Apology or advertisement? One man’s P.O.V.

screen-shot-2014-11-27-at-3-20-22-pmPowerToFly President Katharine Zaleski’s self-confessional piece in Fortune has caused quite the stir among men and women alike. Titled, “I’m sorry to all the mothers I worked with,” the article is a mea culpa for the author’s horrific treatment of working moms in the earlier part of her career. It’s also a redemption tale that shares Zaleski’s epiphany after becoming a mom herself. Last, but certainly not least, the final third of her column which, many believe, reads like a blatant advertisement for the author’s company has set off a firestorm of protest.

Before I weigh-in with my evaluation of the article, I want to go on record as saying I’ve never doubted the abilities, capabilities and commitment of the working moms at my firm. That’s because I’ve experienced them first-hand. Not only do our working moms balance their jobs and responsibilities flawlessly, many have risen to assume very senior positions. I believe that speaks for itself.

And, yet, I must admit a pocket of antediluvian thinking remains. Not too long ago, for example, a working mother at another firm told me she was leaving at 5:30 in order to arrive home in time to take her son to a doctor’s appointment. As she passed the office of a senior male executive, he asked: “Half day?” She was understandably upset since, in addition to taking her son to an appointment, she’d be editing three proposals that night. But, she let it pass.

While there are always exceptions to any rule, I believe working moms (and dads for that matter) should be afforded the same respect, pay and professional courtesy as their single peers. As for Zaleski’s column, it’s nothing more than a heavy-handed attempt to suck in sympathetic readers and then hit them over the head with a hard sell. I’d call her devious and deceptive, but Zaleski’s motives are too obvious to even deserve those left-handed compliments.

8 thoughts on “Apology or advertisement? One man’s P.O.V.

  1. I really enjoyed this post. The egocentrism that Zaleski displayed with her coworkers is the same trait that makes it okay in her mind to push product under the guise of an apology. Her actions do a disservice to the mothers and fathers and employers who are trying to manage work and family needs.

  2. I had insomnia and looked at some of the comments and Twitter feedback early this AM. Much of the feedback was negative, which made me feel better about humanity.

    But many posts that were obviously planted to cheerlead Ms. Zaleski. The use of the word \”manifesto\” showed up several times along with comparisons to Sheryl Sandberg. She\’s also been on \”Today Show.\” Methinks Ms.Zaleski is using social media controversy to angle herself a publishing deal.

  3. Steve, I agree, it’s one big ad. The other thing that stood out for me was that she seems to have been a leader who lacked any empathy for her employees or co-workers. It wasn’t until she became one that she understood the challenges of being a working mom/parent. For this she wants a halo? And I agree, this feels more like a marketing initiative than a true acknowledgement of her previous errors.

  4. Thanks Jackie. I agree with you. A person either does or doesn’t want to work hard and succeed. Period.

    And, Peter, I have to agree with you. As would Elaine Bolle of WU fame. She’s adored you ever since that memorable overhead slide presentation of yours.

  5. I\’m the father of a toddler who hasn\’t worked on Tuesdays and Thursdays for 3 years to take care of her. It\’s the finest and best work of my life, even better than what I did when RepMan supervised me on the Western Union account.

    I\’ve grown from this experience and learned toughness and leadership in new ways. That includes handling comments that might cripple other men, like \”it\’s so nice that you babysit.\”

    I know that comes from ignorance. Where Zaleski comes from is arrogance. She probably sees this self-serving Me-Me-Me opus as \”self-awareness.\” She certainly makes assumptions about others. I\’ll cut her some slack, as that\’s a tough habit to break. But isn\’t part of business sensibility being able to read and understand people? I don\’t see that here.

  6. Great post Steve! It’s a shame that some people, Zaleski included still make assumptions about people based on their personal situations. I’ve managed working mothers who were horrible performers and those that are fantastic. I’ve managed single people, married people with no kids, men, women, older people, younger people and lots of other combinations of employees. In my experience, people who are talented, smart, hardworking and passionate excel whether they are parents, married, commuters, green, blue or purple. People are either do-ers or not. They either want to roll up their sleeves and put in the time and effort that it takes, or not. Their personal situations and status are irrelevant.

    The one thing Zaleski and I agree upon is that if you want something done, you should ask a business person.