I spoke to a friend the other day and she was expressing her immediate frustrations with her company, you might call it venting. She was recently on a conference call and the other participants happened to be only male. Throughout the call she noticed a child screaming in the background and, it wasn't until she received a call from her boss a few hours later, that she realized how disappointed she was in the company. They automatically attributed the screaming child to the only female on the call and her boss was calling to let her know how unprofessional it is to have a screaming child in the background. Just to be clear: she has a teenager. Two to be exact.
Did you know that statistics show women are 1.5x more likely to be interrupted by children than their fathers? As women work to maneuver this new life of zoom meetings, online schooling, full time at home moms, dads, and kids, we need to recognize the efforts parents are putting in to ensure some life of normalcy both in the workplace and home life. As a result of these experiences at work and the difficulties managing homeschooling, almost 2 million women in America are thinking of quitting their jobs. When companies talk about how crucial it is to have diverse minds at the table, then they need to do whatever is in their power to not jeopardize the loss of so many females in the workforce. They need to figure out a way to work with these women so that they stay. But part of that is on us.
I tell women, professionals, anyone who will listen, to speak up for themselves. If you are on a call with the CEO and your child is screaming, what is more important to you? First and foremost you are a person with needs, a wife, a mom, and then a professional and you shouldn't have to apologize for that. Simply express what you need in the moment: "Excuse me, I need to step away from the computer for a minute to see if my child is alright. I'll be right back." If this means that you have to define a unique schedule that allows you to be both with your children and complete your work sans interruptions, express those needs to your boss. I repeat, you are a person with needs. If you don't express those needs then you are only hurting yourself.
In my blog yesterday, I talked about companies practicing what they preach. I meant that both in their benefits and beyond. Because of Covid19, we live in a consistent world of irregularity and uncertainty, trying to do our best to stay healthy, be happy, and live a relatively normal life. When companies (or bosses) aren't understanding that sometimes a child will scream in the background, interrupt their mom/dad during a conference call to ask for the car keys, or just want to sit on their parent's lap, then we aren't doing everything we can as employers to ease this transition for our employees. No woman, no person, should ever have to apologize for having needs outside of work. These types of interruptions are not unprofessional, it's life.
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