Being a woman in the workforce is tough as it is. How much more being a mom while at it? Recognizing the power moms that continue to navigate their work and life, Dr. Diane Hamilton sits down with Joann Lublin, the former management news editor for The Wall Street Journal and the best-selling author of Power Moms. In this episode, they talk about the struggles many women face when entering the workforce and how much it differed then and now. Joann then shared some of the insights from her book where she interviewed 85 executive mothers, revealing how they overcome the challenges with finding the balance between work and family responsibilities. What is more, they also talk about co-parenting, forced paternity, the differences among moms across each generation, and the struggles of being a single mom. Join Diane and Joann’s conversation to find how women are so capable of doing whatever they set their mind to, be it in their personal or professional lives or both.
We have Joann Lublin. Joann is the Former Management News Editor for The Wall Street Journal. She’s a best-selling author and has a new book called Power Moms. I’m excited to have her on the show.
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Power Moms: Inspiring Stories Of Women Navigating Life And Work With Joann Lublin
I am here with Joann S. Lublin who was the Management News Editor for The Wall Street Journal, working with reporters in the US and abroad until she retired in April 2018. You’ve probably read her book, Earning It. She has a new book. I’m excited about Power Moms: How Executive Mothers Navigate Work and Life. It’s nice to have you here, Joann.
Thank you so much for having me, Diane.
I was looking forward to it. Thank you so much for sending me a copy of your book. This is exciting. Before we get into your books and everything, to become a Management News Editor for The Wall Street Journal is a heavy responsibility. I was looking at your background. It’s quite impressive. Can you give us a background of what led up to you even getting to The Wall Street Journal?
What led up to my getting to The Wall Street Journal was always loving to write stories and poems from a very young age. The very first time I even had a poem published was in the PTA newsletter in 2nd grade. By 4th grade, a bunch of us decided to start a school newspaper at our elementary school. We had a contest. They picked the name of the newspaper that I proposed. It was called the Walt Whitman News and Views. I never looked back. I’ve been writing in Journalism my entire life.
My dad liked to write prose and different things. There are a lot of authors in my family. That’s why I write the books that I wrote. Since I write on curiosity, perception, and things like that, it’s so different than prose and poems. It’s a whole different realm. That’s a real talent. Did you have family members who got you into that? Where did that come from?
A first cousin of my mother was a very famous playwright. Have you ever heard of the play Inherit the Wind?
He was part of the Jerome Lawrence and Lee writing team who wrote Inherit the Wind. In fact, he told my mother when I turned thirteen that I was going to be a famous writer someday.
He was right. What’s that like when you end up working for The Wall Street Journal? Was it what you thought it would be? Do you get an image in your mind?
The way I got to The Wall Street Journal was through a summer internship program. It was a program called the Newspaper Fund that Dow Jones, the publisher of The Wall Street Journal, originally created in the 1960s. In order to get men at Liberal Arts Colleges interested in getting into Journalism. What they would do was they picked the cream of the crop who applied, and then dozens, if not hundreds, of newspapers agreed to hire these young men as their Newspaper Fund interns for the summer. The summer of 1969 was the first summer they opened up this competition to women and Journalism majors. One of my fellow classmates at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern and I both applied. We found out, we didn’t know this when we applied, that The Wall Street Journal picked its own summer interns from the cream of the cream of Newspaper Fund interns.
I got this letter in the mail from the Bureau Chief in the Washington Bureau inviting me to be a summer intern in Washington which seemed ideal because my parents lived in suburban Maryland at that point. While I was interested in a summer internship, I wasn’t sure how I could make it work economically that I would have to pay for my own apartment. Being the student journalist that I was, I was immediately suspicious. I called the Washington Bureau Chief collect. We don’t have cell phones then. He accepted the charges. I said, “How many other summer interns will you have? Have you ever had a woman as a summer intern?” Those I remember were my two questions for the Bureau Chief. He said, “You will be the only summer intern. You’ll be the first girl that we’ve had as a summer intern. We do have one woman as a full-time reporter in the Bureau.” That’s how I started my career as a journalist at a summer intern.
I love that you have that sense of no fear. I had Kare Anderson on my show who was a Wall Street Journal reporter. I’ve had other people associated with The Wall Street Journal in the past. A lot of young women would have been intimidated to do that. Where do you think you’ve got that strength?
I got that from my mother. My mom died in April 2020 as I was putting the finishing touches on the manuscript. She was fearless and always spoke her mind. The last time I saw her was in February 2020. I visited her in the assisted living facility where she lived in Atlanta. At that time, I already knew that I was dedicating Power Moms to her. I had drafted what the dedication would say. I read it to her and I said, “What do you think of this dedication?” She said, “I would like to change it a little bit.” I was like, “Okay.” The original dedication said, “To my mother, Betty Lublin, she has always been the biggest supporter of my role as a working mom.” She was like, “I wasn’t always your biggest supporter.” I was like, “That’s true.” I said, “Shall I change it to say, ‘She has always been my biggest critic and biggest supporter?’” I like to put supporter first of my role as a working mom. She said, “Yes, but put critic first.”
Now, the dedication reads, “She was always my biggest critic and biggest supporter of my role as a working mom.” Listen to the other funny story about that. I go to work for The Wall Street Journal as a summer intern. On my second day on the job, there was going to be a White House press conference. The White House reporter is perfectly happy to cover it from the Bureau by just watching it on live TV and asked me if I’d like to go instead. I called my parents and I said, “I’m going to be working late because I’m going to be on TV, especially if I get up the courage to ask the President a question.” My parents pushed back and were like, “We don’t want you traveling on public transportation after dark.” Being gutsy and fearless, I was like, “Mom, dad, it’s the White House. It’s a presidential news conference. I promise to stand at a well-lit bus stop.”
Was that amazing?
It was amazing, but I spent the entire press conference trying to get my hand which was paralyzed with fear to raise it and ask a question about the war in Vietnam which I felt very strongly about at that time. I never got up that courage. The person sitting next to me who was a Newsweek reporter did ask. I heard later from friends all over the country because when the TV cameras showed on him, my face flashed on the screen.
It’s interesting because I studied curiosity. In the research from Oxford, they showed that men are two and a half times more likely to ask questions from a speaker event like that than women. Women need six questions or more before they start feeling confident to start asking questions, whereas men will just go ahead and raise their hands.
That’s probably the only time I’ve been too scared to ask a question.
The older I get, the less things hold me back. When you’re young, you do that. Time changes what we feel confident doing. It was interesting, your first book, Earning It: Hard-Won Lessons from Trailblazing Women at the Top of the Business World, I’m sure they shared a lot of how they grew over time lessons with you. I know you’ve interviewed some amazing people. What led you to want to write that book?
That book grew out of a first-person essay that I wrote for what was then a journal blog that doesn’t exist anymore called Journal Women. I wrote that essay in order to educate my daughter, Abra, who at that point was entering the workforce. I wanted her to understand how far women had come when I joined the workforce but more importantly, how much things had changed between the time I entered the workforce in the ’70s and now in the 2010s when she was entering the workforce. The essay was called, Remember The Barriers. It talks about some of those early experiences of mine at the Journal such as when I joined the Journal full-time after grad school in San Francisco being asked by male sources, “Where they’ve been keeping a dish like you?” Refusing to let me pay for a source lunch even though it was going on my corporate credit card because they were embarrassed to have a woman pay for their lunch, and then being told, “Don’t worry. This is being paid for by Dow Jones,” which owns The Wall Street Journal.We have a society of gendered expectations, of unconscious biases between the two sexes. Click To Tweet
The men let me whip out my American Express card. After I’d paid, I turned and said, “By the way, our two largest shareholders are women. They’re the great-nieces of the founder.” In any case, I got so much reaction from women at all stages of life and careers about the experiences that they had to had entering the workforces as women that I thought there might be a book. I thought the best way to tackle that would be to try and write a book about women who had gotten into very high-level corporate roles and had learned lessons about dealing with setbacks. I thought the focus would be around gender issues, but it ended up being a book about how to get better and get bigger at what you’re doing due to personal and professional obstacles or setbacks.
There are many great lessons to be learned in it. When you’re writing a book like that, you get a lot of authors in The Wall Street Journal where they showcase their knowledge and different things. I’m wondering when you were talking about prose, my dad was always inspired by Ogden Nash. That’s who he wanted to be. I’m wondering if there was an author that inspired you to write in a certain way that you emulated.
There was. It’s funny that you should ask that question. I have volunteered this answer in other interviews about my new book, but no one has ever drilled down to the authors. I kept a diary starting at age ten. In one of those early diaries, you can see at the back my secret wishes for what I wanted to be when I grew up. I said, “I wanted to be a famous novelist and I would use a pseudonym.” I will tell you what my pseudonym was going to be then see if you can figure out who was the author I was trying to emulate. It’s Marcy Wayne.
I don’t know.
I should have got that one. That’s funny because I just got up an interview. He gave me a Mark Twain quote before I talked to you. I should’ve got it. It was a great quote. I got to go back and listen to it again.
What I admired about him was not only his ability to capture people’s personalities with his descriptions but his attention to dialogue and attention to voice. In that sense, I didn’t become a fiction writer. It has certainly been a factor in trying to bring individuals to life, both through the description as well as their choice of words. Nowhere do you get a better opportunity to do that than writing a book. You have much less of a chance to do that in writing journalistically. To me, that was the most and has been the most exciting thing about both books. It’s learning to write in an authorly fashion as opposed to a journalistic fashion. When I hired an editor for the first book, who had written and edited a total of six books, she said, “You need to learn to write authorly.” I was like, “What’s that?”
I had the same problem when I started writing. As a PhD, you write in a scholarly tone. What I find most challenging is the telling of stories for me. It doesn’t flow as easily for me as I see other people. How are you at the storytelling part? Does that come naturally?
Yes. I am a storyteller at heart just like Mark Twain was. It was probably one of my weaknesses as well as my strengths because I tend to tell too many stories.
I don’t think you can tell too many stories.
How many books have you written, Diane?
Five. Two in the last two years. I’m going to have to take a break for a while. I write behavioral books. I wrote about things that inhibit curiosity, how to overcome that, and the same thing with perception and understanding. Mine are business books. When you talked about entering the workplace in the ’70s, I entered the workplace in the ’70s. It was Mad Men. It was crazy back then. Have you watched Mad Men at all? Have you seen that show?
I’ve probably seen less than one segment. When I saw it, it was like, “I’ve lived this,” number one. I don’t need to watch it again. Number two, because in television it’s greatly exaggerated. There had been some series on TV. There was one that was based loosely on Newsweek in the 1970s. There was another one that was based on newspapers in the 1970s. What I didn’t like about any of those series, which I did watch a couple of segments of is not only was everything is exaggerated, but everything got telescoped. Something that might have happened over a year would have all happened in 24 hours. It’s entertainment, so that’s fine.
One of the other things that I’ve talked about and written about that also led to Earning It was this notion that somehow women shouldn’t get recognized for their achievements. Within a year or so of joining The Wall Street Journal, a front-page story I had written about how difficult it was to be a big city school superintendent won honorable mention in the annual press competition for the San Francisco Press Club. Remember, I worked in a Bureau where I was the first woman hired as a full-time reporter. All the guys in the Bureau by then knew all about my feminist leanings. They rallied to my defense and insisted that I not go to the Awards Dinner because the San Francisco Press Club, like most press clubs at that time, did not have women as members, even though women in our country have been journalists since the Civil War. I said to my colleagues, “I appreciate the suggestion, but how are we ever going to change their mindset about admitting women to the press club if I don’t go to the darn dinner?”
It’s still like that though in so many different places I see which surprises me. As we’re thinking about the shows, The Mary Tyler Moore Show came to mind. For its time, it was fun to see. I live in Arizona and I’ve been a member of a club. They still have men’s and women’s separated parts to it. It’s a private club. I know Sandra Day O’Connor is a member there. I run into her there. I’m thinking, “Who has done more for women’s rights than Sandra Day O’Connor?”
The women can’t go into the men’s side of the club?
They still don’t have women in the men’s part of the club there. I thought, “You don’t see that anymore.” The reason I’m still a member is I grew up next to it. It was part of my childhood. I loved going there. It was still in the past. You don’t see much of that anymore.
I have another story that’s very germane. One of the women that I interviewed for Earning It, when she and I did a program together after the book came out, talked about the fact how lonely it was when she became the first female direct report to the CEO of this tech company where she worked, and how they were having a senior management team meeting. They took a break for a bathroom break. They were debating how quickly to introduce some product in Europe. When the bathroom break was over, it turned out the men had come to a decision in the bathroom without consulting her. It was clear from the discussion. She put her foot down and said, “This is not an acceptable behavior.”
When I was autographing books afterwards, one of the people in the audience told me about a friend of hers who had the same thing happened to her. She was the only female partner in her law firm. When they would have partners’ meetings, this would happen repeatedly. They would take a break. The male partners would go off in the men’s room and some major or minor decision got made. I think it only happened once or twice before she put her foot down. She followed them into the men’s room and said, “Guys, if you’re going to make a decision in the men’s room, then I want to be present.” That put an end to it. Talk about courage.
Men had treated me quite well in most of my jobs. I’ve never had a sense that I wasn’t supported. I did find one industry that was different than other industries. You would find they give you certain tasks compared to everybody else. You’d be doing more administrative things. For some reason, you’re the one who gets to take the notes or that type of thing, get the coffee going or whatever it is. I don’t think I recognized the discrimination or the difference in how they treated me. I grew up in a time when that’s what women did. Looking back, I thought, “I wouldn’t have had that sense to walk into the bathroom and say that to them.”
I wouldn’t have either. Another woman who I interviewed for Earning It had that very similar experience. She became a VP and was the only female VP. In the first meeting, she went with her male VP colleagues. The guy who ran the meeting said, “We need somebody to take notes.” Every set of eyes in the room was on her. She said to herself, “I’m not going to fall prey to their gender stereotypes.” She told me it was the longest 90 seconds in her life in which she just sat there, mute, and said nothing. Finally, one of the guys piped up and said, “I’ll take the notes.” They never looked at her again to be the note taker.
You have to take that stance. A lot of women are worried that they’ll get looked at as difficult. They don’t want the B-word.
That’s why you have to, if you can, make sure you’re not the only woman in the room. It’s not always possible. Another woman can call out some guy from mansplaining, a guy who’s stealing credit, or another woman can give you the credit for something that you said earlier in the meeting and nobody acknowledged at the time. One of the women I interviewed for Earning It, she and a female colleague who did tend to go to the same meetings together, they would strategize before the meeting started. It’s what they were going to do to support each other.Pick the right life partner who is committed to the same kinds of co-parenting and sharing of life's tribulations as well as joys. Click To Tweet
It’s interesting because I was in a board of advisors meeting. I was there not as part or one of the boards in that particular case, though I serve on a lot of boards now. I was there being an MBA Program Chair. I was not a secretary or somebody getting coffee or whatever it was. I happened to notice that nobody introduced me and nobody said my name. I’m sitting at this table with top people. You would know their names. Eventually, I said something as a comment and went, “As the MBA Program Chair,” and they all looked at me like, “You are? You’re not a secretary?” It was interesting to me to note that, “Why wouldn’t they have introduced me?” If I had been a man, they probably would.
Andrea Jung who was the first female CEO of Avon, had a very similar experience before she became CEO. She was at an executive-level position, pretty important, and had to run a meeting in Japan where the gender stereotypes are even more entrenched than they are here. I remember her telling me the story. She walks into this huge conference room to open this meeting. All the Japanese male executives look past her for the guy behind her who’s going to come run the meeting, but she’s in charge of the meeting.
It’s funny because I don’t think men get that sense of what it’s like. My husband is a physician. When we’re in town, everybody knows him as a doctor. He’s got a different last name. When we go to town, sometimes I’ll book our reservations under my last name, they’ll refer to me as Dr. Hamilton so he’s Mr. Hamilton now. It’s not even his last name. He thinks it’s fun and entertaining. If you’re not living it where people are treating you that way, it’s cute. If it’s a reality of your everyday situation, it’s a lot harder. Women have a lot of challenges that a lot of people don’t recognize because you have the mom aspect. COVID is changing the landscape a little bit for men getting a little taste of what it’s like to try and raise the kids and work when you’re at home. This book is so new. Did you get to add any of that aspect of what men are dealing with now to navigate work and life together?
Not really because I turned in the manuscript the day before the US shut down on March 11th, 2020. During the editing process, I was able to update it a little bit by going back to 1 or 2 of the women who had already been working remotely before COVID hit. In the case of one of those women, I did ask her about how the sharing of responsibilities at home had changed. She and her husband were both trying to start their own businesses at the point when the Coronavirus shut down the world. He was working from home but had an office space. She was using a virtual workspace. They both moved back into their apartment. They had a four-year-old and a six-year-old.
While they were sharing the domestic load and childrearing before Coronavirus, when they had the responsibility of managing the kids’ pre-K and kindergarten lessons over Zoom, it got complicated. They tried to wing it initially. As she put it, it degenerated into chaos. What they ended up doing is that once a week, generally on a Sunday night, they put together an Excel spreadsheet in which they blocked out from 7:00 in the morning to 8:00 at night, hour by hour, everyone’s schedule, work and school, and what each parent was going to do. Who was going to make breakfast, who was going to do screen time for school, who’s going to do bath time? They discovered they needed to do nightly rechecks to update it. It brought order out of chaos.
We need Gantt charts. It runs our lives from a process. I can see how that would work. I put everything in calendars for all the school and different things I do at work, and in different companies I run. You can’t stay organized. It’s so challenging. I imagine these women had to deal with a lot of organizational issues. You interviewed 85 executive mothers.
I interviewed 86 executive mothers from the Boomer and the Gen X/Millennial generations. Separate from that, I interviewed another 25 adult daughters of the Boomers who for the most part were in their twenties when I talked to them.
I was looking at some of the names. You’ve got Carol Bartz, the first woman to command Autodesk and Yahoo. You’ve got Hershey’s Michele Buck, DuPont’s Ellen Kullman, ITT’s Denise Ramos, Mindy Grossman from WW International. You got some big names. Did you meet these people through your Wall Street Journal experience? How did you pick them?
About a half dozen of the Boomer moms are making repeat appearances. They were fabulous examples, highly talkative, and cooperative for Earning It. They also were mothers. At my urging, I came back for a second bite of the apple. In some cases, their daughters became a part of the second book. For others, it was a matter of a good old-fashioned, journalistic outreach, as well as networking. That became especially critical when I was trying to find women from their early 30s to early 40s where I’m not as well-connected. One introduction sometimes led to 5 or 6. The woman I was describing to you with the Excel spreadsheet, she opened the door to at least 4 or 5 other women, all of whom were from her generation and ended up in the book, including the Cofounder of Chief which is a networking organization for women, Lindsay Kaplan.
I get a lot of amazing women on the show. The things that they share are all fascinating. I don’t know if I’ve gotten so much into their daughters. That’s an interesting aspect of their perception. I know one of my daughters works like I do, does the same thing I do, and thinks like I do. The other one is completely different. She’s more into speaking all these foreign languages. She’s much more artistic and creative. They have completely different perceptions of what it was like to have me as a mom because they’re so different. Were you finding the same thing?
Yes. What was interesting particularly when it comes to the issue of working mother guilt, when you talk to a number of these Boomer moms and find out that fifteen years later, they’re still agonizing over some terrible things that they did that they’re sure scarred their daughter for life. You have the same conversation with the adult daughter. Their perception is completely different. There was this one executive. She had to go out-of-town for an off-site meeting that she was leading for her team. She knew that her daughter’s 12th birthday was going to happen on the day of the off-site meeting.
They didn’t have Zoom or FaceTime then. She did a conference call and made everybody in her team sing happy birthday to her daughter with that at least. She was home for the birthday party on Saturday. I didn’t meet a single working mom who didn’t have birthday parties on the weekends for their kids. When I asked the daughter, “What do you remember about your 12th birthday celebration?” I didn’t set her up by telling her that the mother was still racked by guilt. Fifteen years later, she said, “I remember it was on a Saturday. Mom made one of her special cakes like she always did.”
I remember I would go home every day at lunch and set up the meals. I wanted to make sure the kids would have dinner every night with the family together. You’d go home and set up everything. You never had a lunch break because you’re getting everything ready for dinner. Do you think that men have that same need to be all-perfect as a parent?
Men are under greater pressure now who are marrying these Millennial and Gen X-er women to take more responsibility to accept the notion that co-parenting is the price of admission if they want to be married or in a long-term relationship with this woman. I don’t think it’s a role that they come too easily for the same reason that women feel like they have to play that role. It’s because we have a society of gendered expectations. We have a society of a lot of unconscious bias in which women have unconscious biases about what men should do in many cases and vice versa. We also live in a society of individualistic achievement in which we don’t expect the larger world, whether it’s government or employers, to help us. We feel like we have to do it all by ourselves which is completely ridiculous.
The story you told reminded me of one of the stories that one of the Baby Boomers told me for Power Moms, which when I would relay it to some of these Gen X or Millennial women, they were flabbergasted. In this case, this woman was working evenings at a cable TV station, newly married, and her husband was a stockbroker. She felt very strongly that what a good wife did was make dinner for her husband. When she would have her dinner break, she would go home and get dinner ready before he got there. It never occurred to her to have him make his own dinner or make dinner for both of them. This woman happened to be a woman who became the first Vice Chair of General Electric, Beth Comstock.
My husband is a plastic surgeon. He’s doing to an eight-hour surgery so I know he can’t go home to make lunch. For me, it was more about the kids than him. I’m a Boomer. I wanted to have my kids be like how I was where you have this family around the table every night. It surprised me how many of my kids’ friends’ parents didn’t do the same thing. They didn’t even have dinner together. Did you see a difference from the generations of whether they felt that same way?
Do you mean whether they felt the importance of having dinner together?
No, that’s not something I saw much of a difference in. Both generations felt strongly about the importance of having, if possible, dinner with their children. The difference was that the Boomers, because the technology wasn’t as advanced, often we’re not home in time for dinner. It was either you didn’t have a PC. It was dial-up and it was way too slow. You had to stay late to get the work done. In many cases, daddy was already home. There was this great example that this adult daughter described in which mom generally got home later than dad. Dad got home by 6:00 because he owned his company. Mom was working for a big bank. Dad would insist on waiting until 7:30 when generally mom walked in the door even though the kids were starving and this increased her guilt.
The daughter’s recollection of weeknight dinners was not a very positive one because generally, mom and dad were yelling at each other. The way that this adult daughter who’s older went about doing her career planning differently. She decided to become an independent filmmaker. While she does go out of town to make her films, she’s generally otherwise working from home. It’s very important for her that they eat as a family, the daughters, her husband, and she every night and eat in peace.It's difficult to be a single parent, irrespective of your economic status. Click To Tweet
It’s interesting to look at what your background was. Neither of my parents worked which was very unique because my father was born legally blind. My mom is a housewife. My dad’s family took care of his living. There was nobody working in my family. Everybody was at home all the time. That was a real interesting discovery to get into the working world and try to do it all when you saw nobody doing anything.
You didn’t have any role models one way or another.
No, it was a different thing. I watched a documentary not too long ago. I don’t know if it was in Greenland. It was someplace where they have forced paternity leave now. Did you look into that at all? They were saying the difference in women and men is how much they made in the workplace. The real problem came because women took a couple of years off or a year off with the kids. They’d get behind and never had a job. They’re starting to do forced paternity leave.
I sight some of that data in working moms.
What do you think of that forced paternity?
We live in a culture where people would very easily accept this idea that it’s “mandatory.” Nevertheless, it seems to me that companies can set the tone at the top by creating a culture in which taking parental leave is expected of men and women alike. You have companies like the one that Mr. Zuckerberg is at where they asked the men who are expecting fathers not whether they’re going to take their parental leave, but when are you going to take your parental leave. I’ve seen this work very well among some of my journalist colleagues. The new mom takes the first 12 or 16 weeks off, and then goes back to work and then dad starts his parental leave. The baby is home with one parent or the other for the first 6 to 8 months of his or her life.
I’ll take that second shift.
When my children were born, my husband took the day off on the day of the birth. In both cases, asked me to make sure the hospital did not discharge me until Saturday so he wouldn’t have to take any more vacation days.
What that reminded me of was with my kids, whether they were going to college or not. It’s not whether they were going to college, it was where. If you make things like expectations, it is a lot different. To me, “Wherever you want to go is fine.” It wasn’t up for debate that they were going to go to college. That’s an important thing.
The tone at the top is so critical. Jenn Hyman who’s one of the younger power moms that I interviewed who is the CEO and Cofounder of Rent the Runway put in a fairly generous family leave policy and family benefits, extended it from salary to hourly workers in 2018, but then noticed that relatively few new dads were taking advantage of it, even though it was fully paid. When her chief technology officer who’s a guy and a direct report was about to become a new dad, she insisted that he takes the full paid leave and make sure everybody in the company knows about it. She said, “After he did that which was 2017, every single new dad in the company started following suit.”
It’s interesting to see the impact that it has on men as far as staying home. I had a woman boss when I was in mortgage lending. Her husband stayed home with the kids. It was fascinating to me because I thought she would be more empathetic at that time to the kids. She had three. She was one of my favorite bosses I’ve ever had. Around 6:00 at night, sometimes she would say, “We’re going to do a power hour and stay an extra couple of hours or an hour and do all these extra sales.” She had this guy at home watching her kids. She ended up getting divorced later. It showed her how hard it was. Maybe it’s the reverse that men don’t have that situation where they’ve been home. Once they’ve had it, do you think that we’re going to have more empathetic people after this COVID situation?
That’s already happening. What is disturbing, some of the surveys have shown, is that while dads have been stepping up to the plate and doing more of the household chores whether it’s laundry, dishes, or cooking, they’re not stepping up to the plate on the childcare, homeschooling side as much. When you survey the men, they think they are doing a lot more on both sides of the equation. When you survey the mom, they think it’s not as much as he says he’s doing.
We’re back to perception. You’re basing it on what your expectations are, what your experiences were as a kid, what you’ve seen your parents do, and what you’ve seen other people do. Men are probably doing the same thing. They’re basing it on what they grew up with and what their friends are doing. It’s a challenging time. What do you think was the most a-ha thing you got out of this Power Moms book? Was there anything that surprised you? What do you think people will find the most fascinating about it?
The thing that surprised me the most was how many of the women I interviewed either cried or choked up while I was talking to them. I cannot remember a single woman reacting that way when I was doing Earning It. I was so focused on the career side of the equation where this was very focused on personal decisions to get married, try and get pregnant, try and figure out a way to advance in their careers, have kids, and also life crises. There’s a very powerful chapter called Power Over Pain. The fact that these women were willing to not only open up and speak completely on the record, because that was my criteria, but speak on the record about some personal developments. I found that very touching, impressive, and makes it a more powerful book.
What I was pleasantly surprised to see was how far that younger generation of moms have come. They’ve done it because they believed they have earned their right to be committed parents and to be women committed to their careers. Hopefully, they read my first book and that inspired them, or they simply had role models that were women who were in senior-level positions and who also had children who they could not only emulate but they could turn to as sponsors. The importance of having a supportive workplace made a big difference. The importance of picking the right life partner who understood and was committed to the same kinds of co-parenting and sharing of life’s tribulations as well as joys, and making sure that you had mentors and sponsors who are guys because they’re still in charge.
As you’re saying, that made me think of my niece. She has young kids. She’s a Millennial. It’s interesting to see how good of a mother she is. I also see how much help she surrounds herself with. She gets nannies but not where they’re only with the nanny but she has a nanny who’s traveling with her or doing things. I thought, “I would have loved that.” It was something that would have never occurred to me at that time. First of all, I couldn’t have afforded it in my mind. They’re finding ways to pay for things that I didn’t even consider in younger generations. Are you seeing some of that?
Absolutely. There’s good coverage, particularly the issue of traveling for business which hopefully we will all go back to doing at some point. Where there isn’t a nanny in the picture, some of these younger executive moms persuaded their own mother, who’s their child or children’s grandmother, or in some cases their father, to come along on the business trips. That worked out frankly well for this one IBM executive. How old are your daughters, by the way?
One is 35. Another one is almost 34. It’s been a while.
Does either one has kids?
My oldest one does not. My youngest one is getting married this 2021 so no grandchildren yet. My niece is like a daughter to me. She has a seven and a five-year-old. I feel like a grandmother sometimes being around with kids. She’s so great with them. She inspires me. She works full-time. Now, with COVID, she’s home working with the kids. She had to deal with a lot of issues. She still has no problem doing it. The strength she has is inspiring to me. I was very young when I had my kids. It seems so overwhelming at that time. From my generation, if your husband made more or couldn’t move, you couldn’t move. There was this mental sense of that with me. First of all, if he’s making ten times more money than I am, we’re going to stay wherever he works. I always think it’s interesting how women were able to handle that they made more and did more. They became more of the decision because of their job being more powerful. What was that like for men?
In numerous instances in both generations, the man in the house, the dad did decide to become a stay-at-home parent. Often, it was something that he proposed doing. It made all the difference in the world in women’s ability to advance in their careers. At the same time, it did require them, particularly for some of the Boomer moms, to rethink their micromanaging tendencies, accept the fact that he wasn’t going to be the perfect parent or perfect housekeeper, and let things go. In one case, the power mom comes back from a business trip and he’s a stay-at-home dad. One of her kids asked her to get something for a snack for her from the refrigerator. She opened the refrigerator and there was no food in there. This was early on in him being a stay-at-home dad. Before that, they had always had a full-time nanny before they had moved to this new location where he chose to give up his career. She went ballistic and said, “If you’re going to do this, you got to do it. I don’t care whether you cook every night or not, but you got to have some food in the house.”
It’s got to be hard. You think your biggest regrets are the things that were hard when you look back. I had remarried when my kids were very young. I remember they were probably 8, 10 years old. Going on my honeymoon was a big deal for me to leave my ex-husband. When I came back, I can remember my daughter getting off the bus and I saw her coming towards me. It was the first time I’m going to see her when I came back from this honeymoon. I was like, “What is she wearing on her head? Is that a hat?” I noticed she has a knot the size of a football coming out of the back because he didn’t brush her hair. Those kinds of things, you look back and go, “What are you thinking?” I was fortunate that my ex and everybody, we all celebrated Father’s Day together. Everybody got along great. You look back and go, “That was a problem.” I ended up having to cut half of her hair out of the back of her head. It was such a huge knot. We laugh about it now. It’s hard not to micromanage. I’m back to that when you said the woman wants to micromanage to some extent sometimes. How do you get over that?
You do it by accepting the fact that, number one, you’re not perfect. Number two, this is a partnership. You have to let go. That is another difference between the generations. These younger women not only have it as an expectation from the outset of getting into a long-term relationship that it will be a partnership, but they set that as table stakes. They also accept this notion that whatever he does or however he does it, she’s not going to criticize it. In one case, the CEO of the startup realizes that he’s dressing their toddler in mismatched socks before dropping him off at daycare. She used to say, “Boo.” She also said, “He knew from the moment that we decided to get married that I was never going to do his laundry. If he wanted clean clothes, he was going to have to wash his own clothes.”Parents need to prepare their children to follow their dreams, embrace their passions, and make it possible in whatever way they can. Click To Tweet
Weren’t some of them had to have divorces and different things? What impact did that have on them being able to trailblaze a good executive mother and all that?
It’s difficult to be a single parent, irrespective of your economic status. Women who are working hourly minimum wage jobs have a much greater struggle than women who are in executive roles. Andrea Jung, who I spoke about earlier, when she became CEO of Avon for twelve years during that entire time, she was a single mom with two kids. On the other hand, she had the financial resources to have child care when she needed it. It didn’t make it any easier. There was another great example where this woman gets divorced when her daughter was fairly young.
The daughter has to eat by herself every night with the meal prepared by the child care provider because the mom gets home too late. Talk about cats in the cradle. Fast forward, the daughter is now living at home again because she makes too little money at her job to afford her own apartment. She’s back living in the same apartment she grew up with her mom. She, herself, the daughter gets home too late from her job, to the point when I interviewed her, for her mom to have dinner with her so her mom has already gone to bed. Full circle.
My need is to want to be home. As you said that, my mom used to always blame that she was a latchkey kid. She had to go home during the day with her key and no one is home. She didn’t like being that way. I was a pharmaceutical rep when my kids were young which meant when they went on the bus, I was home. When they got off the bus, I was home. They didn’t know I worked because of the hours you can keep in a job like that. I waited until they were sixteen and driving before I took a job that required that I work when they could have been home and know I was working. Did you find that there were any of them that you interviewed had regrets that they did become successful? Would they have done it over again, would they rather stay at home?
I don’t think I met a single woman for this book who were executive mothers who regretted that they had had a career or had chosen to not stay home. A number of them had regrets about having missed important moments. That was the working mother guilt that we were talking about. Some of them also understood why their now young adult daughters didn’t want to be them but I don’t think any young adult wants to be mom or dad. We all want to be our own person, irrespective of what it is that mom or dad wanted.
One of those ways in which my mother criticized me is my mom was a teacher. When I was pregnant with our son, she said to me, “Now, you’re going to become a teacher.” I was like, “Why? I’m a journalist.” She said, “Because you’ll have summers off and be able to be with your baby.” I said, “It would be great to have summers off and be with the baby, but I don’t like teaching.” I tried it one summer when I was a teenager. I ran a day camp for four-year-olds. One of whom was my sister. I had a blazing headache at the end of every morning session. I was like, “Get that out of my system.” My mom did not approve of the fact that I chose to go back to work full-time I’m sure.
Parents will try to give their kids guidance. I remember when my daughter went to school, she spoke so many languages. I said, “You should consider a Global Business degree. You’re a natural with all those languages.” She took a class in Business and called me crying, “It was the worst thing ever, mom. I hate it.” I was like, “Don’t do it. It was just a suggestion.” She wanted to do something that she loved. That’s what I wanted her to do. As a parent, you sometimes give suggestions without realizing that you put them in a position where they think that they should do that.
As parents, we need to prepare our sons and daughters to follow their dreams, embrace their passions, make it happen, make it possible in whatever way we can, step back, and let them fly out of the nest.
She was so much happier getting a Portuguese degree. I was like, “Perfect.” I was wanting her to be happy. As mothers, we come up with all of these stresses and things that we worry about. This is a great book for people who wanted to hear some stories of how it turns out well for these kids to have a good perception of their mothers. We’re also hard on ourselves. It’s important to read books like this. A lot of people who are reading want to know how they can find the book, find you, and learn more. Is there some site you could share?
I would love it if people would go to my website which is JoannLublin.com. If they order a copy of the hardbound version of the book and would be kind enough to email me their snail mail address, I will send them a personalized autographed bookplate.
What’s a bookplate?
It’s what you do when you can’t autograph books in person because of a pandemic. It’s a sticker that has a peel-off back. In my case, the sticker has the design of the cover on it.
I need to get those. That’s a great idea. I haven’t been doing that.
I did an event for the book where they promised all the attendees at this Zoom dialogue that I had. Anybody who came would get a personalized autographed bookplate. I had no idea how many would show up. Afterwards, they said, “We’re going to send you an Excel spreadsheet with 220 names on it.”
Get used to writing your name.
I haven’t got it yet because I have to order more bookplates.
It’s going to do well. The last one was a huge success. I’m sure this one will be as well. It was so nice having you on the show, Joann. Thank you so much for being my guest.
It was very enjoyable talking to you as well. Diane, if you would like one of those personalized autographed bookplates, just send me a mailing address and you’ll get one too.
I will do that.
I like to thank Joann for being my guest. We get many great guests on the show. If you’ve missed any past episodes, please go to DrDianeHamilton.com. I hope you join us for the next episode of Take The Lead Radio.
- Earning It: Hard-Won Lessons from Trailblazing Women at the Top of the Business World
- Power Moms: How Executive Mothers Navigate Work and Life
- Kare Anderson – Previous episode
About Joann Lublin
Joann S. Lublin was management news editor for The Wall Street Journal, working with reporters in the U.S. and abroad, until she retired in April 2018. She continues to speak about leadership, executive women, and other management issues. She created the Journal’s career advice column in 1993 and kept writing its “Your Executive Career” column until May 2020. She shared its Pulitzer Prize in 2003 for stories about corporate scandals. She is the author of the popular 2016 book, EARNING IT: Hard-Won Lessons from Trailblazing Women at the Top of the Business World. She won the 2018 Lifetime Achievement from the Loeb Awards, the highest accolade in business journalism. She earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism with honors from Northwestern University and a master’s degree in communications from Stanford University. She lives in Dresher, Pennsylvania. Her latest book is Power Moms: How Executive Mothers Navigate Work and Life.
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