have children.
Non-standard doesn’t look the same for everyone, of course. I wasn’t going to ever publish that picture up top because I thought it made me look like I don’t have a serious career. Most of the time it’s just me working where I can–the car, during music lessons, or on our year-round porch—I don’t even have a home office. But the TechCrunch list makes me feel legitimate enough to tell you that I struggle to put in enough hours right now, and this is what my career looks like from the inside.
Most revolutionaries don’t set out to be revolutionaries. The women on this list were working in technology, with children, during a time when it was unheard of. The women on this list didn’t intend to be revolutionaries so much as they crafted a life that would work for them.
The revolutionaries today are doing the same thing—they are setting out to make a life that works. But it looks much different.
Today the revolutionaries are the women admitting family is more important to them than work. It’s a scary thing to admit because we have not been raised to think family is more important than work. We have been told we are so smart, we can do anything: “You will have a great career when you grow up” is what we’ve heard for so many years. Not, “Good job on that math test. You will make a great mom.”
Over and over we see lists of women we should admire, and they are all women who, at one point or another, completely ignored their kids in order to keep their career on track. (I know: I’m one.) But most women don’t want to do that as parents. Most women want to put their kids first and have a rewarding career on the side.
Those women are the revolutionaries in today’s workforce. The people who can admit they do not want a notable career. It’s a revolutionary idea that we should get great grades, go to a top college, maybe get even more education, and then stay home with kids. This is not anything women have fought for when they were fighting for rights.
But the right to choose our own life is the most important right.
So now maybe you can see why I have a hard time getting excited over being on lists. Even this TechCrunch list, which should be a victory dance for me, feels outdated. More than I hope to make lists like this one, I hope there’s new ranking criteria coming soon.