When you attend a business event preceded by a grossly distended belly, other working moms feel compelled to share notes. I heard some interesting tales from the womb yesterday at this fancy breakfast I attended.
One executive told me that she was pregnant while she worked at IBM in the ’70s. At the time, she says, the unwritten policy was that a woman had to quit as soon as her bump became obvious. So this woman wore baggy blouses and balloony dresses while her sympathetic boss told anyone who suspected that he thought he’d seen her inhaling some extra donuts lately.
Another woman told me she worked at a male-dominated magazine during her pregnancies. She had to sneak out of the office for her doctor appointments and, once the babies came, for kid-related duties and events. And that was just in the last decade.
At the same breakfast, Susan Taylor, editorial director of Essence, gave the keynote address about what mentoring means (she founded Essence Cares, a national mentoring movement that connects African-American kids with “able and stable” grown-ups). “You got to get your priorities straight,” she said. Here she was back then, a black woman from Harlem heading a major magazine, trying to prove she had the stuff to play with the big boys. But what she looks back on with regret isn’t the speech she didn’t make or the big corporate account she didn’t win; it’s that she didn’t spend more time back then with her young daughter. “We got to make up our own rules.”
Isn’t that true?