In 2013, Marisa Velez Kraxberger was hired as Ivanka Trump’s creative director to work on, among others things, the launch of Ivanka’s #WomenWhoWork campaign. Kraxberger, two months pregnant at the time, was so excited about the job that she agreed to put off discussions about maternity leave until later on. She soon learned that in Ivanka’s corporate feminist worldview, supporting working women and denying them maternity leave were entirely compatible.
Kraxberger explained the story earlier this week on Facebook:
When I first interviewed with Ivanka I was 2 months pregnant, she called to offer me a job, which I was at the time very excited about, and when I asked about maternity leave she said she would have to think about it, that at Trump they don’t offer maternity leave and that she went back to work just a week after having her first child. I somehow was dumb enough to accept the job after agreeing upon having the discussion further down the road about how we would handle the time after my baby was born. Our team—the ones who created #WomenWhoWork and the ones who the hashtag really stood for—fought long and hard to get her to finally agree to 8 weeks paid maternity leave.
She goes on to share her frustration about what has become of the #WomenWhoWork campaign, which was conceived to “to inspire and encourage women to work at all aspects of their lives and live the lives they wanted to live.” But Kraxberger says that Ivanka has made the platform “all about herself … and now it’s being dragged along side of this man who could potentially be the face of our country.” Like most women, Kraxberger is terrified of human blazar Donald Trump and the radioactive misogyny he emits. She ends the post by calling for all women “to rise and have a voice against this man and all that he stands for.”
On Tuesday, a brand spokesperson from Ivanka Trump responded to Kraxberger, calling the former employee’s story a “mischaracterization of how our company developed its industry leading culture and benefits package,” but failing to explain what exactly was false in Kraxberger’s account. We learn only that that the brand “spent a considerable amount of time in the early days of building our business developing a unique corporate culture and engaged in meaningful dialogue about the benefits that would be most impactful to the people working at Ivanka Trump.” The spokesperson added, “In addition to paid leave, we also offer all employees flexible work schedules and unlimited vacation and sick days.” It’s not easy decoding corporate jargon, but it certainly sounds like they are admitting that they decided to launch #WomenWhoWork before offering a paid leave policy. What remains unknown is how receptive the management was to requests from their employees for a policy.
There are two ways to interpret Ivanka’s evolution from someone who allegedly didn’t offer maternity leave and myopically dismissed it as unnecessary to someone who who touted a universal, and government-funded, maternal leave policy to a national audience. It might have been pure political calculation, a way to diffuse her father’s abject sexism without alienating much of his voter base. (According to an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll taken earlier this year, 72 percent of all Americans support universal paid leave.) The fact that she didn’t hesitate to don a Ivanka Trump-branded dress, designed and distributed by a company that doesn’t offer paid maternity leave, while giving a speech at the Republican National Convention in favor of paid maternity leave, supports this theory.
Alternative read: Perhaps Ivanka’s experience running a business changed her. Maybe she’s not so much a hypocrite, but a realist who came to understand, by way of firsthand experience, that the private sector can’t be relied on for paid leave. If she, self-proclaimed champion of working women, couldn’t see why it was necessary, then surely countless other executives wouldn’t be able to either. Such cynical and solipsistic revelations are exactly what one would expect from a Trump.
Ultimately, whatever it was that motivated Ivanka to change her tune doesn’t really matter. We’ve got a Republican presidential nominee with a child care and maternity leave platform, and it’s being met with relatively little controversy. (To be fair, Trump keeps us all well distracted.) In a short amount of time the conversation surrounding paid leave has evolved from if to when, so much so that these issues are now being seen as politically advantageous to a man whose political persona can be summed up as “pussy-grabbing.” It’s not overly optimistic to believe that, in the near future, women like Kraxberger will be guaranteed paid leave by the federal government and will never again have to hear their bosses coldly explain that they don’t offer a policy and, anyway, a week off worked fine for them.