By Nara Schoenberg Chicago Tribune
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Andie Kramer, co-author, with her husband, Alton B. Harris, of the new book, "Breaking Through Bias: Communication Techniques for Women to Succeed at Work" says waving the mom flag at work remains a risky strategy.
Have you heard the news? Hillary Clinton is a mom.
Her supporters hit that point hard at last week's Democratic National Convention, with President Barack Obama celebrating Clinton as "a mother and a grandmother who would do anything to help our children thrive" and Michelle Obama championing her as a mother-in-chief who has shown a "lifelong devotion to our nation's children, not just her own daughter ... but every child who needs a champion."
It's enough to make a working mom put a dozen baby photos on her desk and tell her boss that she's leaving early for a pediatrician's appointment, but don't let all the high-profile mom-love fool you, says Andie Kramer, a partner at the law firm McDermott Will & Emery and co-chair of the firm's gender diversity committee. For most of us, waving the mom flag at work remains a risky strategy.
"You're not Hillary. I'm not Hillary. She's a very special case," says Kramer, co-author, with her husband, Alton B. Harris, of the new book, "Breaking Through Bias: Communication Techniques for Women to Succeed at Work."
To understand why, you have to look to American gender stereotypes, Kramer says. On the one hand, we tend to believe that a good mother is available to her kids 24/7 and thus, almost by definition, is an inferior worker. On the other hand, if a mother shows competence and commitment at work, she's viewed as a bad mother and therefore deeply unlikable.
"What Al and I do in our book is we call this the Goldilocks Dilemma." Kramer says. "If a woman is seen as too hard, they don't like her. And if she's too soft, why would you have her on your team? She's nice to have around, but you're not going to promote her. So what she has to do is find the middle of the road, that applies to most women."
For those of us who haven't, say, served as secretary of state, that would mean exercising a little discretion in the motherhood department.
You might tell colleagues you'll be unavailable at 3 p.m., as opposed to saying you have a pediatrician's appointment for a sick child, Kramer says. Or you might tell a colleague who calls you at home that you'll be available in an hour, rather than saying you're feeding your twin newborns.
Among the indications that moms aren't treated equally at work: Michelle Budig, a sociology professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, found that when men become fathers, their pay increases, while women experience a 4 percent drop in wages with each child.
Clinton is the rare woman who is not suspected of being "too soft," so it makes sense for her supporters to highlight her maternal credentials, Kramer says.
"I would say Hillary Clinton is unique and different in a number of ways, and the first is that she is so enormously competent that she falls into the 'too hard, unlikable' (stereotype)," Kramer says.
"And it turns out that the stereotypes about being 'too hard' include 'untrustworthy' and 'only out for yourself' _ almost all the answers (we hear) to, 'Why don't you like Hillary Clinton?'"