Talk Family Planning in the Workplace?

Despite a few family-friendly policies in the workplace, women still torture themselves over the work/family balance.  To change that, Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s high profile, controversial COO, says that companies must open the door to discussions of family planning. Problem is, both women and companies are too terrified to raise the subject because it’s thought to be against the law.  However, while it’s illegal to discriminate against parents or expectant mothers, it is not against the law to DISCUSS when and if women are planning to start families.

I couldn’t agree more. I was recently invited to a dinner of top entertainment industry executives (all male, all 1%-ers). Astonishingly, and against Hollywood custom, each man was still married to the “original wife” many decades later.  As the conversation evolved, all the women at the table, including me, realized that we had quit OUR high-paying executive jobs when we had children. Each of us said that yes, we could have kept our jobs if we wanted to, but if we lived up to the job descriptions, beginning each day with a breakfast meeting, rolling home after 8 or 9pm after that all-crucial drinks meeting, and reading scripts and books all weekend, we basically would not even know our kids.  As I sat there, I wondered how much female talent, brilliance, and skill has been sacrificed because there is still no viable way to manage having a child and having a high-powered career?  Are we holding back progress by “outlawing” the conversation in the workplace?

Luckily, I had always wanted to write and saw leaving the business side of things as an opportunity to pursue that, which has proven rewarding in every way.  On the other hand, if I, like the rest of the women at the table, had wanted to keep rising in that career AND have a family, a conversation about how my employer and myself might strategize to help me along that path would have made all the difference in the world.

Here is Sandberg’s argument, published in an interview in the Huffington Post  As always, I welcome your thoughts, dear reader: