Wall Street's "Mommy Track" Is The Kiss Of Career DeathS

A reminder even contemplating how women would run Wall Street remains a pipe dream: A discrimination lawsuit has been filed against Goldman Sachs by a mother of two. But did she choose her fate? The reactions are instructive.

Charlotte Hanna alleges in her suit that after taking maternity leave in 2005, she was demoted, and that one week before her second maternity leave in 2009, she was told her position had been eliminated. Left out of most news accounts, but not Reuters', was this telling detail:

The complaint said 75 percent of those "selected for termination" in her group had recently taken maternity leave.

What was that group? Apparently, it was Goldman Sachs University, an "orientation program for new analysts, associates and summer interns." Hanna joined Goldman in 1998 through the associate program and was eventually promoted to vice president; later, according to Reuters, "She took advantage of a Goldman program letting her work part-time upon returning from her first maternity leave in February 2005."

It's hard to say without more details about Hanna's choices and motivations, but her story seems to contain within it some of the more difficult ambiguities of women advancing in the corporate world. And women who have been there have mixed reactions to the case. Take this commenter over at Wall Street Oasis:

Wall Street's "Mommy Track" Is The Kiss Of Career DeathS

Hanna's age at the time of her pregnancies hasn't been reported.

Bess Levin at Dealbreaker read the case in the context of Goldman Sachs' general callousness, adding that Hanna "a former employee who should know how this shit works."

A more thoughtful response in the same vein came from KJ Dell'Antonia, a "former Manhattan lawyer and prosecutor, parent of four" over at Slate's XX blog:

Her first mistake was signing on with "Goldman Sachs University" in the first place-it's the very definition of "mommy track."...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...

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.

But what is that haven for willing parents? If it's not flexible hours or a temporarily less rigorous position, than what is it? And when it comes to truly powerful or high-paying jobs, is it really all or nothing?

Ex-VP Sues Goldman Over Mommy Track [Reuters]
You Can Add Another Group To The List Of People Goldman Sachs Deems Second Class Citizens [Dealbreaker]
No Day Care At Goldman? [Wall Street Oasis]
If It's Not A Money Maker, It's Probably A Mommy Trap [Slate/XX]
You Can Add Another Group To The List Of People Goldman Sachs Deems Second Class Citizens [Dealbreaker]
Suit: Goldman 'Mommy-Tracked' Executive [WSJ]

Earlier: How Wall Street's Women Act Like Menstruating Women