A Baby Shouldn’t Derail Your Career

23 Jul

The title seems like an obvious statement, but there are actually a lot of complications that starting a family can have on your career. Many businesses do not go out of their way to help new parents succeed as employees and moms, and that puts a lot of additional stress on women who are already going through one of the more stressful periods of their lives. Childcare, especially for children under two, is extremely hard to come by and can end up costing a fortune just to allow you to work your regular job. People having been asking me recently how I believe that problem should be addressed, and I recently sat down with Gwen Morgan of FastCompany to discuss how we at Palo Alto Software deal with the issue. The answer: family-friendly policies that allow kids in the workplace so that you never have to choose between your family and your career!

Here’s a preview of my interview with Fast Company, and you can read the full article here!

“At Eugene, Oregon-based Palo Alto Software, a company that develops business planning and other business-focused software, every day is Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day. CEO Sabrina Parsons, who has led the company since 2007, is a staunch advocate of family-friendly policies and is trying to help her employees and others in the tech sector deal with the fact that people have babies. Taking care of them shouldn’t derail your career.

Parsons says that the juggling work and parenting is tough for all parents, but the physical and societal demands placed on women hold particular challenges. From getting pregnant and giving birth to the disparity in many caregiving situations, she says parenting puts women’s careers at risk more than men’s.

“You’re in the prime of your career with all of this experience, when you get mommy-tracked. They get ‘concerned’ that you can’t do your job. That’s a huge reason why we’re not seeing women in leadership roles across Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 companies and in politics,” she says.”

If you’re still interested in learning more about Palo Alto’s policies on family, I discussed more details with Natalie Matthews of Elle here


Why Don’t We Ever Wonder if Men Can Have it All?

23 Jul

Recently, I have been lucky, happy and proud to feel like my support of working moms is getting recognized and my message is getting spread more widely.

I was lucky enough to not only be invited to the White House Summit on Working Families, but also to have a small speaking role, introducing the STEM panel, and having the opportunity to tell my story about how I came to understand that corporate culture needs to change in order to help more women succeed and thrive.

My story is pretty simple. I never set out to crusade for working moms and to change corporate culture. I wish I had that mission, but to be honest it all happened when I became a working mom, and was lucky enough to be able to call my own shots.

Before I had kids I assumed I would always “do it all.” I always knew I would have kids, career and that I wouldn’t skip a beat. I never even thought about whether it would be hard or doable. I just knew I would do it.

Then my son was born. I had not been able to find a daycare that I liked — or so I told myself. In reality I just could not bring myself to leave my new baby anywhere. It wasn’t only about not wanting to leave him, it was a physical reaction. As I’ve heard described by other new moms, it was a visceral reaction. I simply could not leave him at home. But I was not going to stop going to work or veer away from my career. So I just brought him with me. I was in the position at my company to make the calls, I just decided to “have it all.” Continue working, and have my new baby with me.

Then baby boy number two came, and I did the same thing. I made it work. My babies loved being in a sling and practicing attachment parenting while working worked for me. My babies didn’t fuss as long as they were in the sling and nursing on demand.

And as I was just doing what I needed to do to be a mom and continue to excel in my career, more and more women would comment on what I was doing. More and more people would be amazed, jealous, impressed, shocked, horrified. And really at the end of the day, what got me writing, talking and wanting to join the cause to help women succeed, help women get in leadership roles and fight against women being “mommy tracked” was not the women who supported me, but the people who criticized me. It was those who wanted to perpetuate the idea that women belonged only as the primary caregivers of kids, and that no woman could have kids and excel in her career. In an early USA Today article I appeared in, a commenter said: “There is no such thing a mom who is also a CEO. Stop playing CEO and go back to being a mom, back to where you belong.”

Continue reading the full article on the Huffington Post!

Female Tech CEO: Most Workplaces Today Still Look Like ‘Mad Men’

26 Mar

Think we’ve moved far beyond the blatant gender discrimination portrayed in “Mad Men?” Think again. It’s just not out in the open anymore.


In his State of the Union address in January, President Obama said he believes it’s time we moved beyond workplace norms that belong in a “Mad Men” episode. The AMC series, with its arrogant, womanizing lead character Don Draper, is known for authentically depicting gender disparities in the workplace in the 1960s. The women in the show serve as secretaries, both literally and figuratively, to the ad men of Madison Avenue. They are punished for questioning the men in charge and are, for the most part, powerless in both their careers and marriages.

While I commend Obama’s support for gender equality, I couldn’t help but wonder how in 2014 we’re still aspiring to move beyond “Mad Men”? Shouldn’t we aspire to more?

The truth is modern workplaces aren’t so different from the fictional offices of Sterling Cooper & Partners. Today, all employers claim that women and men are equal in their eyes, yet women are consistently paid 82 cents on the dollar compared to men for doing the same work.

Women receive nearly 60% of college degrees but hold only 14.6% of executive leadership positions and just 4.6% of CEO roles at America’s largest public companies. And in fact, a study conducted by Sociometrics Solutions found that, when quantifiable, women are generally more productive than men but are promoted less often.

Why is this? Many argue that it’s because Corporate America is still designed by men, for men. Women are considered a liability if they become pregnant or have small children to care for, while men with children are viewed no differently than a man without.

Continue this article here.

Kids at Work? Why It Works and Helps Women (and Men!) Succeed

24 Jan

2014-01-23-20130809_pas_040Edit-thumbI recently wrote an article for Business Insider which has gotten a lot of attention, both good and bad. Since I have written about the topic before, many times, I have to admit that I was surprised to see the traction this article has received. I have been overwhelmed by the number of women, and yes, men who have reached out and thanked me for my article. It has been inspiring to see the my writing and the way I look at business as a working mom resonates with so many people. It has been a fun ride.

But, it has also been surprising to see the criticism from men and women alike on bringing kids into the office. Let me share an excerpt from a particularly critical comment on the article:

If you want to remain CEO, and have three small kids… but you don’t want to use day care all the time, because you want to raise them yourself, during the work day… then the answer is not that the rest of the office owes you “day care in your office,” as a matter of feminist liberty… Nor do they owe you an allowance of flexibility that provides you with free time that they do not get, and have not asked for…. flexibility which UNDOUBTEDLY makes you less effective in the office: Please explain to the rest of us who have small children how having them in your office with you, without a nanny, does not distract you from your work?

First, let me clarify that any privilege I get in the office, is extended to all employees, which I clearly state in the article. Second, this person has no knowledge of how my kids (or the kids of other employees) interact, behave, or exist in my office environment.

My belief is that you can accommodate kids occasionally (not as a daycare replacement) in order to create a different norm for all working parents. I am lucky and have the means to employ a full-time nanny. But, occasionally I need to be in the office later than my nanny can stay. So, she drops my kids off at the office at 4:45 when her work day ends, and they hang out in my office and read, do homework or quietly play computer games. By having a workplace that is welcoming towards children, I can get my work done, my older children can read and get their homework done, and all of us are together. The last time this happened, was in early December (just for reference for those who picture me dragging my children into the office everyday).

Read the rest of my article on The Huffington Post.

Female Tech CEO Says ‘Leaning In’ Isn’t The Answer

13 Dec

sabrina parsons hi resI am not your average CEO. I often bring my three young children to work with me, and I encourage my employees to do the same. As a business leader in the male-dominated technology field, I have created my own image of what a female CEO should look like.

In “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead,” Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg emphasizes that while women represent more than half of college graduates today, men still hold the vast majority of leadership positions in government and business. She argues that women hold themselves back in their careers and advises them on how to keep up with their male counterparts.

While I wholeheartedly agree with Sandberg’s argument that we need to continue to fight to decrease the gender gap in leadership roles in corporate America, I have some reservations about her overall strategy to accomplish it. Sandberg argues that women need to play into workplace norms, and play hard. She believes that women should accommodate the office culture and do whatever it takes to succeed at work — regardless of their personal lives.

I admire her tenacity, and admit that this strategy has worked very well for her. However, I believe there is a better way to approach the gender gap and advance women in leadership roles.

Working moms should support a new type of feminism. I greatly admire and respect the feminist movement of the 70’s and 80’s that changed the landscape for working women. These women worked tirelessly to help highlight how bad working conditions were for women and how much discrimination existed in the workplace. Without them, women wouldn’t have the rights they have today.

But what they worked so hard for manifested into women behaving like men in the office. Case in point, this is also the time that women’s power suits became popular, which were women-sized versions of the suits worn by men. To me, this epitomizes the changes we need to institute today to advance women in leadership.

Let’s get beyond acting like men in order to get ahead, and emphasize how our differences make us incredible assets.

You can read the rest of this article here on Business Insider.

We’ve Come A Long Way: Women in the Workplace

25 Oct


The situation for women in the workplace may seem bleak at times, but it’s improving. Rather than mentioning the oft-cited 77 cents statistic (which may not even be accurate), here’s a more inspiring number: the number of female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies has increased by 65 percent in just three years. This year, there are 22 female CEOs on the list across sectors, and it’s time we celebrate that.

Whether discussing equal pay, equal policies or empowerment, the dialogue about women in the workplace needs to take a more positive tone. While focusing on the work to be done can encourage progress, celebrating how far we’ve come while looking to the future has the dual effect of pushing for further advancement while inspiring others. Let’s celebrate progress without resting on our laurels. Here are three landmarks in the march toward equality.

June 10, 1963 – President Kennedy signs the equal pay act into law. At the time, women earned an average of 59 cents on the dollar compared with men. Today, the battle is far from over, but the Department of Labor continues to keep tabs on the amount earned by women each June on National Equal Pay Day.

1971 – Phillips v. Martin Marietta Corp. I tackled the issue of working dadslast month and how the phrase itself is almost an oxymoron. Few attach the label “working” to a the average father; it’s assumed that he’s employed outside the home. Ida Phillips found herself in the opposite situation over forty years ago. The Martin Marietta Corporation had a formal policy of not hiring mothers with preschool-age children because they were assumed to be unreliable, while fathers with children the same age were readily hired and promoted. While parents of either gender face a fair amount of discrimination, legally, the outlook for working mothers is much improved.

Read the rest of my article here on Forbes.

What About Working Dads?

4 Sep

As the mother to three boys and the CEO of a software company, I often stress the importance of balancing my work and home lives when I talk about being a working mom. I have frequently discussed the struggles that working moms face, but I haven’t yet touched on the struggles faced by a similar and equally important demographic: working dads.

5839014005_341491e809-300x253To some this may be appear to be an odd statement, because to suggest that a dad is a “working dad” is not news. Dads are expected to work, so much so that “working dad” isn’t a phrase that comes up in everyday conversation like “working mom” does. I believe that the lack of conversation about working dads is a social norm that needs to be changed. Just as gender roles for women have evolved, roles for men have changed too—fathers are now more involved with parenting than ever before, and they face many of the same struggles as mothers when it comes to balancing work and home lives.

According to a 2013 Pew Research study, the amount of paid work that mothers complete each week on average has almost tripled since 1965. But, as mothers increasingly work for pay, the number of hours spent by fathers completing household work and participating in family time has seen a comparable increase. The idea of being a “working dad” is becoming so much more common that roughly 50 percent of fathers surveyed for the Pew study said that they felt they have a difficult time balancing work and time with their families. This is a commonly discussed statistic for working moms; it should not be ignored when it applies to men.

The term “working mom” has a positive connotation in most circles. A working mom is strong, capable, organized—essentially a “wonder woman.” But while modern dads often partake in many of the same “working mom” activities—namely cooking, cleaning and parenting while also juggling a full-time job—they don’t receive the same respect from society. Men used to be praised as “involved” for partaking in an hour’s worth of child care or household duties a week. Today, working fathers deserve to be viewed just as honorably as their female counterparts.

Continue reading this article here.

Brilliant and Resilient: Projects With a Social Cause Are Good For Company Culture

13 Jul


As the CEO of a 50-person company, people and company culture are always at the top of my mind. The more our culture inspires people, the better work they do, and the more innovative they are. And over the years I’ve found that one thing that really improves our company culture is involvement in projects with a social mission.

Recently, a few employees and I began contributing to a great project that fits right into the culture here at Palo Alto Software.

Three months ago I was approached by Susan Sygall, the CEO of the non-profitMobility International (MIUSA), about a project she was trying to get off the ground. We both live in Eugene, Ore., and she had heard that I was interested in women and leadership, and thought I might be able to help her out. The project, a photography book called Brilliant And Resilient, features a collection of professional images of and personal stories from 50 women representing a variety of cultures, countries and disabilities, all alumni of MIUSA’s Women’s Institute on Leadership and Development program.

Continue reading this article on Forbes.

Marissa Meyer at Yahoo! Declares: Face Time Is The Key

4 Mar

This is an excerpt from an article I wrote and published on ForbesWoman. Last week an internal HR Yahoo! email from the head of HR about Yahoo!’s work at home policies and changes to that policy was leaked. Apparently Marissa Meyer is trying to whip the company back into shape and wants to reign in employees who have flexible working arrangements and work from home. Here is a excerpt from the HR email sent to Yahoo! employees

Beginning in June, we’re asking all employees with work-from-home arrangements to work in Yahoo! offices. If this impacts you, your management has already been in touch with next steps. And, for the rest of us who occasionally have to stay home for the cable guy, please use your best judgment in the spirit of collaboration. Being a Yahoo isn’t just about your day-to-day job, it is about the interactions and experiences that are only possible in our offices.

Employees at Yahoo! are upset, and feel like Ms. Meyer is changing employment terms that Yahoo! has previously agreed to. Many employees who work from home apparently would not have taken the job at Yahoo! had they not been allowed to work from home. According to the HR email, this is a new policy across the board for all employees. Period.

I get that Marissa has a tough job ahead of her. She is the 6th CEO in 5 years at Yahoo! The company is faltering and losing ground. The future of Yahoo! is anything but secure. Marissa has been seen by many to be Yahoo!’s last ditch effort to turn it around. Some people think that she may actually be the scapegoat for Yahoo!, a company well on its way down a death spiral. She has to act quickly. She needs to make some big changes. People are expecting her to get in and start moving the needle immediately.

Couple that with a few more facts to really understand the pressure she is facing:…

 Read the rest at ForbesWoman

Time Magazine Asks “Are You Mom Enough?” Every Mom Should Be Offended

13 May

From my post on ForbesWoman:

The latest Time Magazine cover is just too alluring not to write something about it. As a mother of 3 little boys, and a mother who breastfed all 3 of them until they were 18 months old, I can’t help but be drawn to the cover and at the same time be annoyed by it. The article surrounding the cover is all about Dr. Sears and his theories of attachment parenting. What bothers me though is that the mainstream thought is that only women who stay home can practice attachment parenting. Just recently I wrote an article rebutting  Elisabeth Badinter and her book about how modern motherhood undermines the status of women. The Time magazine cover bothers me in the same way.

The staff writer at TIME behind the cover article, Kate Pickert, is interviewed about her article,  and in her opinion the idea that  working moms can practice attachment parenting is not valid. Apparently Dr. Sears himself talks about how attachment parenting can be great for working moms because it allows them to be very physically close to their babies when they do come home from work. Pickert comments that working moms who try to co-sleep and breastfeed all through the night won’t be able to work the next day and won’t be able to actually perform their job duties.

I object. In the same way that I object to Elisabeth Badinter saying that this sort of “liberal” motherhood is anti-feminist  and is working against women seeking equality in their public lives.  For me attachment parenting (in my way of practicing it) has been wonderful. I brought my 3 boys into the office for the first 4 months of their lives. I wore them in a baby sling, and breastfed them on demand.

Read the rest of my article on ForbesWoman