A Toxic Work World

imagesAnne-Marie Slaughter wrote an opinion piece for the NYTimes this past Sunday titled A Toxic Work World.  The tag line sums it all up…only the young and childless can keep up.

I was fortunate to have Anne-Marie speak at the WeFestival as our keynote a few years ago.  The talk she gave was the same one she gave at Ted a month or so later.  It is a worthy watch.  She talks about the importance of companies changing the workplace to embrace women who are having children vs losing them in numbers.  Girls are outpacing boys in school all the way through graduate school.  Yet if they have families many of them leave because of the lack of champions inside the workplace to help the family unit raise a family while still making a difference at work.  It is not only about changing the workplace but it is shifting the attitude.

On another note but completely related I saw Cindy Gallop come in on my twitter feed retweeting The New Web reporter Lauren Hockenson’s rant about The Dreamforce conference over the weekend.  As Cindy wrote, “my stomach churned”.   Gayle King asked Susan Wojcicki if all 5 of her children were from the same husband.  King also asked Jessica Alba, who was also on the panel, if her company was a suitable fallback from her acting career.  They both fielded questions about maternity leave, how they remain present in their families lives and if they could invent a stylish shoe.

The other panels were filled with men from the CEO of Microsoft to Benioff of Salesforce to Travis Kalanick of Uber discussing their billion dollar companies, new products and philanthropic arms.  Did any of those men field off questions about their abilities to be home with their children or if their kids were from the same woman?

Both Alba and Wojcicki should not have been so forthcoming and happy to answer these inane questions.  They should have each said to Gayle King (who gets a huge shame on you) not only am I not going to answer these questions they are personal and have zero to do with business.  We are here to discuss business just like every other panel is.  This questioning is insulting to every single woman in the workplace and at this event.  If you want to talk about how we are figuring out how to retain women having families who need a support system from their companies then let’s talk about that.  If I was on the panel I might have just said “are you fucking kidding me”.

It can’t just be women who are pushing for this change, it must come from men too.  We all come from a different place and that is why gender equality in the workplace is so important.  Men need to speak up on this just as much as their female counterparts.  Perhaps one day we will see just as many men choosing to stay home because their spouses are the ones who are more suited to the workplace.  If and when those men choose to be the ones to figure out the balance of work and the ability to just show up for a  3 day work week with zero support in their companies to provide that, we will see change take place, guaranteed.

As for Gayle King…shame shame shame on you.

Comments (Archived):

  1. Matthew Elworthy

    Hey Joanne, Matt from The Next Web here. Completely agree with your stance in this post, however a minor editorial correction: the Cindy Gallop tweet was a quote from an article written by our reporter Lauren Hockenson. The conference certainly wasn’t one of ours, it was a Dreamforce / Salesforce event, at which Lauren was in attendance and reporting.Please could you adjust the article to reflect this? Here’s Lauren’s original article: http://thenextweb.com/event…Thanks Joanne!

    1. Gotham Gal

      Done. Thanks for pointing this out.

  2. Conrad Ross Schulman


    1. pointsnfigures

      Republican Presidential candidates might heed that advice.

      1. Gotham Gal

        nice one!

  3. CCjudy

    Many women dont like women…

  4. Kirsten Lambertsen

    The choice of Gayle King as the panel moderator says all we need to know about how DreamForce organizers viewed this event.Let’s write King a pass. Hear me out. We have no idea how this panel was pitched to her. I’m not sure the “who fathered your children” line of questioning is EVER appropriate, but that’s the kind of bilge she usually deals in. Nonetheless, I’d like to see women lean towards being supportive of other women as much as possible, even when they screw up. Blaming and scolding King is a tactical mistake in the battle for equality (let us not be divided and conquered).I think all three women were duped.Lesson to all of us: whenever you’re entering a situation that purports to be for and/or about women, there may be dragons. Scrutinize everything and be on the alert. These three ladies could have taken charge of that event had even one of them wised up to what was going on beforehand and conspired with the other two to level it up.

    1. Whitney Doherty

      understand your point – women bashing is no good – but calling out when women are asking questions that are totally inappropriate AND they should KNOW better…fair game. what WAS she thinking???

  5. Sofia Papastamelos

    Reminds me of a part in Tina Fey’s book “Bossy Pants”. In interviews after her movie Date Night, she was asked things like “how do you do it all?”. No one was asking Steve Carell how he “does it all”… It’s a sad but true phenomenon.

    1. Gotham Gal

      True. True.

  6. Whitney Doherty

    “This questioning is insulting to every single woman in the workplace and at this event. If you want to talk about how we are figuring out how to retain women having families who need a support system from their companies then let’s talk about that. If I was on the panel I might have just said “are you fucking kidding me”. THIS is exactly what I have been ranting about for ages and do NOT understand women who think they need to engage in answering these inane questions. AUFKM (are you fucking kidding me) needs to be the new acronym when a moderator goes to these kind of questions. thanks for keeping the pressure on – right there with you.

  7. Pranay Srinivasan

    I thought you would enjoy the irony here as Kevin Spacey freaks out (possibly what every woman should do when she’s asked ridiculously irrelevant questions):https://www.youtube.com/wat

  8. pointsnfigures

    I saw an article on that interview and it made me mad. I would rather hear what those two women did to build their business-how they managed and ran their business. Sometimes women are their own worst enemies and play the victim card, or ask the victim question. I want to know how Jessica Alba managed to be successful in a dual career. Lots of men can’t do that. I want to know how Ms. Wojcicki built a $300M business.

  9. panterosa,

    Big fan of Slaughter, who spoke at my daughter’s school (yay!). Two related items:One, shouldn’t there be a media handout to women with the above “Are you F—ing Kidding” topics listed as out of bounds and handed to each interviewer? I’d love to see what the women here would short list as typical questions to be banned from the media that women in biz so badly need as you point out often.Second, what is your view on universal day care as an idea which the US could use to start this needed shift to relieve both women and their families? I would love to see a dedicated blog post on this and hear from your readers.

    1. Gotham Gal

      post coming!