lifestyle

This woman has made an apology to every mother she ever worked with...

Last week on ABC TV Judith Lucy was given a fake baby for 17 hours.

The doll was computer programmed to cry and need feeding, rocking and nappy-changing so Judith could understand the relentless exhaustion of becoming a mother.  If only we could do the same for our childless bosses. Alas, it seems we often have to wait until our managers breed to truly understand the life of the working mother.

Katharine Zaleski, a former Huffington Post manager, has written a powerful essay in Fortune admitting she had previously maligned and mistreated working mothers.

Zaleski reveals she committed ‘a long list of rather shocking infractions.  She didn’t disagree when another female editor said we should hurry up and fire another woman before she “got pregnant”, she scheduled last minute meetings at 4:30pm all the time because it didn’t dawn on her that parents might need to pick up their kids at daycare.

She confessed she was obsessed with showing her commitment by staying in the office “late” even though she started work hours later than the parents and secretly rolled her eyes at a mother who couldn’t make it to last minute drinks with the team.

Ouch.

OPINION: Proof that working mums are more productive than any other employee.

Katharine Zaleski even shares a memory of meeting Time.com’s then Managing Editor to pitch a partnership idea, “surveying the endless photos of her small children” and deciding she was “too much of a mother” to follow up on the idea.

‘Too much of a mother’. Double ouch.

Katharine Zaleski, pictured with her daughter, once didn’t hire someone for being “too much of a mother”.

You have to admire Zaleski’s honesty and be thankful for her remorse.  Many of us have rolled our eyes at female co-workers who we assumed were getting an easy ride because they had kids.  But it’s revealing that as a boss she had to have a child to realise she was utterly unfair, ‘horrible’  and part of the problem.

That problem, in both the United States and Australia, is that women are enablers and leaders of the macho working culture that rewards long hours rather than productivity.

After Katherine Zaleski had her daughter she saw the light. What she did next is both exciting and depressing.  Zaleski quit her job and became involved in a business that enables women to work from home or at least find work that suits their parenting situations.  It’s fantastic that women of her calibre are involved in an alternative workforce that is flexible and values and rewards women for their productivity.

Want more? 11 Things not to say to a working mum.

ADVERTISEMENT

Yet it’s also depressing that Zaleski had to leave the traditional workforce rather than fight to change it from within.  I understand her decision but workplaces won’t transform unless they have agents for change on the inside.  Zaleski writes that cultural change is required  because the workforce is too often built around how men bond.  Male and female leaders need to kick that culture.

Helicopter parenting from 6,000 miles away. I mean, who else Is going to sing this baby to sleep?

A photo posted by Katharine Zaleski (@katharinezaleski) on

Luckily the executive has a message for those still on the inside.  Katherine Zaleski warns younger women entering the workforce not to harm their future self.  She suggests that instead of being the deniers that she once was, we act like allies.  That women ask collegues for lunch rather than afterwork drinks and acknowledge the work they do.

Katharine with her family, via Instagram.

And the best part of the story is that Katherine Zaleski was woman enough to do even more than apologise for the error of her ways.

She hired the mother that she had once dissed at Time.

I hope they compare baby photos over Skype.

00:00 / ???