Damned if You Do, Damned If You Don’t

Sun, December 9, 2007


Workplace discrimination against women, especially those with any sort of care-giving responsibilities, can be subtle.

But sometimes it’s so obvious, all you can do is shake your head like Scooby-Doo and say, “RUH??”

That’s what lawyer Alyson Kirleis found herself confronted with as a shareholder in a Pittsburgh law firm. But instead of seeing her firm responsibilities grow as as one of the firm’s owners, they started to shrink — partly because she says her more senior male counterparts thought she was spending too much time at the office and not enough time taking care of her two children.

You heard me.

Kirleis’ colleagues — her business partners — told her, as she claims in her lawsuit against the firm for discrimination, that her priorities were skewed because “women whose priorities were straight were those who relinquished their status as shareholders in the firm and who worked part-time … to be able to spend more time with their husbands and children.”

As if it’s not bad enough that women are getting passed up for promotions and high quality work when it’s perceived that their parental obligations somehow intrude on office time, now one woman lawyer believes she’s being treated unfairly because she’s spending too much time developing her law practice.

I don’t know about you, but I think this goes way past discrimination and is just a trip back into the dark ages. The thing that makes this particular case odd is that Kirleis isn’t just an employee who gets a salary — she’s one of the owners of the law firm and has worked for this firm for close to 20 years.

So, if you’d given your professional blood, sweat and tears to the same firm or company or boss for your prime professional development years, and they cut back on your opportunities because they thought you were a bad mother, what would you do?

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7 Responses to “Damned if You Do, Damned If You Don’t”

  1. Jen K Says:

    I’m stunned on a daily basis by the rank entitlement some people seem to have when it comes to dispensing child-rearing/child-baring/child-anything advice. To then take it to into the boardroom?! I weep for our enlightened “Super Nanny” culture.

  2. Becky Says:

    Wow. You’re right. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

  3. PT-LawMom Says:

    I had read this before and it rankled me hard! It also made me think about the times I have judged women for Blackberrying on the birthing table and returning to work four days after. I think that although the crazy work pressure needs to be brought down several notches for all of us, we also need to step back and realize that women know what’s best for them, their family and their careers. Just as we want to be supported in our choices regarding time with our families, so too should we be supported in our choice to dedicate time to our careers. I think this lawsuit is very eye-opening.

  4. Julie Pippert Says:

    They what? Cut back her work load to force her to go home and be a “better” mother?

    I am stunned speechless.

    Amen to PT-lawmom. Support in choice of home and the choice of work.

    Using My Words

  5. KaritaG Says:

    It’s everywhere…I recently left a law firm to take a higher-paying position elsewhere and that’s what I told my former boss when I submitted my resignation. I was shocked when I was chastised a few days later by a higher-up for “hurting my bosses feelings” and advised that I should have said I was leaving so that I could have a child…which isn’t true. I highly doubt that anyone would ever advise a male attorney to say they were quitting to raise children as opposed to taking a higher salary elsewhere.

  6. Magpie Says:

    Damn. That rather makes my head explode.

  7. Lawyer Mama Says:

    Pardon my language but, Oh my dear FUCKING God!

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