Women in Tech: Respecting the Choice to Choose Either Road

Recently I was fortunate enough to attend the “Women in Business — Leader’s Lunch” at the Dublin Web Summit. For the first time (and hopefully for the first of many) I was in a room full of hundreds of leading women in tech. It was inspiring to say the least. We met at the Four Seasons for lunch and dialog. All in attendance were women in tech but the similarities stopped there. We had CEOs, founders, managers, coders, geeklets, and journalists. I bet there was a woman representing almost every country in that room, and it was truly a sight to remember.

The goal? To share our challenges, offer our experiences, and sip champagne. I support all three of these goals whole-heartedly. We were also fortunate enough to have a panel full of women who have made a name for themselves in technology. Women executives represented companies like -  Facebook, PayPal, Google, Vodafone, Microsoft and more. It was truly a great panel. I took tons of notes and will share them in a seperate post soon.

Right now though I have to admit something else is on my mind, something that came up at my table during lunch. There was a conversation I overheard that went something like this:

Lady 1: So do you have kids?
Lady 2: No I’ve decided to wait, I might not even have them actually. I’ve chosen to just focus on my career right now.
Lady 1: Well don’t wait too long, we can have it both now you know! {insert laugh} Forget the glass ceiling these days, this lunch is a great example of that.
Lady 2: {somewhat sheepishly and clearly not proud to be saying this} Yeah, so true.

Pardon me for this next sentence — but what the fuck. Seriously.

While I was so impressed to hear the women leaders on that stage say that they had children (as well as amazing careers), I can’t help but get a little worked up over hearing that conversation. So I started to think about my own experiences, and wouldn’t you know it — I do the same thing.

Packed room full of amazing women.

Sad truth: I’m almost embarrassed at times to say to other women I have consciously chosen to hold off on children to focus on my career. The looks. The feedback. It’s like I’m judged for either not choosing both when it’s now more possible than ever to have both, or I’m just not smart enough to want both. I’m not sure.

The funny part is it was a choice. I mean a real choice. I’m not just a career women without kids because I’m not married yet or ready to settle down. I have sat down the man I am going to marry and we have talked through this. I’ve decided (and he supports) the truth that I don’t even want to consider kids until my late 30′s. And even then…who knows.

Right now I choose late nights at the office, weekend blogging sessions at coffee shops. I choose {albeit somewhat selfishly} to be obsessed with my career. I am launching a mobile app in fashion. I’m taking classes on finances, learning how to speed read, and reading books on my kindle about business until I fall asleep on it. I have chosen to fill every second of my life with my work. I choose that.

What surprises me time and time again is the number of women that try to talk me into “more balance” or “rethinking my priorities” … as though given my choice, I clearly haven’t thought the whole thing through.

Let’s be clear. I commend women who choose the family and the career. I’m in awe of you. Two of the most amazing women I know just had babies…and both have not missed a beat of their careers. One is an independent creative, and one is the Founder of a start-up. They post pictures of holding babies at the computer, they talk of offices with cribs…it’s freaking amazing. I commend the woman at my office who has four children {FOUR KIDS!} and still kicks ass at her job. I commend their choices to do both and excel.

I also commend the women who have decided their career might be it. It might be all they want in their lives right now, and it gets everything. I don’t think you are turning your back on women, I don’t think you haven’t thought it through, and I certainly don’t think you are less amazing in any way than the women who have chosen both.

The women at my table that had that conversation eventually wandered away, and I ended up chatting with this brilliant woman who works in publishing in Dublin. She asked me what I did, and eventually asked if I was married or had children. I was afraid to be honest when I said, “I’ve decided to hold off marriage or kids for a while, just really enjoying my work and my projects.” She shocked me when she said “good for you, sounds like you’re doing well for yourself.” Support. Kindness. A genuine compliment.

If only that was the response always. Cuz it should be you know.

To the women in tech that have both families and careers– well done you. To the women who have chosen only a career –well done you. I don’t think choosing one or the other should have anything to do with each other. One is not harder, one is not more fulfilling, each is right for the woman that chooses it. I’ve found that women fill their lives in different ways, but leaders…innovators…shakers…they all fill their time and do great things for people around them (kids or no kids). I wish the conversation was a bit more supportive of both sides.

I don’t really see leading women in tech in two camps. I think it would be wise for us to make the conversation less about which choice we made, and more about our achievements during and after we made them.

I should probably note, I’m not well-versed in the challenges women have faced in technology. I mentioned in a recent interview, I think being a woman in tech has been an advantage as often as it has been a disadvantage (if not more often). With that said, I do know I’ve seen this sort of disrespect both personally and heard of it from others. I’m sure it’s happening on the other side as well.

With all that said, I would say it’s less about which is happening more often, and instead — asking why it’s happening at all? For real…since when did women who have both and women who choose one become different types of women? IMO, we should prob all get back on the same side of the coin…which for me is the “lets go make some moves, and build some epic things” side of the coin.

That has enough challenges. Let’s start supporting each other, no matter what responsibilities we’ve chosen to fill our lives with. It’s time to respect either road, not just the one we’ve chosen.

When I was in 8th grade French class I learned this phrase, “a chacun son gout” and it’s stuck with me over the years. It means “to each his own.” Well in this case how about “to each her own?” Let’s roll with that, and stop thinking the road we’ve chosen is harder, or says more about us, or any of that bullshit. Because it doesn’t.

Let’s respect the difficulty of the choice and commend the act of choosing. Then let’s start championing each other and get on with it already. #endrant

 

 

35 Comments
  • http://twitter.com/kristy Kristy Bolsinger

    Well said lady, well said. 

  • Colleen Clark

    Beautifully written. Empowering and entirely true. Thank you for sharing! So jealous of this experience of yours to have the opportunity be with so many women in tech. My hats are off to women who do such wonderful things in our industry regardless where they are in the “family” stage of life. it shouldn’t matter. Period.

  • http://twitter.com/BrittanBright Brittan Bright

    I love this Joanna, thank you. Something that I struggle with is not that I couldn’t figure out a way to do both, should that be my choice, but it’s more the fear that I might find myself with that option and not choose it. I fear losing my edge, and (admittedly self indulgent) drive. I fear the posibility of morphing into someone I don’t recognize. It’s not exactly “should I?” or “shouldn’t I? but more “holy shit what if I do and I don’t want it all?” or “holy shit what if I don’t and it’s not that bad but I’d never know the difference?”. This is what plagues me.

  • http://twitter.com/selenavidya Selena Narayanasamy

    I love this, because I feel the very same way about women in tech, or simply in the working world itself. The weird, dividing line between women who “have children and careers” and simply choose to have “careers” is slightly disturbing. I’ve actually had many a talk with people where it ended in them being surprised that I didn’t want kids right now, and wanted to focus on my career – as if that was some kind of selfish or negative thing. I think women in tech are amazing, no matter what they’re balancing or what their life outside of work looks like. What matters is how well you do your job and what you bring to the table. I do applaud those who can handle a career and children – it;s a great sacrifice and talent to be able to balance both – but I don’t think there’s a need to classify women into one camp or the other and draw attention to ones personal choices.

    As a side note, I probably would have bitch slapped that woman at the table.Great post as usual :)

  • http://colleenhofmann.tumblr.com/ Colleen

    I think you clearly articulated a lot of what is wrong with the statement “women can have both.” In fact, your overheard conversation clearly demonstrates its transformation into more of a platitude. Rather than devaluing the choices of other women, we should be celebrating and supporting them! To quote the outspoken and outrageously blunt Madeline Albright, “There is a special place in hell for women who do not help other women.”

  • john

    Good for you to see the truth and bother to write in public about it. I might do the same, because I have kids. I’ve experienced bosses exploiting that to take advantage of me, especially when I had 3 small ones at the same time. It’s not a women issue as much as people seem to think. If the man dedicates time and attention to family, he deals with many of the same things. Oh and I’ve had women bosses/clients attempt to similarly exploit the vulnerabilities I carry with me as a married man and father. It’s part of the competitiveness we call “career”. And if there’s other issues related to how the man “doesn’t have to” and the woman “has to..” well, I’ll assert that part is a personal matter to be worked out between mates.

    I’ve sacrificed a lot to dedicate what I have dedicated to my family. It was and is my choice. And trust me I’ve “wanted it all”, and even “innovated” some aspects of the ways-of-life category, in my efforts to do that. Ultimately what I’ve got is a lot like what I’ve got now as young teenagers –  little “consequences”. They have personalities and will and desires and demands largely as a consequence of the lives they have experienced as they grew up… which is directly consequential to decisions I (and my partner) made along the way. Many of those were attempted compromises between career and family life. Who knows what was best… we only know what we did and how it worked out (so far).

    Biology is for real, but it’s not an unknown. You make your bed. I optimistically assume those other women asked you about your status/plans not because they were judging, but because they wanted help making their own decisions, or find support for decisions they have already made. Nothing wrong with that.  And about the doubt? Nope.. also not a “woman thing”. We could cite any number of consequential statistics about depression, alcohol or drug abuse, risk-taking, etc. to show men and women manage different stresses in different ways, but we all suffer from the challenges and uncertainties, and have to find ways to deal with them. Look at the current volume of male HRT in the US… a pretty telling statistic about how men are managing.

  • http://www.randfishkin.com/blog Rand Fishkin

    Great post Joanna.

    I must say though that I think this is an issue facing both genders. I receive some (though probably not nearly as much) of the same questioning looks and critical eyebrow raises when giving the “not planning to have kids” answer. I think there’s likely more cultural and historic pressure on women, and there’s also the very real biological issues that make it more challenging for a woman to balance at least some parts of the reproductive process than men.

    But I have a far-off hope than in a more gender-balanced and equitable world, this pressure would sit evenly on both genders, and that both men and women would need to work on balancing priorities of all kinds – personal, professional, reproductive, familial, hobbies, etc. Like you, I’ve chosen to be very single-minded in that prioritization, but I like the focus it provides, and only occasionally feel a twinge of questioning when a particularly adorable tyke tries to yank my beard off :-)

  • http://www.perfectlyplausible.com/ Iain Bartholomew

    I think decisions on parenting and marriage/co-habitation are so inherently personal that it is impossible to fairly comment on any other person’s decisions. There are no rights and wrongs in this matter. Actually, that’s probably not strictly true. It’s probably wrong to have kids and not be the best parent you can be because you can’t prioritise your child over your work, but at the decision stage there isn’t a wrong choice.

    I also think it’s almost impossible to take a firm position because *things change*. What seems right at the moment might not be what seems right a year or two from now.

    All we can really hope for is to be fortunate enough to be surrounded by friends and/or family who are supportive of the choices we make and are prepared to understand or at least accept our reasons. At the same time we can offer that same support in return.

    There are probably things I would do differently in my professional life if I didn’t have my wife and son to consider, but that way wouldn’t be better than this way. Just different.

  • http://twitter.com/JoannaButler Joanna Butler

    Well said, Joanna! You spoke my mind.

    And it’s so inspirational to hear you have made a conscious decision on this. 

    Ever since I read this article on “Why women still can’t have it all” ( http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/07/why-women-still-cant-have-it-all/309020/ ) I started worrying about making a conscious decision about family versus career.

    But I’ve come to the conclusion that it really doesn’t matter what the world think. Opportunities to have a career and to have a family come to each of us at different times. There’s no right or wrong way. Life’s a bumpy journey after all.

    I know, for me, I simply couldn’t split myself into two very demanding areas like that, compromise on so many things and still be able to shine like some of the super career mums I know. I really don’t know how they do it, but I admire them for it!

    But I also truly admire women who have made the same choice as you as well. It takes guts to ignore the pressures that face us. It’s amazing really that even today we are still under pressure to marry and have a family, but I do think – at least in my own case – that a lot of that pressure comes from our own idealisms as well.

  • http://www.facebook.com/joanna.lord Joanna Lord

    Hey John! I’d love to see a man post his experiences as well. I can’t speak to them but I know the same judgements and challenges face those men that choose to find more balance with home/life or as you said — innovate what either means. 

    I would love to better understand how men are received when they go against “their” social norm {work all the time, be the money maker, career, career, career}. I definitely know the doubt of knowing if we made the right choice or if we are doing the right thing for us in the long run is a “both side of the gender table” challenge. I’ve had coworkers talk to me about this as they try to decide what having kids will mean for them.

    Needless to say, I couldn’t write on the flip side of this without personal experiences, but it would be very interesting to see. With social expectations shifting, and with so many opportuities to have it all…how does it affect men and their process around personal choice to have a family or focus solely on a career? I’d love to read that. Thanks for sharing your experiences :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/joanna.lord Joanna Lord

    Being in that room was so empowering. One of the panelists did make a comment though when asked, “by this time next year what would you like to see changed for women in tech?’…. she said “I’d like to see this dialog happening on the main stage at the conference with both men and women on it as a keynote.” I thought that was a good point. Very interesting stuff :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/joanna.lord Joanna Lord

    Hey lady! Man you hit on some great stuff. I could write a series on the fears of what a life change like a family would do for my identity (which after hanging out with you, I can say probably closely aligns with yours :) ). Always moving, always pushing, go, go, go, drink coffee, and CREATE” are all things I hold dear to who I am and how I live. I worry so much about how that will shift, and who I will become if I choose to have kids. When (or IF!) we choose to go through that transition, and the others (like marriage, career, etc.) I hope we both write posts along the way. Those challenges are critical to explore in a public forum. :) Keep rocking on lady!

  • http://www.facebook.com/joanna.lord Joanna Lord

    I definitely agree with you re: both genders experiencing this. I think the motivations behind the judgements a woman feels vs. what a man feels might be different. i.e. A man might get a look because “doesn’t everyone want kids” and a woman might get a look because “doesn’t everyone want kids AND isn’t your duty to go for both to show just how far women have come…” Perhaps I’m too personally biased, but women are particularly judgmental in my opinion. I think it would be great to read a post where you explore your choice there, and how its received — particularly by other men in business. I wonder if the eyebrow raises come more from women as it sits now?

    Either way though, you are right that as the paradigm continues to shift (and shift it will!) I see that more and more people will have tools, resources, and the philosophy to “want and have it all.” The choice to choose only kids and no career, or only career and no kids will likely start to be hard for both men and women.

    In the meantime, I’d love to hear how men that choose just kids or just a career are seeing their choice received. I don’t have personal experience there {obvioussslyyyy} so I couldn’t write too much to it, but I’d love to hear more.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  • Upasna Gautam

    What a refreshingly kick ass blog post. 

  • Stephanie Chang

    Joanna, Thank you, thank you for writing this post and what perfect timing. I also respect that you made a conscious decision about this as I haven’t yet. Even though I think this is an incredibly personal decision, there are lots of people in my life who want to influence it (especially close family members). I, like Brit Bright, do have concerns that this decision will ultimately change me, my edge, and my drive. Someone else mentioned that The Atlantic article on how women can’t have it all – I’ve discussed that exact article with my male co-workers and they looked at me and said honestly, I’ve never even thought about these things before. It was an eye-opening experience for all involved.

  • http://twitter.com/stephpchang Stephanie Chang

    Joanna, Thank you, thank you for writing this post and what perfect timing. I also respect that you made a conscious decision about this as I haven’t yet. Even though I think this is an incredibly personal decision, there are lots of people in my life who want to influence it (especially close family members). I, like Brit Bright, do have concerns that this decision will ultimately change me, my edge, and my drive. Someone else mentioned that The Atlantic article on how women can’t have it all – I’ve discussed that exact article with my male co-workers and they looked at me and said honestly, I’ve never even thought about these things before. It was an eye-opening experience for all involved.

  • http://casiegillette.com Casie Gillette

    Thank you for writing this Joanna. I love posts like this that look at the ‘we can have it all’ statement. For me, my career is having it all. I don’t want kids and when I tell people that, very few actually are encouraging of that. Instead what I hear is “well you might want them later” or “you’ll change your mind”. Your last sentence is exactly what I’d like to see more of, just being okay with what other women want in their lives without judging them.   

  • http://www.willcritchlow.com Will Critchlow

    Fascinating reading, Joanna. This is something I’ve actually thought a lot about (for a variety of reasons – seeing my wife work through these issues, thinking about what *I* want for me, having a daughter who will one day have to make these calls for herself).

    The biggest thing for me is the importance of actively making a decision – rather than finding yourself having taken decisions by default – something you seem to be doing a great job of.

    @randfish:disqus - I think (some) people are weird whatever you do. I’ve had weird reactions to people hearing that I want to grow a business *and* be present as a dad. I think all four quadrants have critics (with / without wanting kids and with / without the work-centric part).

    @twitter-69479156:disqus - I read the article you mention (and all the follow-ups / replies / disagreements). One thing I thought wasn’t talked about well in the original article was that (for the definition of “having it all” used in the article) men have never “had it all” either. I’m not saying the article should be about men, but rather that we should be careful of unrealistic expectations.

    I am incredibly lucky to be able to structure my day to work hard and still be around for real time with my kids but I still feel myself making compromises left, right and centre. I’m so pleased that we are making progress towards a society where women can choose their own priorities but in the process we should be careful of the false ideals. “Having it all” is pretty unrealistic for either gender IMO.

  • http://letter10creative.com Letter10 Creative

    I thoroughly enjoyed this post. I have been going through the same thought process lately, and its really nice to hear that I’m not the only one jumping these hurdles! While I am not in a tech job per-se, I do own my own company and cannot fathom having small children while single-handedly managing a wedding photography business where personal weekends simply don’t exist. I’ve heard it all, but the most offensive was “you’re making a huge mistake in deciding to wait to have children.” Excuse me? I didn’t ridicule your decision TO have children. Everyone has their own idea of happiness, and the fact I’ve found mine in my business is success enough to me. It’s easy to overlook these things when faced with the Mommy-pressure, and this article was a great reminder that we’re all different, and that we all need to find (and keep) our own happiness.

    … And I can still picture Mrs. G’s bright-red lips (and matching heels) repeating “a chacun son gout.” Back in Junior High I don’t think I ever imagined my adult life being anything like how it actually is today. So maybe another few years down the road and life will bring me somewhere completely different, perhaps with children, and perhaps not. But I do know it will be something that makes me feel happy, successful and fulfilled. For me. Because that’s how every woman should live her life.

  • http://yoyoseo.com DanaLookadoo

    How intriguing that the “having a baby” issue would come up in discussion about women in tech. I can envision that conversation. UGH 
    I used to work with Webgrrls to inspire and collaborate with gals in Web development and computer science majors. We found that the web/tech industry was very open to women, and it was often the women who were not sure of their math and programming skills that deterred them. Many of them didn’t want to have children, interestingly. Could it be that the lure of technology and marketing and career surpasses that desire for babies. It all depends on how we are wired.I chose not to have children simply in order to have time to pursue passions and career. Not all of us salivate over the idea of changing diapers and driving kids around to soccer practice. I respect those who choose that course, and there are many women who can do both.Now, when someone asks me if I have kids, I just tell them I have bicycles instead!Soooo, this comment, “I have sat down the man I am going to marry…” begs the question, are you engaged? ;-)

  • http://twitter.com/mackfogelson Mackenzie Fogelson

    Well said Joanna. I chose to do both, but like Will said, so did he really, as well as so many others in our industry who are raising a family and running a company (or kicking ass at a very demanding job like you). I don’t think it matters which way you choose. It is what is is. As you said, to each their own.

    I think the significance comes from whether you choose to own that decision. There’s no question that being a mom and running a business/having a demanding career is a shit ton of work. And, because I chose to do both, I have to make ton of sacrifices and prioritize. I love my career so much but I also love my kids and my family and there isn’t ever an easy balance with both. I own the fact that I have both responsibilities and I will do whatever I can to honor that decision in my life.

    I certainly envy your freedom to fully immerse yourself in your career. Do it! And have absolutely no shame in it. The fact that you love your career so much and find such passion and satisfaction from it is what it’s all about.

  • Jessica

    I wonder if when we say “I’m choosing to focus on my career” we accidentally imply to moms that we think they aren’t focused, and their seemingly judgmental responses are partly defensive reactions. We should try saying “I am not interested in kids right now” and see if the reaction changes. Data!

  • http://www.facebook.com/curtisrcurtis Curtis R. Curtis

    Sorry double posted

  • http://www.facebook.com/curtisrcurtis Curtis R. Curtis

    First of all Joanna, I cannot think of many other women in our industry that deserve to represent at this Summit more. 

    That said, I feel that this choice should never be singular; raising children is a partnership and both partners need to make a choice to have children. I was fortunate to be building a new tech co. when my youngest was born, while my wife worked as an architect in an office, so we had the freedom of my working at home (and at weird hours since the ISP business is 24×7) so I was able to raise my sons while my wife went into work at her office. 

    I included a picture of that time with my oldest on my bike, while my newborn slept in the trailer (we were taking him to my wife’s office for feeding). These were the best/most rewarding years of my life; ones I wish I savored even more as they flew by so quickly. Sure it was hard juggling home care with demands of a new company BUT I was very lucky as I was the Boss so bringing a newborn to the office for meetings was SOP. I believe that if a couple wants to have children, they need to find a way together to raise their children while having a career at the same time. 

    In fact my only regrets are that as the kids got older, we/I spent more time on my career and less with them and if I could have a do over I would like to have spent more time with them as they grew up so fast. Our careers are at best temporal while our children are our legacy; the only real one we have to offer. So for those couples agonizing over having children; don’t! Just figure out the how to make it work.

  • http://twitter.com/LisaBarone Lisa Barone

    I, for one, am glad someone is touching on the most important part of this conversation – JOANNA AND PETER ARE GOING TO (MAYBE) GET MARRIED! Because they are the both the cutest people in the world.

    Also, Dana, I remember sitting at an SMX lunch table and having a well-intentioned man tell you it “was okay” that you didn’t have children. And that I yelled at him, ha. So we’re not strangers to these conversations either.

  • http://twitter.com/ppcbuyers Leslie Drechsler

    Well put Joanna. I didn’t choose career over children – I just didn’t choose children at all! No desire to have them, ever…ever. When I tell people I don’t want kids, I get wild looks with reactions varying from “Well, you just haven’t met the right man yet” to “That’s really selfish of you” or “Wow, you must’ve had some really BAD life experiences to say that”. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with choosing to be “child-free”, but society at large still seems to think there is. We could all do better in “championing each other”- no matter what our personal or professional decisions in life.

  • http://twitter.com/jennita Jennifer Sable Lopez

    I really love this line: “Let’s start supporting each other, no matter what responsibilities we’ve chosen to fill our lives with.”

    I completely agree with you on many levels, however I believe this is an issue with women supporting other women in general. Sadly, it’s not just in tech, and it’s not just the haves (kids) vs. the have nots (nor wants). This is a much bigger issue where women, for whatever reason, aren’t supportive of each other and our choices, as much as we should be.

    I’d like to add that this also doesn’t happen only to women (or men) who don’t have children. I get asked all the time if I plan on having another child. People (men and women) often imply that my daughter would love to have a little brother or sister (and I’m sure she would). I could get upset that they’re judging me (or that maybe they’re actually just trying to drum up conversation), or I could simply be confident in my decision to have just one child and let others have their judgements.

    Just yesterday I mentioned to a group that I wouldn’t be going to dinner with them and when asked why not, two other women chimed in for me and said “because she has a family.” Huh. Yes, it’s true I have a family and it really was the reason I wasn’t going. I enjoy going home after work and being with my husband and daughter. So I just smiled, nodded, and left the room. But who’s to say that those women weren’t judging me and my choice?

    This is a much bigger topic around how women treat each other, and I appreciate you bringing it up. As you stated quite eloquently: “Let’s respect the difficulty of the choice and commend the act of
    choosing. Then let’s start championing each other and get on with it
    already.”

  • http://twitter.com/MarketMotive Market Motive

    What a great post Joanna! This is and has been an ongoing
    debate for years.   The fact is, there is no perfect solution to
    this issue.  The best choice is what fits
    each individual (of either gender), their passions, their dreams, and their
    lifestyles. 

    Personally, I never thought of being a mother/career-woman as
    a choice.  It was simply what I
    envisioned, what I wanted since I was a kid and what I actually did in my own
    life.   Interestingly enough, having
    started my career as an IT geek working as a Unix Administrator while raising
    my young children, it was men who would regularly ask me … How do you do it? How
    do you balance motherhood and work?  The
    answer was clear:  I balanced them the
    best way I could, and I enjoyed both of them immensely — now and then.  Each role enriches a different part of my
    life and makes me happy … and a happy woman means a happy person, wife, mother,
    and employee J. 

    Like you, I’ve met amazing career women that get immense
    pleasure and enjoyment from their careers; they thrive, they achieve, they kick
    serious-ass – and they’re happy.    I am
    often in awe of their accomplishments in their personal and career lives and I
    have the privilege to share experiences with many of them.

    I say Cheers!  to the choice
    to be happy and fulfilled in your life. 
    That in itself is a triumph worth of celebrating.

  • http://twitter.com/b_young b_young

    What a great post Joanna! This is and has been an ongoing
    debate for years.   The fact is, there is no perfect solution to
    this issue.  The best choice is what fits
    each individual (of either gender), their passions, their dreams, and their
    lifestyles. 

    Personally, I never thought of being a mother/career-woman as
    a choice.  It was simply what I
    envisioned, what I wanted since I was a kid and what I actually did in my own
    life.   Interestingly enough, having
    started my career as an IT geek working as a Unix Administrator while raising
    my young children, it was men who would regularly ask me … How do you do it? How
    do you balance motherhood and work?  The
    answer was clear:  I balanced them the
    best way I could, and I enjoyed both of them immensely — now and then.  Each role enriches a different part of my
    life and makes me happy … and a happy woman means a happy person, wife, mother,
    and employee J. 

    Like you, I’ve met amazing career women that get immense
    pleasure and enjoyment from their careers; they thrive, they achieve, they kick
    serious-ass – and they’re happy.    I am
    often in awe of their accomplishments in their personal and career lives and I
    have the privilege to be able to share experiences with many of them.

    I say Cheers!  to the choice
    to be happy and fulfilled in your life. 
    That in itself is a triumph worth of celebrating.

  • Ryan Kent

    I agree with much of what you shared Joanna. I recognize as a male, my viewpoints may be less welcome but the most inspiring advocate of women’s rights in the work place is Sheryl Sandberg. On the off chance you have not seen her TED talk, I would highly encourage you set 15 minutes aside and watch it. She talks about women in the workforce and balancing work with kids. 

    http://www.ted.com/talks/sheryl_sandberg_why_we_have_too_few_women_leaders.html

  • http://searchengineland.com/author/michelle-robbins Michelle Robbins

    What surprised me most about this post, is how you interpreted this lunchtime comment, and perhaps others you may have gotten not specified here. What I hear from the women is honest advice, not criticism of your choice. The defensive posture and then attack saddens me because it doesn’t help move us forward from the us against us theme I see so often written about, by women. 

    If someone were to recommend you set aside time for yourself to maybe run more or do more yoga, instead of burning the midnight oil doing the the marketing that you do – would you feel like they were judging you? It’s likely you would not, and you would agree that balance is important – in all aspects of your life. So maybe this is really a no-harm no-foul kind of comment, and just some friendly advice from some women who have maybe been there – women that maybe put X aside to spend more time on Y and maybe they regret it, and looking back, would do it differently. Maybe they know women that made a similar choice and then faced significant problems with fertility. It’s more likely than not that they were just (at least in their mind) being helpful, and not judging.

    And to be clear, the majority of my close friends are either not married or don’t have children, by choice. In fact, only one of my 5 closest girlfriends (20 years+) has children. By choice, which I unreservedly support.

  • http://www.monicawright.com Monica Wright

    There are many opinions and very well-though out comments, and I’d like to share my own, fwiw. I’d like to think I have been focusing on my career these past 15 years, as well as focusing on my children. We can’t do it all, nobody can, no matter what the intentions are. It simply becomes a matter of prioritizing and becoming really, really efficient. I like to work, it’s my vocation, just as staying at home for some parents is what they are good at. Unfortunately (I hate to say it), but no matter what “camp” you identify yourself in now – there will always be eyebrow raising. If you are a mother and you work, it’ll be the potential “Oh you work?” from the stay-at-home moms. Then there’s also the potential “Oh she has more flexibility because she has kids” judgement from coworkers without kids. I have seen women not hired because they _could_ get pregnant (think about that.) I could go on and on, but generally speaking, many times women are asking about kids because, well, it’s a way to possibly find common ground. Everyone has a story – they work and have families (kids or no kids, there’s a family somewhere) and live their lives. Making a personal connection helps. Eventually, what matters at the end of the day is a job well done, and most of all, have no regrets.

  • john

    I doubt there’s enough of a “social norm” for men to make that post meaningful. We already can be basically whatever.. as long as we justify it and have some mates around to back up the claims. AND we can revise it later with no penalty.

    Within context of a smaller niche community, norms still matter a lot, but across the board, I don’t think we have that any more. Think about church communities (where there are such norms still) and cultural (neighborhoods… expectations) and you see it.. but in a melting pot like Seattle, if he’s a sloucher but says he’s doing the 4 hour work week thing, it’s cool. If he’s immature but says he’s hip and going his own way differently than his old-school ‘rents, then he’s cool. If he’s going no where after 5 years but says he’s doing the “startup thing” well, it’s cool. Whatever.

    Biology isn’t as obvious for men.. he might have fathered kids but not admit it and you don’t see them. He might plan to go till 45 and then marry a 22 year old to have his kids (but doesn’t have to admit it now, or might say he doesn’t want kids if you ask him right now),  etc etc etc. But the female…well, her body shows her age, her status reveals if she has kids or not (usually), and EVERYONE knows she has that clock tick-tick-ticking away no matter how she might want to ignore it or disclaim it or otherwise deal with it. You can’t wait till your 50 and marry a 22 year old to have your kids, or pretend that even. Not yet anyway.

    Perhaps most interesting will be what happens in 15 years after we get through some of the social change going on now… we’re already seeing a significant number of couples spending 50-100k on preconception “products and services”, many without success. The science is only starting to define the costs of having kids late (costs from male side as well as female). The dual-income myth has pretty much been exposed, and we’re making headway on the “it’s not a wife, she’s a partner” and “it’s not a marriage it’s a civil union” fronts, thanks to the pressure from the GBLT crowd. At the very least it has helped expose just how “religious” our civics is in practice, and that it doesn’t work too well when it’s structured that way.

    And when it changes? Well, what if you could safely freeze a *fertilized* egg, for implantation later? Pick the father of your baby, follow the recipe to make the starter, but then put it away for now, so you can put into the over later, when you’re ready to bake? Wow that’ll be different, eh? Pressure will be on early-career to make money for a war chest you’ll use later, when you choose to, the way you choose to. And maybe by then you’ll have adequate experience with “daddy” to make a better decision about his role going forward (if any), and the freedom to structure that family experience as suits everyone involved.

    Sorry to go on… and so late after the discussion cooled :-) but it’s interesting stuff to ponder.

  • http://twitter.com/JoannaLord Joanna Lord

     I think we will have to agree to disagree on this. I hear this “its your fault how you took it” rebuttal now and then, and it surprises me. It surprises me (1) that you think you understand a conversation better in theory than someone did first hand but that (2) you assume the absolute best possible scenario rather than explore a second (less than ideal) option — that women do in fact judge each other in the work place and their choices.

    I think there are a lot of comments on this string and responses on Twitter that don’t only suggest the judgement out there is real, but that many of us are feeling it. While I support you may have experienced something other than I did, I don’t agree that you can simply say “its just how you took it” as the problem at hand.

    I think by bringing up these difficulties in a post it opens the dialog, I think if I assumed best case scenario (even when I get this all the time, and sometimes *very* aggressively) it would sweep a big issue under the rug. It’s just my opinion though, I appreciate your idealism. I have a great deal of it in my life as well, unfortunately not with this particular scenario…which I can assure you was founded on judgement and not on advice offering.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1016946058 Stephanie Pettis Sumner

    Well said, Joanna!  This goes for women in any career. I’m one of the “older moms” among my children’s classmates and my teacher friends, but I don’t regret it.  Given that I’m a lot older than you (wink), waiting until my early 30′s to have kids was sometimes questioned.  But it worked.  We got our selfish shit out of the way early, built careers, and had babies when we could really enjoy it while managing to push forward in our careers without it  being at the expense of our children or ourselves.  The only selfish choice is doing what someone else things you should.