Sarah Lacy’s A Uterus is a Feature, Not a Bug is an engrossing commentary on the professional challenges of being a woman, especially a mother, and especially in the tech industry.
She really got my attention with this one line:
Women getting run out of tech matters, because it’s where so much of the wealth creation and opportunity in the economy is right now.
This the rallying cry in my financial-planning firm. This is why I focus on working with women in tech. Tech is where the money is. It’s where the opportunities are. It’s where the power and influence are.
And if you are thoughtful and intentional and probably, yes, a bit lucky, you can translate your work in tech into serious financial strength. And once you have financial strength, you are in much more control of your life.
In a bad living situation? You have the money to move.
In a bad relationship? You have the money to leave it.
Is your boss harassing you or making it difficult for you to advance? You have the money to quit your job.
Do you have a great idea for a business? You have the money to go without a paycheck while you start your own company.
Do you want to stay at home with a baby for a while? You have the money to go without your income for a bit.
Money isn’t a panacea. I know that. There are other considerations—personal, professional—in all these decisions. And certainly Sarah Lacy’s own story is a testament to that: at one point she had to have bodyguards because she was targeting big and powerful tech companies with her journalism, they were retaliating, and she feared for her and her family’s safety.
But to be able to remove financial constraints from all these decisions…how wonderful would that be?
Ms. Lacy’s story and observations largely simply reaffirmed beliefs and practices I already had. But then she made this eye-opening observation, which will change how I view my duty to my clients, and hopefully your focus as a woman in tech:
Rights for women in America are falling more and more into the hands of states or private corporations. Individual companies are offering some of the best parental benefits anywhere in the world, even covering egg freezing in some cases.
(And that specific example she gave is one a client of mine is dealing with right now! Her company just started offering that exact benefit…and it’s keeping her at that company longer than she otherwise would have stayed.)
But if you don’t work at Facebook or don’t work in San Francisco, that trend doesn’t help you much….There’s little hope that rights for parents and mothers will become decoupled from employment anytime soon.
There’s obviously a dreadfully depressing interpretation for that observation, for the majority of women not living in cities like San Francisco or working for companies like Facebook or other tech giants with good benefits.
If you do happen to work in tech, however, then my more helpful interpretation is:
When you’re looking for a new job, pay as much attention to where you job takes you and the employee benefits it offers, as you do to the job itself, and your salary and equity compensation.
Let’s say you are pregnant. If you work at Company A, you get 12 weeks of job-protected, unpaid leave (because the federal government requires it, through the Family and Medical Leave Act).
You better make sure your emergency fund is pretty robust, to get you through 3 months of no income. And you don’t have much time to recover from birth and bond with your baby before you need to start preparing to return to work. As a one-time mother of two newborns, let me just say, three months isn’t enough to recover your equilibrium. I needed a full year the first time around!
If you work at Company B, however, your company would give you 18 weeks of paid leave at about 100% of your take-home pay, with an additional four weeks of leave before your due date. This is, in fact, what Google offers as part of its standard benefits package.
That’s an extra 6 weeks to recover, bond, and prepare to return to work. And you wouldn’t have to worry about money during that time either (well, at least you wouldn’t have to worry about current income…). Becoming a mother upends your life dramatically enough all by itself, without having to worry about paying the mortgage at the same time.
Now, of course, this still isn’t the kind of support you’d get in Iceland (whose pro-women’s laws and culture Sarah Lacy teaches us all about) or various Nordic and Western European countries, but it’s about the best you’re going to get in this country.
And it’s all available to you as a member of the tech community. So choose well!
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Disclaimer: This article is provided for general information and illustration purposes only. Nothing contained in the material constitutes tax advice, a recommendation for purchase or sale of any security, or investment advisory services. I encourage you to consult a financial planner, accountant, and/or legal counsel for advice specific to your situation. Reproduction of this material is prohibited without written permission from Meg Bartelt, and all rights are reserved. Read the full Disclaimer.