This is what Lisa Hickey thinks of the so-called gender battle: we’re all in it together.
And decided that instead of a rebuttal to any of them, I’d like to tell a story.
I worked in advertising for a long time. Yes, it was male-dominated, and yes, there were cries of sexism all over the place. At one point I quit one job and my boss came in while I was starting to pack my office said, “What can we do to make you stay?” and I replied, “I’m leaving because I got offered a job as Creative Director. Name another female Creative Director in New England. If you can name one, I’ll stay.” I kept packing.
That was the job where, when I was working, I used to leave the office at 5:00 pm, rush home, pick up my kids, make supper, put them to bed … and then, when they were sound asleep, rush back to the office and work from 10 pm ‘til 2 in the morning. Days long before cell phones, or email as a way of working, or cloud computing—all of which makes my blurry professional and personal life totally joyous. When I left that job to take the job as a creative director, I had just gotten pregnant with my fourth child. Ten months later, I was flying to Los Angeles to do a three-week television shoot for Fidelity Investments. Two-month-old Shannon came with me. For every job after that—five full time ones and countless freelance jobs—I made as much or more than any man, anywhere I went in advertising. As Aaron Gouveia said in the comment on Hugo’s post, I learned to negotiate. I had taken the Creative Director position just so I would have bargaining power to do so.
Years later, people would say to me “I heard about you! You were the one who worked in advertising with all those kids!”
Yep, that was me. Was it hard? Hell yeah.
But now, you know what I see? I see men who want that. They want what I’m having—that exact same thing. They want a way to be a part of their children’s lives in a way that is fundamentally different than the way previous generations had been involved. And they don’t want to do it at the expense of a great career that gives them a sense of value. They want to be good at both.
The men I know are the ones I bump into at the PTA meetings, who are coaching our kids in ice hockey, who I run into at Staples as we buy school supplies. They are the same men I later discuss a new entreprenurial business venture with, or who need help making a movie or running a non-profit. The men I know have the exact same amount of marital problems as the women I know. The men I know think this economy is tough and are working as hard as they can to make things work any way they can. I know men who refuse to go on television shoots because they would miss their child’s birthday, and men who break a phone call with me because their daughter is sick at school. Or the men I know are married and gay and have kids anyway. Or not married and gay and have kids anyway. Some of the men I know were women in a former lifetime. The men I know want to get promoted to creative director because they did something extraordinarily creative. The men I know aren’t the ones out there promoting sexism, not in any way shape or form that I can see it. The men I know get that oh, these times are hard, and guess what—we’re all in this together.
Is there a gender war? Or could it be that it’s really hard to juggle both an amazing career and be an amazing parent, and both genders find it equally hard. Roles are changing, and the old stereotypes have got to change, and whatever else needs to be figured out, we’ll figure out together. Why can’t it be that simple?