Mothers and careers

March 9, 2013 — 2 Comments

Trigger: I talk about abuse and violence in this post.

I had wanted to articulate something that was bothering me about the narrative forming around the women who are executives of large companies. fortunately, Carolyn Edgar did it for me.

This is close to me, and not because I am concerned by wealth distribution (I am) or because I harbor a secret socialist agenda (I do). It is because I was old enough to see how my mother was affected by inequality and gender roles.

When I was in second grade, one day my mother’s husband went to work, and she packed our Plymouth station wagon with a bunch of stuff and her three kids, and we left the state. It was the bravest, scariest and craziest thing I think my mother ever did that involved me. Her husband habitually beat her, in that same year having sent her to the emergency room after throwing her down a flight of stairs. My mother didn’t graduate high school, was pushed into being a homemaker by a variety of factors, and had no real way to escape an abusive partner that also supported her and her children.

I have a complex and just plain not great relationship with my mother, but I consider her actions that day we left to be one of the best gifts of my life. So when I hear about people who made more money in the last year than I may in my life, it seems offensive to categorize it as an issue for women. And it is a disservice to actually help people who are suffering from poverty, malnutrition, lack of education and the various symptomatic abuses that follow those environments.

Having become a parent now, my goal is to generate enough income to allow our small family to have healthy and engaging lives. We live in this world, which means that my life is only engaging if I am helping better the world for everyone, not just the women running Fortune 500 companies.

2 responses to Mothers and careers

  1. Thank you for your post. Intersectionality is important. (And by the way, thanks for enjoying and working with MediaWiki; I appreciate it.)

    I think it’s possible to talk about the stuff that’s affecting women like me — well-off knowledge workers with comfortable careers — AND the oppression facing women who don’t have as much freedom. But narratives that focus only on Marissa Mayer and other zillionaires aren’t helpful, just as narratives that focus only on Neil deGrasse Tyson aren’t going to help us break down barriers keeping black American kids from STEM careers. I don’t think that we have one dominant narrative focusing on Mayer and her class, but even if we did, would I experience that in my daily life? My media intake is probably quite an outlier.

    I appreciate the fact that my organization’s CEO equivalent (Executive Director) is a woman who dedicates her life to our mission, partly because it helps me to have a role model who looks like me. We need improved representation for women throughout the career pipeline. I try to pay it forward by mentoring people who haven’t had the opportunities I’ve had.

    • I agree with you about there not being a dominant narrative, and I wonder which people read about the women executives in the first place; is this inside baseball for information workers? Does it show up on the radar for people helping women like my mother, in the trenches as far as hierarchy of needs go.

      Sumana, did you see Neil on the Daily Show earlier this week? He made a reference to “his people”, and clarified he meant astrophysicists. It was pretty funny!

      I also appreciate Sue and her support of the Foundation’s efforts to reach out to all people in its mission. My involvement in MediaWiki is based on my belief that exposure to knowledge helps people solve problems, and when the problem is representation of women, the sum of human knowledge is a nice pool to draw on. ^_^

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