I started this blog on April 1, 2011, with a post called My New Endeavor. In it, I tell my story - how I got into the craziness that is the legal industry, and the reasons why I left. It has been, by far, my most popular post with the most comments. Right now there are 67 comments. And it is this 67th comment I want to write about today.
On December 1, a person who calls themselves "Hindsight" left the following comment:
"You have just set forth why so many women are not hired. After proving you could do it, if you really wanted to, you opted for children and staying home - honorable and admirable choices. But I wonder if the coveted law school spot would have been better spent on someone who needed the job and would more likely stick with it."
For some reason, this comment hit a nerve with me. I had to resist responding in a nasty way, and I forced myself to sit on it for a week or two. Perhaps it's because the comment is full of stereotypes and blatant gender discrimination. Perhaps it's because it is probably written by a lawyer who makes hiring decisions - hiring decisions that may affect me someday. Or perhaps because in some ways, I understand what this guy (and I am assuming it is a guy, but maybe not), is saying.
From the face of it, I can understand why many men think this. Why hire a woman? Especially a woman who is young and married and inevitably will have children. And when she has those children, watch out. Because she'll either quit or request part time or check out and waste all of those resources you spent training her. And aren't I the perfect example of that?
But something seems just WRONG about that thinking. And we know it's wrong, as a society, right? Isn't that why there has been all of this talk of gender equality and glass ceilings and breaking down barriers? Because isn't there a consensus now, that we women have something to add? Something of value? So blocking us out of the workforce probably is not the best idea? I thought that was pretty much understood.
But to "Hindsight," who doesn't share this understanding, let me say this:
Maybe instead of giving up on women, maybe instead of just "not hiring" them, we change things up a bit. We recognize that women have children. We recognize that when that happens, they may want to actually spent time with their children. So we give them enough maternity leave to recover and bond with their babies. We give them flexible options to return to work. We give them unpaid time, if necessary. We give them part time options. We give them telecommuting options. We do what we have to do so that women do not have to make a black and white choice - work, or no work. And why do we do this?
Because women do add value.
I would argue that despite what transpired with my legal career, my former bosses would never say they wished they hadn't hired me. I worked hard. I was dedicated. I certainly earned the firm a lot of money. I was a good associate. I was value added. And who knows - maybe I'll help them out again someday. Stranger things have happened.
"Hindsight" is right about one thing - I could have done it. I could have stayed. But I didn't want to. I didn't want to have to balance spending time with my two boys with a high stress, demanding, hours intensive legal career. Because, lets be honest, it was a balance that my children would never win. And it is a shame that I, like so many other women, had to face that choice, and give up a career, at least temporarily, that I had worked so hard for.
In hindsight, I would not have done anything differently. I do not regret my legal career. I do not regret my children. I do not regret my decision to spend this time with them. I do not think my law school spot, or my job, was "wasted" on me. I did well in law school. I did well in my job. I earned those spots. And with any luck, someday I'll take another spot for myself. One that I deserve, and one that I have earned. Not because I am a woman, or because I had children, but because I do have value to add.
So to "Hindsight," I say this: Good luck with your all male firm. Something tells me it won't be so successful.