What I Learned About the Gender Gap From One Zoom Call
While at a virtual scientific conference earlier this month, something endearing occurred. A neuroscientist accepting an award delivered his lecture via teleconference with his two young daughters playing in the background. Though he was clearly distracted, he delivered his entire presentation, even with them laughing, screaming, and trying to talk to him. At the end, the girls yelled, “Yay Daddy! Are you done now?”
In that moment, I was smiling. I thought, “How wonderful to see a dad willing to show himself so vulnerable.” Weeks later, I thought how I would never do such a thing — have a Zoom call, let alone give a presentation, with my two daughters in the background. And then I realized that over the same time period, I had been on Zoom calls with several dads introducing their kids, but not a single mom doing so. It’s anecdotal for sure, but why dads and not moms?
I believe it’s one of many gender gaps that persist in everyday culture — something I take for granted and even joke about with my husband, like when he used to get “oohs and aahs” bringing our baby daughter to the grocery store with many offers of help. I got no such treatment! These gaps, while seemingly trivial, get to the heart of the reality many women have lived through, and one that’s become even painfully more evident for me in hearing and reading so many stories from other women over time.
When men show off their kids at work, it’s a sign of strength that they can balance both; but I fear that for women, it’s still seen as a weakness.
Throughout my career, I have often taken care to separate my professional life from my personal one. Especially after having children, I did not want my peers or clients to see me as a mom first; I wanted them to see me as a writer, a consultant, a business owner. In recent years — and especially now with everyone getting more real during the pandemic with work from home — that approach has blurred, but it remains an insecurity. I suspect other women may feel the same way. When men show their kids at work, it’s a sign of strength that they can balance both; but I fear that for…