How To Combat Anti-Mom Bias
Our VIP Lunch & Learn With Katherine Goldstein
Katherine Goldstein is an award-winning journalist and expert on women and work. Inspired by her own experiences of becoming a mother, Katherine has spent the last couple of years studying issues of women and work as well as mothers in the workplace.
After her research as a 2017 Nieman Fellow at Harvard University, Katherine authored the article entitled "Where Are the Mothers?". She has also written the article "The Open Secret of Anti-Mom Bias at Work" for The New York Times. In addition, Katherine is currently developing a podcast about millennial working mothers.
On Friday, June 29th, Katherine sat down with a small group of PowerToFly VIPs and provided valuable information about ways we can combat the anti-mom bias and unite working caregivers everywhere. Would you like access to exclusive chats with women like Katherine? If yes, then click here to become a PowerToFly VIP and join our community of women here to empower one another.
Q: How do you combat criticism in the workplace for being a "young mother"?
Katherine Goldstein: In a perfect and just world, this really would have no impact on how anyone viewed you at work. Being a "young mother" isn't relevant to your competency. Instead of engaging with those trying to put you down, try to focus on your accomplishments and what you're really good at. If it's in a performance review type of setting, try to steer people away from talking about your personal life and really focus on what you contribute to the organization.
Q: How does a mom break ceilings in the workplace when they have impeding familial obligations?
KG: First, there's this academic term that I use in my anti-mom bias article that isn't widely known, but I think is really important-it's called the "maternal wall". I think it should be as well known as the phrase "glass ceiling". "Maternal wall" basically means that once a woman becomes a mother, she hits a wall in terms of her promotions and earnings and is not able to advance due to perceived biases and lack of opportunities.
I think that a lot of times people assume mothers don't want to travel for work or don't want promotions because they'd rather be home with their kids. What's really important is to keep raising your hand for those things if they are important to you. Don't assume that someone knows that you want a promotion, be clear that you are interested in challenging yourself in moving forward. Many people are going through challenges in their lives, but I absolutely feel that if you want something done well, then give it to a busy working mother. They are some of the most impressively multi-tasking, creative thinking, efficient people. Don't count yourself out as someone who can't do something if it's something that you're really passionate about and want to try to reach for - "Happy moms make for happy families".
Q: How can I fight the anti-mom bias when what's happening is not technically "illegal"?
KG: It's really hard to think of examples of anti-mom biased behavior that's not illegal. For example, not giving someone a promotion because you think they're too busy with their kids, which happens all the time, is illegal. Hiring someone who doesn't have kids because you say that the person who had kids would maybe be too distracted—that's illegal. The biggest issue I can think of that's not "illegal" is centralized around scheduling. Many employer may schedule important happy hours and networking events late in the evening with a lot of drinking - that just doesn't always work for moms or pregnant women. To combat this, we have to be proactive and say things like, "It's great that you suggested that happy hour—how about the next time we do it as a lunch during the day so everyone can participate?"
Q: What's the best way to combat the perception of working less on a WFH day if you're home with a sick kid?
KG: This is a tough one. Everyone has unexpected things that come up, even people who don't have kids - someone has to take their dog to the vet, someone has to take care of an aging parent, someone has a housing emergency. These things happen to people, and if you're in a position of leadership, make sure you're creating a culture of transparency for everyone, not just those without children. With that being said, if you're one of those people consistently thinking you're not doing enough or being perceived as such, it's possible this can just be internalized guilt. In letting go of that, you can try to focus more on highlighting what you're doing well and the efficiencies that you have in other aspects of your work.
Q: What are the main things that you think that we can do right now as employees of organizations to change/stop this bias?
KG: So what's really interesting is that I think people who are first learning about the anti-mom bias might think this is a problem for childless men who are neanderthals—and that's absolutely not the case. This kind of bias can come from women (as mentioned in Katharine Zaleski's really eloquent article from a couple of years ago), it can come from dads, and it can come from other mothers. I've definitely heard stories from people who've had a boss, also a mother, who mentioned things like "well, it was really hard for me, so I'm not cutting you any breaks".
The best ways to start to interrupt this, is to physically interrupt it. When you hear people saying things like, "Oh, she's pregnant. I'm not sure we should go ahead with the promotion.", it's perfectly ok (and moral!) to say that you do not agree with that, and it's illegal. As women, we need to continue sharing our stories, raising awareness, and understanding that this is a problem. It's not about needing to be nice to working moms, it's about women's ability to be economic providers and to earn money throughout their whole lives. There's a lot at stake, so speaking up about your own experiences and not turning a blind eye when you're faced with an act of discrimination, is a really important first step.
A Look At The Challenges They've Faced & How Their Companies Support Them
We know that the ratio of women to men in software engineering is overwhelmingly low. Scroll through just about any company's roster on Linkedin and see for yourself. It's depressing.
If you're not in the mood to engage in that little experiment, just check out this PwC study that found that only 15% of employees in STEM roles in the U.K. are women, and that women hold a mere 5% of leadership roles in the tech sector.
However, we also know that diversity is the top priority for 78% of talent leaders. This is good news for us, because our goal at PowerToFly is to close these gender gaps as quickly as possible - and the more companies that get on board, the faster we can do that.
We partner with companies that are not only committed to diversity and inclusion, but to fostering a sense of belonging for underrepresented candidates once they accept job offers.
In the meantime, we know that the struggle for many women and other minorities in tech is still real, and that being a woman in this male-dominated industry is no cake walk. That's why we invited women engineers at some of our partner companies to share their experiences in their own words.
They shared some of the biggest challenges they've faced as women in tech and how they overcame them, as well as why they feel supported and enjoy working at their current companies.
We hope reading about these experiences will make other women in software engineering realize they're not alone in the challenges they're facing, and that there are lots of companies making strides to better support women in tech. We also hope that reading this will inspire more companies to follow suit, especially given that women leave the tech industry at twice the rate of men.
Hats off to these 7 women and to the companies that support their work:
What's the coolest thing Promptworks does to support women engineers?
"One of my favorite things about Promptworks is how all the female engineers support each other. Having an amazing group of colleagues to lean on, vent to, and seek advice from has been vital to me. As soon as I joined the engineering team, I felt immediately part of this amazing family of women who also have my back."
—M.K., Software Engineer at Promptworks
Want to join Promptworks' team of Women Engineers?
- Senior React Native Engineer
- Senior Software Engineer
- Contract Software Engineer
- Software Engineer
- And more
More about PromptWorks:
Promptworks builds custom software for companies by creating amazing technologies that help achieve their vision.
Monthly work-from-home flexibility, Collegial atmosphere with family-style lunch twice a week on us, ergonomic work stations including seated & standing pair programming stations, 100% company-paid medical, dental, and vision insurance, 401(k) plan with company matching and more!
Why did you choose to work at Yelp?
"The best thing about Yelp is the culture. I had an amazing interview process which reflected how much Yelp values their employees. Once I got through, I received a welcome card from my team and AWE group and I still feel very loved at Yelp. Also, I love the people! They are very smart and innovative and Yelp gives us all the freedom to vent out our creativity."
—Supriya, Backend Engineer at Yelp.
Want to join Yelp's team of Women Engineers?
More about Yelp:
Yelp engineering culture is driven by our values: we're a cooperative team that values individual authenticity and encourages "unboring" solutions to problems.
Medical, dental, and vision insurance - 100% covered for Yelp employees, 401k program with company match, parental program: Bright Horizons, mother's rooms, paid baby bonding leave, well being and stress management resources, and more!
What's the biggest challenge you've faced at Ubiquity6 and how did you overcome it?
"One of the personal challenges I've dealt with at Ubiquity6 is imposter syndrome, which was definitely amplified by working with so many incredible engineers. Thankfully, my team is really supportive and I have been able to take ownership over some important projects. The combination of getting great constructive feedback while framing my mindset towards improvement has really helped build my confidence as an engineer."
—Robyn, Software Engineer at Ubiquity6
Want to join Ubiquity6's team of Women Engineers?
More about Ubiquity6:
Ubiquity6 works with the design, infrastructure, and game engine teams to help guide the user through complex workflows involving spatial mapping, dynamic code loading, and game engine orchestration. Their challenge is to tie together all the different pieces of technology in a way that feels seamless to the end user.
Generous PTO, flexible work hours, work-from-home, remote positions, medical and dental benefits including family coverage, and more!
What's the coolest thing Verisign does to support women engineers?
"Verisign has been extremely warm and welcoming. Your opinions and ideas are heard irrespective your gender and position in the company. Verisign has a Women in Technology group which organizes monthly workshops and seminars, encouraging women to participate and demonstrate their skills. It is attended by the entire company and not just women. The company is full of empowering women who constantly motivate you to break the stereotypes and fulfill your passion."
—Shreyashi, Software Engineer at Verisign
Want to join Verisign's team of Women Engineers?
- Senior Engineer - Information Security Compliance
- Mid-level Software Engineer
- Sr. Infrastructure Software Engineer
- And more!
More about Verisign:
Verisign, a leader in domain names and internet infrastructure, enables internet navigation for many of the world's most recognized domain names.
Medical, dental, vision and prescription plans, traditional and Roth 401(k) with company match, basic life insurance, optional life insurance for employee, spouse or child(ren), home and auto insurance and more!
What’s one of the most impactful things One Medical does for women engineers?
"I recently attended a fireside chat with Sheryl Sandberg who pointed out that while there are increasing programs aimed at bringing women into technical roles, there aren't as many women being promoted. One of the most impactful things I see that One Medical does is actually hire and promote female engineers into both senior engineering roles and engineering management roles. Not only are they being promoted, but there is noticeable support before, during, and after the promotion. Growth and learning is a big part of the culture here, and I am excited to take part in such a fulfilling company."
—Vanessa, Data Engineer at One Medical
Want to join One Medical's team of Women Engineers?
- Senior Software Engineer (Fullstack)
- Principal Software Engineer (Fullstack)
- Staff Software Engineer (Fullstack)
- And more!
More about One Medical:
One Medical builds amazing end-to-end solutions to connect patients and our care team in new and innovative ways.highly collaborative environment, not only will you be partnering with designers and product managers, you'll also be sitting shoulder to shoulder with the doctors and nurses who deliver care daily to One Medical patients.
Top-notch dental, vision, and health insurance, paid parental leave, PTO, paid holidays, and sabbatical at 5 and 10 years
401K Match, One Medical membership for you and your family and more!
What's the coolest thing Fair does to support women engineers?
"Gender equity is a big thing at Fair. I once received a Fair-branded jacket that didn't quite fit right in the sleeves and waist. I tried to return it, but my boss wouldn't hear of it, citing Susan Fowler's leather jacket incident. Fair immediately offered to cover the jacket alteration costs for myself and other women in the company. I'm grateful to work at a place that values and includes its female employees as much as Fair does."
—Michelle, Lead Software Engineer at Fair.
Want to join Fair's team of Women Engineers?
- Senior Software Engineer - Search & Discovery Team
- Senior Platform Engineer
- Support Engineer
- And more!
More about Fair:
Fair is looking for highly motivated engineers interested in delivering the next level of innovation to product search and discovery at Fair. You'll be designing and implementing new search features and the systems behind them, including the integration of natural language processing, heuristics, and machine learning systems used to generate and rank search results. You'll work with microservices on AWS, multiple languages, and a great engineering team with a fun culture.
Equity incentives, 100% coverage of medical, vision and dental premiums for employees and their families, 100% paid parental leave for 4 months, 401(k) retirement plans and free lunch 5 days a week for every employee and more!
In moments of self-doubt or adversity, how do you build yourself back up?
"Coming from coding school, my background was not in computer science nor did I graduate from college with a degree in engineering, so it has always been a bit of a struggle to build myself up. I remind myself that everyone is going through a learning process. I have spoken to my mentor about having imposter syndrome when I first started working at Yelp. He let me know that even he has moments of imposter syndrome. It is easier to relate to somebody when you hear that they are going through the same struggles as you and it's a good reminder that nobody is here to judge you. I think it's great that even when you mess up you don't have to be worried about getting fired. Yelp has a very supportive environment. In times of adversity I try to calm myself down and realize that everyone makes mistakes and tries to learn from them to be better."
—Julie, Full Stack Engineer at Yelp.
Scroll up or click here to learn more about Yelp & how to join their team.
Want to see more great roles at companies committed to recruiting more women in software engineering? Check out our job board!
A Look at Fidelity's Approach to Women's Career Growth and Engagement
Whenever I reflect on my experience as one of the relatively few women in the gaming industry, I think of a student I met at a Game Writers' Roundtable the last time I went to the Game Developers Conference (GDC).
"The floggings will continue until morale improves." We've all heard the saying, a tongue-in-cheek way of criticizing workplaces that are neither healthy nor productive — and no employer or employee wants to be that workplace. Create a healthier, more productive work environment with these tips.