A couple weeks ago, a recruiter point-blank told me she would not be moving me forward—because I have taken the last three-and-a-half years off to be a full-time parent. Let that sink in. Normally, this is illegal, but she’s not hiring me so it seems this is a loop-hole in the law.
At least, I am grateful for her honesty. I don’t have to guess and wonder why she wouldn’t move me forward. I have certainty in understanding the problem, but the problem is not me. The problem is her—I was not treated as equal as a man, nor valued for the good work I am doing for our society, and was disregarded for my ten years of experience. I expected more from a female-owned, female-led organization, and talking to a female recruiter. This company is perpetuating patriarchy. I expect more; now, I demand more.
The position was at a private primary school for children ages 2 to fifth grade. Surely, this school would understand the value and importance of parenting, I boldly said to her. She confidently and firmly told me that this position would not allow for “work-life balance” and anyone thinking that should not apply for this position. Now, her response aggravated me even further because I had not even asked for “work-life balance” and her assumption that I needed that is also perpetuating patriarchy. I wanted to respond angrily that then she should hire a man, because the assumption of our society is that they don’t need “work-life balance” because they don’t have to take care of the children like a mother does. I refrained from saying anything in anger. She was in a position of power and I didn’t want to rock the boat. Yet, now, after reflection: I’d like to rock that boat!
Adding to my frustration is she failed to realize that my new role and career in full-time parenting actually strengthens my candidacy because:
- The job title is working with parents—and that’s something I now know a lot about!
- I have stronger appreciation for teachers because I understand the challenges of managing the behavior of young children.
- I have learned to be very patient as a leader of my home with people who are difficult to lead (I write this in truth and jest).
My role and career as a full-time parent puts me even more uniquely positioned to work in education, particularly working with parents, which I have spent much of my career doing prior to children. Becoming a parent has deepened my empathy and understanding of not only the value of good education, but also the lows and highs and array of feelings of being a parent.
What does this have to do with being a philanthropist, you ask?
Everything! Philanthropists are advocates. They champion the underdog. We rally behind causes we believe in: access to education, healthcare, food, shelter, family planning, and, of course—equality.
I thought I would be bringing to the table my fundraising and parent relations background, but it turns out this experience is about me spreading the word about women having equal and fair treatment as men. We talk a lot about the gender wage gap, but clearly there’s more to it. Here’s a resource that helps to advocate for equality for full-time moms. They ask mothers to put their experience of full-time motherhood on our resumes, which I have done on LinkedIn.
Just last week, two of my heroes, Melinda Gates and Brene Brown wrote articles about how they were going to fight patriarchy. Brown writes about fighting the “culture of domination”: “I’m going to live into my values and stand up for what I believe in from a place of love. And I’m not talking about rainbow and unicorn love. I’m talking about learning how to stay fueled by a gritty, dangerous, wild-eyed, radical, change-the-world kinda love when disdain, judgment, and contempt are so much easier and when fear is seducing me into staying quiet.”
Melinda, the world’s most effective and powerful female philanthropist, is committing $1 Billion to fight gender inequality. She writes she will focus on three priorities, the first being: dismantling the barriers to women’s professional advancement. She encourages us to take action by starting a conversation, volunteer, call your congressperson, donate, and recognize bias—hashtag equalitycantwait.
She asks us to start a conversation: “Why aren’t there more women in senior roles at work? Statistically, for every 100 men who are promoted, only 79 women are promoted, regardless of differences in performance and past experience. By mid-career, men are 70% more likely than women to be executives. What biases-explicit or implicit-may be driving this difference? How does unequal domestic work at home (e.g.., cooking, cleaning, managing finances, household maintenance) play a role? What can companies do to address these issues and given women an equal chance to advance?”
Can you see how this happened to me? Can you see how gender bias even happened in a female-owned, female-led, and from a female employee?
Melinda writes: Most women in the U.S. now work full-time, but we still spend roughly twice as many hours on caregiving as men do. Seventy-five percent of mothers have passed up work opportunities, switched jobs, or left the workforce because of childcare responsibilities. Mothers are three times as likely as fathers to quit their jobs to take care of children or other family members. Over 60% of nonemployed women cite family responsibilities as the reason they’re not working.
A call to action, philanthropists and advocates: will you join me in sharing this article? Post your own story? #equalitycantwait.