In a new Fortune column, Katherine Zaleski's public confession and apology show how powerful women can be when we work together
Climbing to the top of the corporate ladder is hard, but when you're a woman, it's even tougher to move past the glass ceiling. And Katharine Zaleski, a former manager at The Huffington Post and The Washington Post, will be the first to tell you that she was willing to do whatever it took to be successful in her career—even if that meant stepping on the backs of other women.
In a controversial essay for Fortune magazine, Zaleski offers a public apology, explaining how she targeted other women, particularly mothers, on her race to the top. Among her many sins, she confesses to firing a woman "before she could get pregnant," scheduling late meeting and drinks after work to make women prove their loyalty to the company, undermining mothers in meetings, and generally assuming that women with kids couldn't be good workers.
But now she's seen the error of her ways and done a 180. Her apology was brought on by one tiny change: her own child. Having her daughter changed her perspective on everything. (Here's The Best Advice from Female Bosses.)
"I was now a woman with two choices: go back to work like before and never see my baby, or pull back on my hours and give up the career I’d built over the last 10 years. When I looked at my little girl, I knew I didn’t want her to feel trapped like me," Zaleski writes.
Suddenly confronted with the same choice that millions of other mothers face, she quickly realized not only how unfair she'd been in the past, but that other mothers could be her best allies. So she left her fancy corporate job to start PowerToFly, a company that helps women find positions where they can work at home via technology. Her goal now is to help women balance motherhood and their careers by redefining the "mommy track."
It's never easy to admit you're wrong, especially in such a public manner. And Zaleski is getting plenty of hate for her past actions. But we applaud her bravery in being so open and honest—and for making such a public apology. Her story, both the means she used against other women and now the company she started to help women, highlight the difficulties that many modern women face in their jobs. Sure, there are no easy answers, and there will always be guilt at the end of the day and worries about whether you made the right choice or not. But we love that she's trying to help women solve that problem. Women helping other women: that's what this is all about.