The same scenario has played out within companies all over the world but especially here in America: woman works her way up the corporate food chain, woman has child, woman turns into baby obsessed mommy who wants to stay-at-home. An article on Slate calls it ‘an insidious undercurrent of thought in the American corporate world: mothers just don’t make good workers. Their brains get hormonally addled when they have children, and they take their eyes off the prize and onto their newborns.’ Slate quotes billionaire investor Paul Tudor Jones’ epic screw up last year when he was recorded at a symposium at the University of Virginia saying mothers can’t be top traders:
You will never see as many great women investors or traders as men. Period. End of story,” Jones, 58, said to an audience at a University of Virginia McIntire School of Commerce symposium. “The idea that you could think straight for 60 seconds and be able to make a rational decision is impossible, particularly when their kids are involved … As soon as that baby’s lips touched that girl’s bosom, forget it. Every single investment idea, every desire to understand what’s going to make this go up or go down is going to be overwhelmed by the most beautiful experience which a man will never share about a mode of connection between that mother and that baby.”
Yikes! I cannot count the number of sexist implications in that sentence about both women and men and I feel sorry for Jones (a father of three girls) that he apparently had such a lackluster experience with fatherhood. But let’s focus on the part about mothers turning into mush-brained idiots obsessed with all things baby. While that may be the case for some women — and there’s nothing wrong with falling so completely in love with motherhood — the truth lies somewhere else.
Women don’t leave the workforce because they’re ‘overwhelmed by the most beautiful experience which a man will never share about a mode of connection between that mother and baby,’ they’re leaving because jerkwads like Jones don’t create or invest in companies with family-friendly policies including better maternity leave and some kind of childcare system. What that means is women who worked their asses off to get to a point in their career where they have enough financial breathing room to maaaaaybe contemplate having a child are getting knocked out of the workforce because they need to recover from having that baby. And then they realize that returning to work and paying for childcare (which is becoming increasingly more expensive) doesn’t make financial sense.
It seems that many big-time business owners like Jones don’t realize that having a baby is a physically grueling ordeal on par with surgery (and in the case of a C-section actually is major surgery) and requires recovery time. So mom needs maternity leave not necessarily to lose herself in the joys of motherhood, but to actually recover from a human being exiting her body. Someone slices a guy open and takes out a gall bladder or an appendix and it’s very clear he needs some time off work to recover and nobody gives him the sneaky side-eye for it. Yet a woman experiences childbirth (just about one of the most physically grueling things you can put a body through) and she gets accused of being a brain-addled idiot because she wants some time off to recover.
That’s not even taking into account the emotional angle of allowing a family the time to bond with a new member of their family. God forbid companies take emotions and a family’s well-being into account. So mom is home utilizing her crap maternity leave to recover which inevitably turns her into the primary caregiver. Later, when it’s time to return to work, families often bump into the cold, hard fact that childcare equals the salary of one of the parents and it makes more sense for someone to stay home. That someone is usually the one who was already home recovering from birth. So it defaults to mom to quit her job and be with baby. Slate notes, “This phenomenon is backed up by census data: Wealthier first-time moms who can afford childcare are more likely to work full-time until their last months of pregnancy, they’re more likely to benefit from paid leave, and they’re more likely to return to their jobs once their babies are born.”
In other words, unlike what Jones and his equally sexist cronies may think about moms not being able to focus on high-powered jobs because they’re so enamored with motherhood is, in fact, the opposite of what is actually happening. Women are simply realizing the numbers don’t make sense and they end up sacrificing a career as a result.
The Joneses of the world need to stop stereotyping what mothers can achieve in the working world and offer up some solid maternity benefits and childcare options within the billion dollar companies they run. The fact that mothers are climbing to the tops of these huge corporations despite the fact that the United States has the worst maternity leave laws on Earth should tell you a little something about just how badass we can be.
Image source: Monica Bielanko