Whenever I meet any of my mom’s old co-workers, I have a funny experience. Their eyes light up and they get a gigantic smile on their face.
I remember you when you were a baby!
When my mom, a research scientist who got her Ph.D. in 1975, got pregnant, no one knew what to do about it — there was no maternity leave policy, because they’d never had a woman who got pregnant and wanted to come back.
My mom used to carry me around her lab as an infant while preparing here assays. She set up a crib in her office.
In many ways, my mom was lucky — the nature of her research allowed her to have me around when I was really young. That said, I was in infant daycare at 6 months old. In fact, I recently had dinner with another kid in that infant daycare whose mom was a professor. We were reminiscing about childhood — about her calling me “Ca” because she couldn’t say my name and about the tiny bread her mom used to make grilled cheese sandwiches out of. (For the record, we are well-adjusted, socially adept, successful adults)
When we had school off for national holidays, especially the less common ones — Columbus Day, Martin Luther King Day, Casmir Pulaski Day, etc — my sister and I often spent the day at one of my parents workplaces. (I know you are jealous that you didn’t get Casmir Pulaski Day off!) I have fond memories of hospital cafeterias from spending time at my Dad’s work. While my husband was in the hospital recently, I discovered these latent memories and an instinctual aptitude in navigating hospital hallways with their colored stripes and winding ways.
I still remember one time when my friend Kadima came to work with me and my mom, because her single, police officer dad had to work. We had some good times doing Mariah Carey impressions in the med school classrooms.
Later on, when my grandmother, who had Parkinson’s disease for 30 years, needed more care, the family moved her near us. It was a wonderful and upsetting experience to spend a lot of time with my grandmother at the end of her life. She was an amazing women who, after being told by her father that girls couldn’t be lawyers, got her Ph.D. at 55.
At Write/Speak/Code we know that if we really want to empower existing women engineers, we need to acknowledge the reality of our lives. The fact is that the time when women have the greatest opportunity for visibility and leadership, they are also most likely to be starting a family. Women (and marginalized groups in general) are more likely to be caregivers — for children or other adult family members. Ignoring these facts would directly contradict the mission of Write/Speak/Code – we cannot increase the visibility and leadership of woman software developers without accomodating the needs of mothers and caregivers.
While we would love to have more resources (people and financial) to support mothers and women caregivers, we are doing what we can now. That is:
- offering childcare at all our workshops and conferences
- offering a scholarship for mothers and caregivers to attend the Write/Speak/Code annual conference.