Careers In Social Work

I was five months pregnant with William when I woke one morning in a pool of blood. Convinced I was having a miscarriage, my husband, Bill, and I raced to the emergency room After much testing and analysis, we learned I wasn’t miscarrying. Turns out, I have a uterine anomaly that puts my pregnancies at risk for early delivery.

“I advise rest and a reduction of stress,” my doctor said.

Rest? Reduction of stress? I didn’t have time to rest and, frankly, I didn’t want to. Why would I? My career was on fire!

I’d worked almost non-stop since I was fourteen years old, when I talked my way into a job scooping ice cream at the local parlor in my hometown of Mill Valley, California. After that, I worked at a jewelry store piercing the ears of girls, women, and the occasional man. I managed a clothing store my senior year in high school and then waitressed throughout most of college. Put simply, from an early age work defined me.

In college, I majored in government, thinking I might become a lawyer like my father, but I soon discovered an interest in marketing and went to business school instead. After getting my MBA, I landed a coveted job on the brand management track at the Nestle Corporation. Back in the day, if you wanted a career in marketing, this was about as prestigious as it could get. My future glittered, and, as far as I was concerned, nothing was going to get in the way of my rise to the top.

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When I was coming of age in the 1980s, opportunities for women seemed wide open. The pill, which was introduced in 1960 and became ubiquitous in the 1970s, provided women with the first reliable and relatively affordable birth control. That meant my generation was the first to grow up knowing we would be able to choose when to have children, or if we were going to have them at all.

Then, major legislation between 1970 and 1978 changed what it meant to be a woman in our society. For the first time, we were assured equality in the classroom and on the sports field (Title IX), access to family planning (Title X), the ability to get our own credit without our husband’s approval (the Equal Credit Opportunity Act), and the security to know if we did get pregnant, we couldn’t be fired (the Pregnancy Discrimination Act). Add to that the legalization of birth control (1972) and the landmark Roe v. Wade case allowing abortions for unwanted pregnancies (1973), and you can well see why my generation of women thought we could do anything.

As at most colleges across the country in the mid-1980s, my graduating class was the first to have gender parity: 50 percent women and 50 percent men. With degrees in hand, we women stormed the corporate world, law offices, academia, and so much more. The glass ceiling was above us, but we believed we would be the ones to shatter it. Certainly our mothers told us we would. Nothing would stop us.

And then we had babies.

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