This woman has said sorry to all the mothers she works with. Because she was sort of a b*tch to them. (bitly)
“I’m still embarrassed by the memory.” (preview)
Katharine Zaleski, a former Huffington Post manager, wrote a powerful essay this week admitting she had previously mistreated working mothers unfairly.
In this incredibly compelling column featured in Fortune, Zaleski apologises to all the women she has treated unfairly and underestimated in the past.
But why now? What inspired this revelation? Zeleski puts it down to one thing and one thing only – the birth of her daughter Charlotte.
“I’m sorry to all the mothers I used to work with,” she writes.
“I still am embarrassed by this memory. Five years ago I walked into an office on the twenty-fifth floor of the Manhattan headquarters of Time Inc. I was there to meet with Time.com’s then managing editor and pitch a partnership idea, but once I took a seat and surveyed the endless photos of her small children spread across the airy space, I decided this editor was too much of a mother to follow up on the idea.”
During her mid twenties Zaleski held impressive management positions at both The Huffington and Washington Posts, admitting that she “committed a long list of infractions against mothers or said nothing while I saw others do the same” during this time.
Zaleski was brutally honest in her recounting of her, in hindsight, dismissive, unfair and unsupportive behaviours.
- “I didn’t disagree when another female editor said we should hurry up and fire another woman before she “got pregnant.”
- “I scheduled last minute meetings at 4:30pm all of the time. It didn’t dawn on me that parents might need to pick up their kids at daycare. I was obsessed with the idea of showing my commitment to the job by staying in the office “late” even though I wouldn’t start working until 10:30 am while parents would come in at 8:30 am.”
- “I secretly rolled my eyes at a mother who couldn’t make it to last minute drinks with me and my team. I questioned her “commitment” even though she arrived two hours earlier to work than me and my hungover colleagues the next day.”
Deeply remorseful and now wanting to change the perception of the working mother, Zaleski was pleased that the piece went viral and said that the response on social media had been “overwhelmingly supportive.”
“I wish I had known five years ago, as a young, childless manager, that mothers are the people you need on your team,” she added. “There’s a saying that ‘if you want something done then ask a busy person to do it.’ That’s exactly why I like working with mothers now. Acknowledging and vocalising concerns about situations that penalise working mothers is a major step toward developing solutions”, she said.
During her maternity leave, Zaleski explored her career options and came to the conclusion that she’d have to “put up with the choices made by a male-dominated work culture” or lower her career expectations”.
Both situations were clearly not her ideal.
She decided to quit her job and leave journalism, and became involved in launching the startup company, PowerToFly, a business that enables women to work from home or at least “remain in the workforce or be a part of it even from areas with few job options.”
Zaleski is extremely proud of her vision and ability to diversify a once staid workforce, “We’ve processed over a million dollars in paycheques for women who work from home across five continents and that number is growing fast. The stories we hear are thrilling.”
Not only has Zeleski forged a new career that helps not only herself but many more mothers find work to suit their personal parenting situations, she has some advice for the twenty something’s who may be judging working mothers the same way she did:
“These women can help pave the path for their future selves if they start acting like allies rather than deniers. Instead of just smiling and saying you’re sorry that a mom can’t join for office drinks, ask her if she’d rather do lunch. If there’s a comment you over hear that disparages a mother because she wasn’t at her desk at 7pm, then speak up and point out that she was there at 8:30am, or completely available on Skype or Slack at 7pm.”