For proof that you never know how you're going to meet people who will change your perspective... Meghan commented on an article I was reading about helping new mothers transition back into work and I responded. I asked if she'd be willing to share her thoughts on Livlyhood and here we are!
Her experience led her to consultant tech companies in diversity and inclusivity practices to help ALL of their employees thrive.
Tell us a little about yourself and your career
Hi, my name is Meghan and I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. I’m married, a mother of a six-year-old, and a stepmom to two adult boys. I’m a business strategist and marketer who specializes in tech. About two years ago I broke out on my own and started consulting. So far, my engagements have allowed me to work from home and consulting gives me flexibility, so I get more of a say in creating my schedule. While I’m busy with my work, I am pivoting to diversity and inclusion work as this is my true passion.
How does your community of women you surround yourself with support you?
I work a lot and very hard yet I’m sometimes able to go on school field trips and volunteer. Working this way can be really confusing to others. Some (most) mistake me as a stay-at-home mom. My closest friends get it and they support me through lightly checking in during working hours. I sneak away for daytime walks or coffee when I can. I make it a priority to get together with friends and laugh a lot - it’s selfcare. I don’t know what I’d do without my crew.
Why is inclusion and diversity important to you?
Diversity and inclusion work affects me personally. After I had my son, I went back to my product marketing job at a large tech company. It was named in Fortune’s “Best Companies to Work For,” yet my environment didn’t feel welcoming; in fact, in some ways it felt hostile. I don’t blame the company, as much as our society’s culture. For example, my manager was new and wasn’t trained well. He curiously asked me if women sleep in the breast pumping room at our office. That was a smack in the face. And the reality was that the room was the size of a small closet (too small) and one could only reserve a 20-minute room session. The sessions inevitably overlapped. So, imagine how humiliating it was to be taking off my blouse in front of a colleague that I’ve never met, or barely knew. Also, as a new mom I was working harder than most employees, pumping while typing/ doing work and going on fewer hours of sleep than most. I was also once asked not to pump before a meeting as a colleague wanted to prep for a presentation with me.
The point is that I felt like I wasn’t getting my basic needs met by this company, “a best place to work,” yet the company (and many others like it in Silicon Valley) somehow still managed to create spacious areas for video games, foosball, and adequate budget for lavish parties. It was clear that catering to the “bros” was a priority. The specific bros that tech companies care about are the software engineers, of course. My female software engineer friends also weren’t nearly as happy as their male counterparts. This is proven by the fact that they drop out at a higher rate in the industry overall.Because of the “death by 1000 cuts” situations like the ones I experienced, a lot of women give up and leave work. There are a lot of depressing statistics about this.
So, I took action! In 2013 I dove in and started reading, writing, attending events, talking with a lot of people, and eventually evolved my passion to fight for all types of people who might not otherwise feel included. Being a woman is my entry point to diversity; the breast pumping rooms versus foosball is just one tiny example of lop-sidedness, but the point is that it is really about creating a diverse and equitable workplace for all. I believe that when a workplace is inclusive, then more people with valuable perspectives will be retained and thrive. This will result in a healthier and more profitable business.
A shameless plug: a friend, Karen Catlin, has a book coming out this month called Better Allies. It’s about how to be a better ally and create an inclusive workplace. In it she refreshingly created language to explain some of the “death by 1000 cuts” situations.
What do you wish you could go back and tell your younger self re: your career aspirations?
I have no regrets about career aspirations, but I wish I would’ve proposed a job share post maternity leave or left sooner to start consulting. I didn’t have the courage to do either at the time. This would have worked better for me and I could have possibly planted seeds or paved the way better for others around me.
What is your career-related mantra?
Do your best and forget the rest. That is a line from a kid’s cartoon that my son watches! But it’s so true, and wise. I think it our family’s mantra for life.