Eight and a half Ways to Smash the Patriarchy Today – International Women’s Day!

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Help a sister out, and make sure you do at least one of these today. And if you can do it today, you can do it every day.

So,  perhaps we should all just agree to START today, if you haven’t already. Ladies – we salute you.

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1. Check yourself out in the mirror and give yourself a “helz YEAH!”. You don’t need validation from nobody but yourself lady! You are smokin’ hot AND awesome!

2. Don’t say sorry. You can apologise for a mistake you made, if you made it, and should genuinely express this, but NO MORE superfluous mutterings of penance! Find a new word, like “fudge” or “yep” to replace it.

2.5. Fix a printing press yourself and get a bunch o’ grease all over you *

3. Post a great feminist meme on social media. Make your own, or /share one, like we did! (hint: combine it with the heady thrill of nostalgia and you’re onto a shareable winner gurrl!)

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4. Write that sternly worded email/letter you’ve been wanting to send to that person who has stepped all over your self-worth and value. You know who they are.

5. Celebrate a woman who has inspired you. Give her a call, write her a note or shoot her a text. Let her know that she’s awesome and valued.

6. Pick up a piece of feminist literature to read. Go on, challenge yourself a bit. Or, if you’ve had one of those days where your brain needs a break from erry.damn.thing except Tay Tay and baby kitties, flick on a movie like “Sisters”, or “Bridesmaids” and have a laugh at some damned funny ladies doing their thing .

7. Identify a skill that you rely on a man to do, and set about learning how to do that thing. Srsly. Can’t change a tyre? Then ask someone to show you. Not sure about building your own deck? YouTube it. Goddamm just do it woman!

8. Read our blog. Oh no she didn’t! Yep. Shamelessly self-promote yourself ladies. To everyone. Not just to other “biz mommies”, or “boss lady chicks” – but to everyone, across the board. Learn your value, and own it.

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*this may be somewhat limited to those who own/run printing presses, however Amy did this today, so we felt it was important to include cos it’s bad-ass, thus giving it a half a point . Also, we wrote the damn piece. So there.

 

 

Cooperation Is Overrated

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I had a surprising moment of parental pride this morning at the school drop-off.

Hazel, my oldest, has just started Prep. Her brain is exploding with new ideas and discoveries. She already has her first crush (on a much older boy) and is enthusiastic and fearless about trying new things at school. She comes home each afternoon excitable and bursting with stories, which often can’t distinguished between fact and fiction, but also tired and emotional. These are trying times. She’s pushing boundaries. She’s finding her place, and challenging her place all at once. She watched the Labyrinth for the first time recently, and now we hear a lot of “It’s not fair!”

In fact, I’ve been a little worried lately about the extent of this defiance. I’m told it’s normal, a consequence of beginning a structured school routine, but the strain of arguing with a five-year-old over every little thing is taking its toll and making me nervous. Have I raised an entitled brat? To her credit, her defiance is almost always about her independence; wanting to make her own choices, challenging me when I say she can’t do something, or when I tell her to do something she doesn’t want to do (like tidying her room). And while we often have to remind her about selfishness, thoughtlessness and talking back to her parents, I can proudly say that I have never had to tell her off for being unkind or violent to another living soul.

Last night at the dinner table, she told us proudly that her teacher had given her two smiley face stickers. I asked what this meant, and she explained that there is a class Smiley Board and each time a student does something good, the teacher gives them a sticker to put next to their name on the board. Yesterday, she got two.

“What’s ‘doing something good’?” I asked her.

“Oh, you know. Tidying up. Being kind. Cooperating. Being quiet.”

Standard classroom behavioural things, other words. I thought no more of it. I was glad she did something kind or cooperative to earn two stickers. I was pretty sure it wouldn’t be for tidying up.

As I was leaving the classroom after school drop off this morning, I noticed the Smiley Board and took a look at Hazel’s progress. Scanning through the list it seemed almost half the class had a lot of smiley faces, and the other half had significantly less. Looking at each name, I realised that all of the ‘good’ students were girls. In fact, it seemed that every girl except one was way out in front of every boy in the class.

Every girl except Hazel.

Hazel was positioned just one smiley face behind the best-behaved boy in the class. A little smile crept onto my own face.

Don’t get me wrong, kindness is a major parental goal of mine and I feel pretty good about having taught Hazel kindness in all the right ways. She has an abundance of empathy, and is in the habit of comforting people when they are upset. She’s great with babies and younger children. She doesn’t say cruel things, and is genuinely baffled when others do (“Why would they say that, mum?”) But cooperating, being quiet, tidying up… those things are all great things, until they’re not great things. They’re great things when both boys and girls – perhaps more pertinently, men and women – are expected to do them and when they’re not taken for granted. But unfortunately, we still live in a world where women are expected to cooperate in support and men are expected to disrupt and leader. When women are leaders by nature, their lack of unconditional cooperation is considered aggressive, when men are supportive by nature they are are classed as weak. This is a big topic, much bigger than a paragraph in a blog post. It challenges so much of what we culturally consider to be feminine and masculine behaviour. It challenges what is acceptable in women, but undesirable in men – and vice versa. In spite of the huge progress feminism has made in recent years, here is a 2016 Prep classroom split right down the middle with cooperative little girls and less cooperative little boys (and Hazel). These are behaviours they learn through watching their peers and their role models. It will take time for all the little girls in the world to see women challenging the status quo so that they will learn to do it themselves. It will take time for all the little boys in the world to see more men cooperating and supporting others so that they will learn to do that, too. Without shame.

Knowing that I am her primary role model, I walked out of the class with a little spring in my step, recalling my days raising hell and eyebrows in mandatory Religious Studies class. Unquestioned cooperation has never been my idea of a good time. And long may it be so for Hazel.

Right after she tidies her room, FFS.

The Anarchy of the Anecdote

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We’ve all got one. A tale that ties us to the topic of discussion. We share them, often excitedly, with friends, colleagues, family and strangers (I personally love a stranger-delivered anecdote. Rarely substantiated or requested, but always delivered with fervor). But when these tasty morsels that people wait to desperately share find an audience on social media, and begin to be held up as reasons to question topical issues – well, that’s where the fun ends.

Take, for example, the debate on feminism and equality. Women’s rights, the gender disparity in the workforce, domestic violence against women – these are important social issues that are currently in the spotlight, and for good reason. Powerful pieces of writing and debate have been posted on personal blogs, news outlets and social media. Thought-provoking, exploratory long-form that hope to insight debate and encourage reform.

Unfortunately, within minutes of these pieces hitting the interwebs, in swarm the ol’ anecdotes. If you glance at the growing number of comments, any hope of intelligent debate all too often boils down to a game of “swap the anecdote”.

“I have two sisters and they have had the same opportunities as me and they chose to be stay-at-home mums”

“I have two sons and they respect women and I’ve always taught them to be considerate”

“My husband is the most amazing man in the world AND he cooks sometimes!”

Wow! That instantly negates everything I know about equality. That one guy cooks! Bugger it, maybe we should just give up this whole struggle! He makes PASTA guys!!

It’s important to understand these acecdotes exactly as they are: A singular personal story that, although holds meaning and power to the sharer, doesn’t actually lend itself to continuing or enriching an argument.

My particular fave is the constant, incessant, shouty stories coming from the #notallmen brigade, in defense of any issue that cites men as the majority in any crime or outcome. Clem Ford has them thrown at every piece she writes. Every issue, every statistic. It must be so damn tiring.

“But what about this woman on TV who also made a pass at some guy?! What about HER!!!?”

OMG, that’s awkward! How unprofessional – I hope someone worded her up on that. Thank you for giving me somewhere to hang my sexist hat and ignore the glaringly obvious cultural disparity and statistics around sexual harrassment in the workplace. If that one lady can do it – it must be happening EVERYWHERE. So. You know. Equality.

Yeah, Nah.

This is NOT the discussion we should be having. Your anecdote does not add to the debate. It distracts. It minimalises. It reduces. It does nothing to solve the issue.

Which is, when looking at the  statistics, glaringly obvious. For example, when it comes to assaults in family and domestic violence, there are:

  • Four times as many female victims (4,534) as male victims (1,157) in South Australia;
  • Four times as many female victims (3,482) as male victims (807) in the Northern Territory;
  • Three times as many female victims (10,648) as male victims (3,860) in Western Australia;
  • Three times as many female victims (465) as male victims (145) in Australian Capital Territory; and
  • Twice as many female victims (19,488) as male victims (9,261) in New South Wales.

That the ratio of female to male victims is only two to one in NSW might be surprising at first glance. But of those 9,261 male victims of assault, only 3,305 incidents involved a partner or an ex.*

But the expectation that with one story, we should sweep aside these horrific numbers and agree with “this guy”, shows pure ignorance.

So let’s all put our righteous anecdotes aside and look at these statistics, look at the research and findings from people that are qualified to present them, and figure out how to solve this problem together. Let’s not bicker or get distracted by one story that represents the small minority, and hold that up as an example. Let’s not get on our personal high-horse keyboard and yell our story to the masses. Understand that your story is part of a bigger picture that needs to be re-drawn, and pick up a pencil.

 

 

*Stats taken from the Business Insider 2015.

Give Peace A Chance

Breastfeeding in public is not a war zone.

Dear new mothers and expectant new mothers,

By now, you have probably been bombarded by the ‘breastfeeding in public’ debate. Facebook and their clever (evil?) algorithms will ensure you see these arguments because you are their target audience. You’re going to witness an online shit-fight (complete with staged ‘candid video evidence’) between well-meaning folk who want to EMPOWER you to breastfeed in public, and ignorant folk who want you to HAVE SOME DECORUM. It’s going to get messy. The ideologies, the flawed logic (“hot boobs are OK”) and the spelling may confound and possibly amuse you. You’d be forgiven for thinking that the 21st Century is a surprisingly hostile place to breastfeed. You’d be forgiven for thinking that to breastfeed in public is a political statement; an act of civil disobedience. Which is peculiar because it’s been a woman’s legal right to breastfeed publicly in Australia for over 30 years. Your mother may have actually breastfed you publicly. THAT’S how post-war we are on this topic. Maybe feeling like a rebel floats your boat and if so – rage on warrior, and all power to you, this post is not for you. But maybe (and I suspect this is many of us) you’re not a fan of conflict or political statements or disobedience. Particularly where your kids are concerned. Maybe seeing this online shit-fight will make you anxious or even refrain entirely from breastfeeding in public. I know it scared me and significantly hindered my experience in the early days.

So here’s a little nugget of truth for you.

Brace yourself.

Deep breath.

Here it is:

An overwhelming majority of people don’t care or even notice you breastfeeding in public. You’d be lucky if they look up from their smartphones or see you at all. There’s a moment at the beginning of a feed when, depending on your attire or posture, you may feel exposed because you are literally ‘exposed’ and if someone catches a glimpse of nipple in that moment, they generally look away or comically avoid eye contact. I breastfed both my babies in public, in all kinds of places, and these were the only three responses I ever got, in order of most common:

1. Didn’t even look/notice/register what I was doing.
2. Saw me breastfeeding, registered I was breastfeeding and did nothing to indicate whether they were for or against the situation.
3. Copped an eyeful and a) looked away embarrassed or b) smiled at me. Option b) were women who ‘knew’. Option a) were prudes and dudes.

The three things that never happened to me:

1. I was never asked by wait staff to breastfeed in the toilet.
2. I was never stared at with disgust.
3. I was never approached by a stranger and told that what I was doing was wrong or disgusting.

Do I think that vilifying public breastfeeding doesn’t exist at all? Hell no. There are douchecanoes hiding in all corners of the globe. But the truth is that these people are statistically insignificant cowards, afraid to say anything to your face and, chances are, they won’t. I’m not trying to minimise the real-life stories of women who have been personally shamed, but please know that these stories represent an incredibly tiny minority of the overall public breastfeeding experience. Don’t let the Facebook echo chamber hinder your efforts in those fragile early days of new motherhood.

Forget the fight exists, because in the real world it doesn’t. Don’t waste your energy thinking about it and definitely don’t be afraid of encountering detractors because it’s highly unlikely that you will. The boob-haters are far more comfortable airing their views on Facebook. Facebook is not where you are breastfeeding in public.

If you’re so inclined, get your tits out and don’t be scared. The overwhelmingly likely outcome is that nobody will notice, but those who notice won’t care, those who care won’t complain and those who complain are morons.

🍥🍥

Images courtesy of What Does Breastfeeding Look Like? An incredible Tumblr project by photographer Suzie Blake.

The Irresponsible Asshattery of the AFR

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There isn’t much one can meaningfully add to the shit storm of an argument surrounding Mark Latham’s latest opinion piece in the Australian Financial Review. But with a headline like “Why left feminists don’t like kids”, the agenda was clear: break the Internet, no matter the human cost.

Look, I could most certainly take Latham out in straight sets with logical rebuttal. I’d gain his trust by telling him I live in the suburbs rather than his purported inner-city hotbed of parental neglect. Then I’d call BS on his so-called idyllic parenting life – with its gourmet cooking (yawn) and native garden tending (ugh), it sounds like just the kind of mindless bullshit that would have me reaching for the Xanax. Luckily, unlike Mark, I’m not afflicted with the self-serving belief that how I choose to spend my days is how everyone should spend theirs. Next I’d point out that it’s pretty clear he’s never spent any time with women suffering post-natal depression. Indeed, I’m not entirely sure he even understands the dictionary definition. If he did, he may have discovered the cruel irony that post-natal depression highlights: in their pursuit to be good mothers, falling short is devastating. Then I’d go for the jugular by detailing my own personal experience in the matter; suffering depression and anxiety as a result of a miscarriage which, if anything, proves the actual opposite of Latham’s point. Far from the over-simplified accusation that depression somehow means that mothers don’t want the children they chose to have, mine came about as a result of losing a child that I wanted and had already begun to love. Further, my decision to seek help in the form of anti-depressants (which didn’t work for me, but are a perfectly viable option for others) was because of a ferocious maternal need to protect my 18 month old daughter. As her primary carer her welfare depended on me, an utterly terrifying notion while my mind faltered. Not bad for a left feminist, eh Mark?

But I won’t bother. Because Mark isn’t the problem. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a problem. But he’s not my problem, and he shouldn’t be yours. Although he was serious about his opinion piece, it wasn’t published to be taken seriously, but rather to present readers with a head-scratching rendition of What The Actual Fuck on WTF.fm. It flies so firmly in the face of common sense, and is so devoid of research that it verges on comedy. In fact, were it copied and pasted onto The Onion, no doubt we’d all be laughing about it. THAT’S how nonsensical it is. There have been many excellent and meaningful responses, but I think Em Rusciano puts it best when she says his argument is a ‘clusterfuck of asshattery’. And I’m inclined to agree, adding my clear definition of asshat to mean:

  • One who confuses their ‘opinions’ with ‘facts’ (a common complaint of those with an inflated sense of self-importance, but a underdeveloped sense of self-awareness);
  • One who is pathologically lacking in empathy;
  • One who is impervious to logical rebuttal; and
  • Will argue their point long after it has been proven moot.

So. Asshat he most certainly is. Based on the above, I’m sure you’ll find you know a few. To argue with them is pointless (see points 3 and 4). Latham will go to his grave believing the things he says are true and, this is the most important part, it should never affect any of us. Ever.

Because if you were to walk down your street and vox pop your neighbours, asking them about hot button issues like post-natal depression, feminism, refugees or the environment, you will discover that asshats exist. Ditto the Internet and most notably social media where they are commonly known as ‘Trolls’. Unlike Latham, most of them have never been in contention to govern Australia, and aren’t given a national stage on which to spurt their asshattery, but they exist. They wouldn’t go so far as to lobby for the banning of anti-depressants or for women to get back to their ironing boards. In fact, very few act upon their bizarre convictions except through meaningless vitriolic chit-chat. They vote – yes. But they can only vote for what’s presented to them. And though they exist in the world, they are flaccid and ineffectual when it comes to real action. Except when the media chooses to shine a torch on one of them for the purpose of being controversial.

Which brings me to the true villain of this entire debacle: The Australian Financial Review.

While Mark is arguing that feminists should do us all a favour and choose not to have children, and feminists are arguing that Mark should do us all a favour and choose to go to hell, one entity was faced with a very real, black and white choice: to publish an article of such offensive bile as to potentially alienate an already vulnerable group of people. Or to hand it back and say “Mark, you’ve been drinking the Kool-Aid.”

No doubt when Latham’s piece crossed the many desks it crossed, it was met with the salivating mouths of media wolves, desperate to make the masses click. It was the Fairfax equivalent of an oiled Kardashian derrière and its purpose was the same: to incite a virtual riot and make some very real cash.

And so rather than do the decent thing, and toss this piece of (albeit hilarious) ignorant trash in the reject pile, they hurled Mark Latham to the lionesses. And waited. On every left-leaning or just halfway decent internet media outlet, he was cut down. Does he care? No. Will he change? Absolutely not. So who wins, and more importantly, who loses?

The Australian Financial Review wins, of course. Considering online access to the article required subscriber sign-up, I’m sure subscriptions by the curious masses surged. Clicks are currency for online advertisers and they are worth their virtual weight in real gold. The AFR then washes their hands of all responsibility by blaming Mark in a follow-up opinion piece arguing how irresponsible his column was. If it was so irresponsible, where the hell were your editors whose actual job it is to take responsibility for content? Please don’t mistake this as sympathy for Latham (God no), but it’s a classic case of the puppeteer blaming the puppet. And getting squarely away with it.

Meanwhile, Mark gets his thick head pounded by a bunch of feminists but is probably right now working on his next column filled with even more privileged ignorant trash. The feminists get worked up for a few weeks before resuming their regular scheduled programming of fighting the good fight. And the real loser in this is the vulnerable sufferers of depression, and the already under-funded, overworked mental health organisations whose mission it is to eradicate attitudes like Latham’s. We won’t ever know whether there was a true human cost in this act of media terror, but I can say with certainty that PND is a grave issue that can, at its worst, end in suicide. Sometimes murder-suicide. Hey AFR, I’m not sure I’d be intentionally firing up a game of link-bait roulette when the cost might be the loss of innocent lives. But then, I’m just a selfish leftie feminist who doesn’t like kids so what the hell do I know?

So while the AFR is off collecting its winnings and Mark Latham is enjoying the sensation of his own head up his own ass, a mother somewhere throws her hands in the air and says “enough.”

*slow clap*

In Search of Silence

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I’m a nitpicker from way back.

Don’t get into a semantic argument with me. I love them more than I care to admit. Don’t use the word ‘literally’ if you really mean ‘metaphorically’. Unless you’re being ironic. And good Lord, don’t get started on ironic. I was so disappointed in my first musical obsession, Alanis Morisette, for writing a song about a bunch of unfortunate coincidences and calling them ironic. But I digress (yes, yes I do. And often.)

One of the things getting me all hot under the collar recently is the whole introvert/extrovert definition. Ten years ago, I would have called myself an extrovert: I enjoy people, socialising, talking. I’m not shy or reserved. Ten years ago, that’s what I thought an extrovert was. But ten years ago I didn’t have children, so ten years ago I ran my own show. And ten years ago I was always able to come home after a busy day of work, or a crazy weekend of socialising, and relax. Alone. I could choose to socialise or, if I didn’t have the energy, to stay in and read or write. Being alone with my own thoughts gave me the energy to go out and be social. Which, it turns out, is the exact definition of an introvert. Being shy isn’t necessarily being an introvert. It’s just… being shy.

So becoming a parent has been inexplicably hard to manage at times. My kids are awake from around 5am and for the next 12-14 hours, there is no silence and I am never alone. 7 days of the week. I remember when Freddie was about 3 months old and I spent a day working for the first time since before he was born. The 30 minute drive to my studio was euphoric. With nobody talking, crying, asking, demanding, wanting. Listening to my own choice of music! Being alone. Being silent.

This weekend I had to have it, I had to have silence. After spending the morning at the Vic Market as a family (which I love!), we were driving home. John was asking what else we need to get at the supermarket. I was trying to formulate a shopping list while reading recipes on my iPhone which, for anyone who knows me well, is about as effortless as trying to read something in a foreign language. There was an interesting but semi-infuriating segment happening on the radio that my brain just would not tune-out to. And Hazel was demanding, ad nauseum, to listen to the Frozen soundtrack. Which was really just the choice between listening to one thing ad nauseum or another.

I felt the panic attack creeping up. I know it’s coming when I try to take a deep breath, but the breath seems to only make it half way to my lungs. The deeper I try to breathe, the shallower the breath seems to go until I’m almost panting and gasping. My logical side was saying “what the hell is wrong with you?” and my emotional side was screaming “jump out of the car!” We were on the freeway so… lucky I’m not a slave to my emotions.

“Let me out at the supermarket. I’ll do the rest on my own.” I said.

So they did. I stood inside the entrance to the supermarket, for what felt like an eternity, just trying to unscramble my thoughts. Slowly, I began making my way around. And at the end, with shoulder bag filled to the brim with groceries (including plenty of heavy cans and bottles) and a jumbo-pack of nappies slung over one arm, I walked home in spite of the looming storm clouds.

It’s about two kilometres of undulating urban hills, or a half hour walk without 10 kilos of groceries. I’ll admit, it wasn’t physically pleasant. But it was mentally and emotionally necessary. A re-set button I used to be able to press on a daily basis that hadn’t been pressed for months.

So, to all you introverted parents out there (not just the shy, socially awkward or agoraphobic ones – but hugs to you guys, too), we all need silence more than we realise, so make sure you take some much needed silent time today.

And not just on the toilet. If you’re lucky enough not to be followed in there, anyway.

There Are Easier Ways Than Freezing Them Eggs – A Viable List

BarbaraKruger-Your-body-is-a-battleground-1989Image by Barbara Kruger

Have you ever felt that there could be some other way that businesses could step up to the modern challenges of ensuring diversity in the workplace? Organisations taking the lead and looking at real opportunities to ensure that high-performing female employees can continue to thrive in a corporate landscape whilst also choosing to have children?

Facebook and Apple have apparently recently introduced their own solutions to hold on to their best workers, with latest news reports on the interwebs reporting that they are offering to pay up to $20,000 for female employees to freeze their reproductive eggs.

Hold up a second.

So, it’s BIOLOGY that needs to drastically tampered to solve this issue of workplace equality? Oh of course! Why didn’t I think of that? It’s our bodies that have been doing it wrong all these years! It really was just staring us in the face this whole time. Women clearly haven’t been pulling our weight in the evolution department, and so the solution to ensuring we can work longer and better is to step in and meddle with our bits.

*FOREHEAD SLAP*

WHY are we doing this? Are we so far removed from reality that this is actually a viable option? According to Jennifer Tye, marketing lead for Glow, a mobile application aimed at helping women avoid pregnancy or conceive, it most certainly is.

“Egg freezing gives women more control,” Tye stated.

“When I turned 30, I had this notion that my biological clock was ticking, but I didn’t know what my options were.

“These employers should be commended.”

Gulp.

Can I just say firstly that we have no issue with women choosing to freeze their eggs, but we really have an issue with companies incentivizing it rather than taking a good hard look at why they make women with children such pariahs. Secondly, I don’t believe for a second this is giving women more control, it’s doing the opposite. The employer is telling the woman that her biological makeup needs to change, not the business structure. REAL empowering Jennifer.

So we made a list of ways industry could solve this issue WITHOUT resorting to surgery:

1. On-site child care centres. DUH

2. HIre the correct number of people for the actual amount of work

3. In busy times, give people the option to work late, or start earlier, and pay the MONEY for those hours. Keep child care support on hand at that time so that the option can be taken up by parents. Creating a culture of expected unpaid overtime is at the root of this issue.

4. Stop seeing having children as a woman’s sole responsibility, but respect her if she chooses to stay at home forever. It is no different to her going on a holiday to Italy, and loving it so much that she wants to quit her job and move there.

5. Offer REAL up-skilling or training as needed for any employee who takes up leave to care for their children. If there is a knowledge gap after having 4 months off, address it. Equip them with the skills they need to do the job well, without having to fall into the overtime trap.

6. Stop comparing the capabilities of female employees who have/don’t have children. Neither of you are better at your job for having/not having children. We don’t question whether men who have children do their jobs better or worse, they just have them.

7. Focus on making real cultural change in the workplace. Invest money into this, not egg freezing.

Please add to this list as you see fit. Humans are continuing to make this life way harder than it should be, creating more obstacles than a steeplechase in the big world of business.

By going down this path businesses are literally trying to own their employees, body and soul. Viable solutions are out there, so why are we offering these instead?