The XX Factor

If It’s Not a Money Maker, It’s Probably the Mommy Trap

Jess , I don’t think former Goldman Sachs executive Charlotte Hanna, once a vice president of “Goldman Sachs University” (an internal training program) is being punished for taking time off. I think she’s seeing the unfortunate result of a decision she made a long time ago. She’s suing the firm, claiming to have been “mommy tracked” and eventually fired after going part time after the birth of her first child, and then being told that her position had been eliminated while on maternity leave after the arrival of her second. But her first mistake was signing on with “Goldman Sachs University” in the first place-it’s the very definition of “mommy track.”

At any big entity-bank, law firm, hospital, business-there are revenue generators, and there are revenue hogs. Complex surgeries, scorched earth litigations, IPOs-the powerhouses in those areas are right at the core of their company’s business. They’re paid for it, and they pay for it, through long hours and remaining on constant call. Sliding off into training, recruiting, managing the legal library or the associate program is simply easier, especially if you’re a woman who’s also taking on the primary responsibility for running a family. And it’s so tempting-you’re still using your degree, you still get the high-profile employer, but without all the pain of sleeping under your desk during a big push. That is the mommy track (or the parent track): Supporting the firm’s mission without being constantly on call to directly make it happen. It’s win-win as long as the firm can support it. But it’s a perilous compromise.

The bottom line is that if your job isn’t your top priority, then you’re probably not your employer’s top priority, either. That’s fine. In fact, it’s true of most people, but it’s a bargain that depends on both parties accepting the basic premise. If your firm offers you a mommy track- and you take it -then suing when the luxury niche you’ve placed yourself in becomes unaffordable is only going to make employers less likely to create a haven for willing parents the next time around.

Photograph of businesswoman by Stockbyte/Getty Creative Images.