Earlier this week, we reported on the 92nd Street Y event where New York magazine co-founder Milton Glaser attributed the low number of high-profile female designers to the fact that women who have children and stay at home with them are less visible professionally.
First, some clarification (for The NY Times’ Tom Zeller, Jr. ): the comment came during the Q&A session following lectures by Glaser, Chip Kidd and Dave Eggers. An audience member asked why there are so few female rock-star designers.
Here is Glaser’s complete response (per our taped version):
I think there's a real reason for it and I don't think it's structural. The reason is that women get pregnant, have children, go home and take care of their children and those essential years that men are building their careers and becoming visible are basically denied to women who choose to be at home.
I don’t know how to overcome this issue because there is no substitute for a mother raising her child and I think mothers suffer because of this if their objective is to have a big career because in the middle of the time when they should be building their career, being in the world and being visible, they are at home taking care of the kid. Unless something very dramatic happens to the nature of the human experience, then it’s never going to change.
The real question is why have they not ascended to the privileged areas that men do and I do think, fundamentally, it’s because the opportunity for this is denied because they’ve made a choice in their life about having a family and raising that family. There are all kinds of ways of working around that issue, day care and nannys, [but] none of them are good solutions.
No one can deny that women who choose to stay at home with their children are making a decision that inevitably extracts time from building their careers - and that it's a decision many mothers wholeheartedly embrace. But Glaser’s comments hit a nerve because it brings back the not-so-age-old argument regarding child-rearing.
Of course, there’s no such thing as a mother substitute. But it’s the “either/or” construction that frazzles us over here at Gothamist. Sure, men have similar pressures: if they want to spend more time with their families, then they may suffer climbing-the-corporate-ladder consequences. Partner-track lawyers, for example, don't expect to be home for family dinners five nights - or even one night - a week.
But the pressures are so much more poignant for women who, yes, play a certain role in the human experience. Big career vs. big family. Stay-at-home Mom vs. Work-outside-the-home Mom. Tea Lounge sing-alongs vs. Midtown power breakfasts.
Eggers voiced the alternative, a half-time arrangement between spouses. Of course, his wife is a novelist, a job description that requires long bouts of alone (not cubicle) office time. That said, because of the arrangement, it means that being a mom isn’t the sacrifice it could be if there were no arrangement at all.
Glaser's comments are off-putting because they ignore the women who establish their careers before they have children, the women who don't have children, the women who have husbands like Eggers who share child-care responsibilities and the women who think day care and nannies are adequate solutions (even if others disagree).
They also neatly sidestep the less-pervasive-but-still-existing reality of being high-profile and female in many professions. Hint: it's still not exactly the norm.
Um, we better go get some Advil now.
In 1987 (!) film Baby Boom, Diane Keaton's JC Wiatt had to leave the corporate rat race and escape to Vermont (though she did become an entrepreneur). Today, as portrayed in Desperate Housewives, Felicity Huffman's Lynette Scavo leaves her high-powered job to raise her kids (which sort of looks like it sucked), but then goes back to work as hilarious as well as realistic antics ensue