Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Deborah Gillis on Judging Working Mothers

There's a pair of op-eds today in the Globe & Mail about the female MPP whose testimony was discounted because she was commuting to Toronto, "leaving her husband and child" behind, and was therefore somehow too distracted or busy to keep a coherent thought in her head.

Don't even bother with Blatchford's - you already know what she thinks.

As Canadian VP of Catalyst, a non-profit organization devoted to promoting women in business, I wasn't surprised to see that Halton's new Liberal candidate was asked her opinion on this case. I was, however, a little puzzled by Sarah Hampson's attitude towards Gillis' comments.

Of course, some say that advancement has arrived and that such talk of discrimination is counter-productive. “What we need to do is clear our heads of old notions and really celebrate the contribution that working mothers make to Canadian business,” says Deborah Gillis, vice-president, North America, and Toronto head of Catalyst, a leading non-profit advocacy group for the advancement of women in the workplace. They do not reflect the changing face of Canadian business, she says, in which women, including working mothers, are critical employees.

Ms. Gillis is all rah-rah, of course, because it is Catalyst's job to work in close partnership with companies to create family-friendly environments in the so-called “war for talent.” Conveniently, she doesn't mention that the only reason an organization such as Catalyst exists is because it is trying to fix a problem. Presumably, if family-friendly work environments existed, we wouldn't be trying to create them.

Huh? Maybe I'm reading it wrong, but as far as I can tell all Gillis was saying was that such attitudes are no longer universal in the real business world, and that ignoring the progress that has been made can mire us in past perceptions. I'm not sure why Hampson found that so egregious, but I would be interested in what else Gillis had to say beyond that one brief quote.

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