Katharine Zaleski is sorry. “I didn’t realize how horrible I’d been [to moms]—until I had a child of my own.”
Overnight, a missive in which the former Huffington Post and Washington Post manager apologizes to former mom colleagues has gone viral. While there is plenty of uncomfortable realism in Zaleski's statements, some have smelled a rat. The timing of Zaleski's mea culpa, after all, comes while she is conveniently promoting her new startup, PowerToFly.
Zaleski claims she is putting paid to her regrets, by aiming to change the landscape for working women for the better.
As a young childless woman, Zaleski used to question the commitment of mom colleagues, and mistakenly measured productivity by the number of hours a woman clocked at the office, the times she stayed late or tagged along to "bond" over drinks.
"For mothers in the workplace, it’s death by a thousand cuts—and sometimes it’s other women holding the knives," wrote Zaleski in her piece in Fortune. "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."
Seeing that the current work culture is largely incompatible with motherhood, she "didn’t want her [daughter] to feel trapped like me."
In this respect, Zaleski is hardly the exception to the rule. How many of us have firmly grasped the demands of motherhood until we suddenly found ourselves changing diapers?
Corporate culture is so competitive, it can become a case of us versus them—women versus women, even.
"The way I acted in my twenties had a lot to do with denial," admits Zaleski. "If I didn’t embrace or recognize the mothers on my team, then I didn’t have to think about what my future would be like. I see the same behaviour in young women I talk to who are in charge of hiring, especially in the tech space ... They’re hurting their future selves. Just like I did."
Of course Zaleski's timing suggests an agenda of self-promotion for her new biz. But when that new business is all about making things better for working moms, shouldn't we get behind her regardless of her past crimes against moms?
After all, if PowerToFly lives up to its mission statement, women in tech (and hopefully, eventually, other sectors) won't be driven out of the workforce or subtly 'penalized' for starting a family; they will find more opportunities to work and mother without having to resort to an either/or solution.
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