Overthrowing the Patriarchy — Episode #023 With Sarah Lacy of Chairman Mom
40% of American households believe that it is bad for society if mothers work.
Because sexism is a global phenomenon, you might believe this statistic to be universal as well—but it just isn’t. In fact, this kind of maternal bias against women in the workplace is a strictly American phenomenon. Diverse cultures from deeply feminist Iceland to ‘one-child policy’ China simply do not have stay-at-home moms.
Today Sarah explains how this staggering statistic manifests itself in our culture, from the wage gap to maternity leave policy to overt sexism on the job. I ask her about the need to dismantle the patriarchy and her experience of maternal bias in the workplace.
She shares her journey from ‘cool girl’ sexism denier to fierce feminist, explaining how becoming a mother allowed her to find her power as a woman and gave her the confidence to start her own business. Listen in as we discuss the way that calling out bad behavior is shifting the world of work and how to go about changing the narrative of the young, single, working mother, who is also a fierce startup founder.
The Startup Parent Podcast — Episode #168
Quotes from this episode:
- I thought because sexism was universal, this bias that mothers are weak and disabled and should just be baby machines that a lot of our country believes would also be a global, universal thing—and it’s not. It’s a very American thing, which is why we are the only country that doesn’t give women maternity rights.
- When you talk to people who feel this lack of agency or economic anxiety in our country … what they’re describing is for the first time in their life not getting preference and how disorienting that is for a lot of men.
- It’s this idea that all these men who’ve succeeded in a place like Silicon Valley believed that it was a meritocracy—and it was a meritocracy against other white men—and they believed this, and so then they believed that they were exceptional. It’s like telling people that they actually weren’t exceptional.
- [Dismantling the patriarchy] is so important: That we could actually live in a world where feeling exceptional and society deeming you exceptional wouldn’t have to do with your gender or race. I just think that has to be a net good for everybody.
- “It is sacrificing the lives and rights of other people if you feel like your needs are getting taken care of. And there’s 30% of this country that is just okay with that.
- I had amazing pregnancies, and I felt like a superhero. I just was in awe that this whole time this body that I resented and hated so much and felt so much shame over … was able to produce life and just knew what to do. I feel like I fell in love with being a woman for the first time during that pregnancy.
- When I became a mother, strength was no longer about pent-up male sexual aggression. Strength was about loving something so much that you can destroy anything in front of you in order to protect that thing. That’s so much more exciting and exhilarating and powerful for me.
- [As a mother] you just develop such an internal core of right and wrong and important and not important. And if you can withstand your children, who cares about anything else.
- The more you change the makeup of who’s writing the checks, the more you can change the pattern of who’s getting funded, and then you can change the pattern of who’s in this 5% who’s driving 95% of the returns.
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You’re not insane, you’re not wrong, you’re not broken, and you’re not a terrible parent or a terrible worker if you’re having a hard time getting work done while also sustaining the full-time job of caring for a baby. Taking care of a baby is a huge job, one that requires the work of multiple adults. But instead, we ask women to do it all, without help or support, and then to work additional jobs on top of the round-the-clock work of childcare. It’s impossible.
Growing up, James Breakwell never had to think about what jobs he wasn’t allowed to pursue. That changed when he had kids. As the father of four girls — one of whom recently said she wants to be a construction worker, and another who asked if she could be the Pope — he’s had to put himself in the shoes of the females surrounding him at home. As an author and internet personality behind the popular Twitter account @XplodingUnicorn, James is best known for his viral tweets depicting hilarious snippets of conversations with his daughters. In this interview with our first startup dad, he gets real about how he navigates building a public persona based on his family life — including how much to share and what to withhold.
We need your leadership from where you are—as you are. We’ve known for a long time that we need much more diverse leadership, that we need women’s leadership, and that we need new models of power. As Elizabeth Lesser says, we need to embrace “power to,” not just “power over.” We need truth telling, and we need new visions. We need you, your work, and your brave new thinking. We need you to show up. We need you to be who you really are, not what an archaic model of power and “leadership” tells you to be. Take care, take the rest you need, take action, and show up. Even and especially as you are.
School is back in session, and parents everywhere are fatigued, overwhelmed, and still in the lurch. Workplaces are less and less forgiving, and yet the problems created by the pandemic are still here. What’s a working parent to do? Last week, Lions + Tigers gathered a panel to talk about specific steps parents can take to strategically plan ahead for the coming year. I hosted a conversation with Brea Starmer, founder of Lions+Tigers, Shauna Causey of Weekdays, and Blessing Adesiyan of Mother Honestly.
Sarah K Peck
Founder, Startup Parent
Sarah Peck is a writer, startup advisor, and yoga teacher based in New York City. She’s the founder and executive director of Startup Parent, a media company documenting the stories of women’s leadership across work and family. She hosts the weekly Startup Parent Podcast and Let's Talk, her second podcast. Previously, she worked at Y Combinator backed One Month, Inc, a company that teaches people to code in 30 days, and before that she was a writing and communications consultant.
She’s a 20-time All-American swimmer who successfully swam the Escape from Alcatraz nine separate times, once wearing only a swim cap and goggles to raise $33k for charity: water. She’s written for more than 75 different web publications and and has delivered speeches and workshops at Penn, UVA, Berkeley, Harvard, Craft & Commerce, WDS, and more.