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Saturday, April 05, 2008

The problem with being female

"My wife used to work. But when she became pregnant with her second child she decided it was time to quit." he, my boss at the time, said, emphasis on quit.

I nodded mutely not sure what to say about this. I was going back to work no matter what. I knew he couldn't fire me for getting pregnant and having a baby. I had to keep telling myself that. My inner guidance told me it was the thing to do, it would be important for my family.

It was no easy homecoming.

It didn't matter that a project I initiated and executed was saving the company close to half a million US dollars per quarter (because he had conveniently given all the credit to one of my colleagues who was lapping up all the unearned glory).

It didn't matter that before I got "knocked up" I was the golden child being groomed for Directorship.

It didn't matter that I had great reviews and had gotten a lot of good press for our department which was only such if it could pull it's own weight in terms of ROI (return on investment).

None of that mattered. All of the sudden my credentials were in question as was my competence. I was different, less worthy, less trustworthy, less successful. Less everything. And most of all, very disappointing now that I was an unwed "single" mother. It felt like I was speaking to an unhappy father. And that was amazing because Dave and I were over the moon about being pregnant.

It didn't matter that I lived with my baby Daddy (Dave - OF COURSE!) and that he was there by my side in the NICU for the 134 days.

It didn't matter that we were committed and the actual act of getting married (which we finally did in 2005 by a very drunk priest) would never change any of that.

"So you don't care that you are having a baby out of wedlock?" asked the unearned glory lapper upper.

"No, why should I? We will get around to it eventually, there is just too much going on right now." I said annoyed to even be talking to this person.
"But don't you care that your baby is going to be a bastar.." he persisted until he saw my look.
"Is that what you think? Wow! What century do you live in?" I said.

But apparently he lives in this one and these conversations took place in this company, not in 1952, but in 2002.

Three years later when Dave and I felt Ellie was well enough for us to safely plan a wedding without having to cancel because she was in hospital, I had several men ask me when they heard, "Oh, are you getting married to the baby's father?"

Instead of saying something that involved many curse words and Homer Simpson impressions I would just say quietly, "of course."

But it was too late. the only way I would really be seen as someone to promote in the company was to have remained single and childless and either one of the guys or one of the women the guys wanted to have sex with. That is what this HUGE company was like for women where at the time there were only two women on the leadership team and now there is only one.

When I was in my 20's making a living as an artist and living in Western Mass I thought chauvinism was a thing of the past. It wasn't until years later in entering corporate America that I realized how alive and well it is. And in fact since Bush took office I think it has gotten worse.

So welcome back Twisty. We need you. But please stop referring to the mentally disabled as the "r" word. I truly hate that word and all it's destructive consequences.


Emma said...

Hugely powerful post, Kathryn. I wish I could say that I don't believe that happened to you. But unfortunately I believe it all too easily.

Lisa said...

I have learned since becoming a mother that it is (relatively) easy to be a woman in the workforce and society when single and childless. When a mother, the gloves come off.

Great (and sad) story. FWIW, I could be remembering this wrong, but I vaguely thought that Twisty said somewhere that she was going to stop using the 'r' word and its derivatives like 'f-tard.' Have I missed something?

but, yeah, I find Twisty highly entertaining.

Kathryn said...


Damn straight.

Also, that is good news about Twisty. Where I left her off people were kind of boycotting her because of that language. I am glad to hear she won't be using it anymore.

Kathryn said...

Thanks Emma - and yes - true story unfortunately!

Papa Terapeuta said...


I hope you already quit that job and got another. If you haven't you should.

I am male, but I've felt the same impotence you have when I worked for a big corporation, years ago. What finally made me quit was presenting a project to shutdown a system nobody was using, getting the green light to do it, and then quietly escorted to a small office where one of the older project managers calmly explained me that the new system that was supposed to replace the old one did not work, everybody except the bosses new, and I was now in charge of keeping the old system running.

I've been self employed since.

Kathryn said...

Papa Terapeuta,

I did quit that job and have been self employed ever since.

The first rule of group dynamics I ever learned was about in and out group behavior. It roughly states that if you are in the out group you can try to get in the in group but if you can't it's best to go find another group.

I think this holds true. I haven't found another group I would like to be in yet - but after all the BS I experienced - I haven't been looking all that hard either.

Your story is so classic of big company behavior. And to think there are starving children in the world when money is being spent because some middle manager doesn't have the balls to fess up.
Lovely corporate culture, eh?! Good for you for getting out. I do realize that not only the women are effected by that environment.