I am a high-powered businesslady and I’d like to give you, a lady who hopes to someday be high-powered and rich like moi, some advice. You didn’t ask for my advice, you say? Well, you’re the one languidly flipping through my book in the waiting room of your psychiatrist’s office, so listen up, apprentice — ahem — apprentess.
It’s hard to be a female executive — and I don’t just mean on the ankles! Heels, ha. We’re all wearing them. And you know why we’re wearing them? Because there is nothing wrong with conforming to the male standard of beauty — especially if it means that you can get yourself a house in the Hamptons, a pallet of royal-purple pencil skirts, and a lifetime membership to FoalCycle (that’s the secret, invite-only version of SoulCycle where, midway through class, your stationary bike is replaced by a live horse). Don’t you want those things? Or are you happy with a life of split ends and packing your kids’ lunches yourself?
That’s what I thought.
Let me start by telling you a little bit about myself, but let’s get my so-called “inherited wealth” out of the way. You can’t spell privilege without “I,” but you also can’t spell it without “live.” So, hey, why not leave my privilege out of this. As Tidal founder Shawn Carter once said, “Can I live?”
I’m a mother of three darling children — Shunt, Lissy, and Noble. When I was pregnant with Shunt, my oldest (he loves pureed chickpeas!), I was concerned that stepping away from my role as an executive at the Major Company was going to ruin my chances of becoming the big-time executive at the Even More Major Company. But when I watched my nanny feed little Shunt his pureed chickpeas for breakfast every morning, I realized that I didn’t have to worry — I could go back to work literally whenever I wanted. I slipped out of my house heels and put my work heels back on.
But then, only a month after Shunt was born, I got pregnant again. Daryl, my husband, begged me to just stay at home, to give up on my dreams. I considered it, especially when he hid my car keys, but I didn’t strap on a Dior pussy hat and mingle with commoners at the parade of unkempt women, or whatever that was, to prove my point. I knew that I was right — my place was in the boardroom, and my job was to do … stuff in the boardroom, negotiating, being a leader, you know what I mean. Deals. I told my nannies I would need to lean on them — in order to lean in at the office. They, of course, understood.
Back at work, with my visibly pregnant belly, I faced two options: either be up-front about what was growing inside of me, or wear a waist trainer. For six months, I chose the latter, but at some point, I knew I had to tell my staff what was going on. “I have to take the next two or three years off work,” I explained to Nina, my assistant. She bristled. After all, my company’s paid maternity-leave policy is strict — it only applies to me.
I hate to say it, but that’s the nature of business. I know for a fact that my executive staff, one of whom is a woman, looks up to me and appreciates the decisions I’ve made on their behalf. I even let Nina bring her screaming infant to work three days after she gave birth. And when it puked on my heels, I didn’t get angry. (A woman is supposed to be kind and nurturing in the office, not hotheaded! Remember that!) Instead, I sent out a company-wide memo banning children from the office and made Nina give me her (ugly) shoes. Once again, that’s business. As much as it goes against your loving, caring, kind, docile, beautiful, but also hot nature, sometimes you have to be the bad guy. Spring for a same-day delivery of green juices for the whole office once in a while. They’ll forget about your momentary cruelty in a heartbeat.
When I returned to work three or four years later, after giving birth to my dear Lissy and Noble, I found the building empty — no employees, no furniture, no espresso machine. A note left at the front reception said the lease ran out and nobody was paying, which seems crazy since all I ever did was give my employees minimum wage! That penthouse space overlooking Central Park wasn’t cheap — not to mention all that espresso. Clearly, nobody working for me has any idea how much espresso costs. Well, I guess they didn’t grow up drinking it at cafés in Italy, like I did.
This is an important lesson for you, a future female executive, to remember. In the corporate world, everyone is looking out for themselves, all the way down to the lady cleaning your toilet. But when you are the boss, you are entitled to ask your employees to look out for you first. The benefits they will ask for — paid maternity leave, affordable child care, vacation time, health care, birth-control coverage, freedom from discrimination, paid overtime — will always seem completely unreasonable. (After all, you never had to ask for those things.) This is why you should be the one to try them out first. Bring your kid to work. Take a few weeks sojourn in St. Lucia. Hire a third or fourth nanny. Then you can really know if your workers deserve those things, too. Now that’s good business.
I know this has been a lot to digest, so I’ll leave you with this: My dad always said, “Money begets more money.” Ladies — now it’s your turn. Go beget that money™.