When she was a childless woman in her 20s, Katharine Zaleski admits that she treated working mothers with disdain. Writing in Fortune, Zaleski reels off a list of misdeeds from her days as a manager at the Huffington Post and the Washington Post. Example: "I secretly rolled my eyes at a mother who couldn’t make it to last minute drinks with me and my team," and, "I didn’t disagree when another female editor said we should hurry up and fire another woman before she 'got pregnant.'" It's not pretty, and Zaleski today is offering an apology. She didn't realize how awful she had been until having a child of her own—how she was perpetuating a workplace culture that revolves "around how men bond" and failing to recognize the unique strengths of working mothers.
"I wish I had known five years ago, as a young, childless manager, that mothers are the people you need on your team," she writes. "There’s a saying that 'if you want something done then ask a busy person to do it.' That’s exactly why I like working with mothers now." Want someone to provide an honest deadline and meet it? Ask a mom who needs to pick up a child from school or get home to make dinner. It's small-minded to measure productivity by hours logged at the office instead of the actual work that gets done, writes Zaleski, who has co-founded a company called PowerToFly that matches women in tech with jobs they can do from home. She hopes young, single women in the workplace don't repeat her mistakes. "They're hurting their future selves." Click for the full column. (Read more women's issues stories.)