Where Do Your Career Expectations Come From? Tackling My Mommy/Daddy Issues

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As a kid, I was mistaken for mature when really I was just obedient. I dutifully followed in my older sister’s footsteps. I was good at school, went to the same college, and assumed I was heading for an office job and a climb up a company ladder. There was always a lot of “work talk” in my home– all centered around pretty traditional business, where success was some type of recognizable prestige, be it leading a company or winning a Fulbright. Reinforced by much of society at-large, I never questioned these assumptions growing up.

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“I scared you, didn’t I?” Stories from the 3rd female reporter at the Wall Street Journal

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Today, the discrimination working women face tends to be subtle. A male counterpart might earn more, but he negotiated for it, for example. Gone are the days when women literally were’t allowed in the front door, were refused service at men’s bars, or where their main role is to serve coffee. But in 1969, when Mary Bralove began her career as a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, she was only the third female journalist on staff.   To give you a sign of the times, she remembers that the day she started, there was an article about a woman who was so big breasted, that crowds of men followed her to work. This story ran on the front page as a light hearted piece.

The pressure was on. “I didn’t want to give them any reason not to hire another women,” she describes. So she bent over backwards to make it work, and to protect her authority once she was promoted to Assistant New York Bureau Chef. Listen as we talk to this journalist about what is was like to work in the chauvinistic atmosphere of the 1970’s newsroom, how she balanced work and family and why- after 14 years- she left.

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The Abortion I Didn’t Regret

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In the spring of 1975, at age 28 — during my first year in law school — I had an abortion. Given the same circumstances, I would do it again.  I am telling the story of it now, almost 40 years later, because I want to share my experience directly, without the filters of religiosity or advocacy that otherwise make abortion almost impossible to talk about.  The widely-respected Guttmacher Institute reports that since 1973 when Roe vs. Wade was decided, nearly 53 million legal abortions have been performed in the U.S.  Yet the subject has become so fraught, few women admit to having had one.  Many people give lip-service to the idea that having an abortion is “not an easy decision.”  But millions of women make the decision for their own reasons every year.  This is my story.

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Running Away, Staying Still

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I was restless and nomadic in my 20s and early 30s. In a span of ten years, I moved to Hanoi, Saigon, London, San Francisco, Hanoi, Geneva, Hanoi and finally landed in San Francisco. To an onlooker, I appeared adventurous, but I was well-aware that my itinerant lifestyle stemmed from a deep fear of forming real attachments and committing to people, places and jobs.

Years before, when my mother passed away, I did not shed a tear for days. I did everything possible to avoid my overwhelming emotions associated with her illness and death. Instead, I moved at a frenetic pace, from school to a part-time restaurant job to hours studying. (read more…)

Self-Help Only Gets You So Far

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In the years after my mother passed, my father never spoke of her death. Instead, he often gave me and my sister (14 and 16 at the time) self-help books for our birthday and Christmas presents. Titles included The Courage to Be Yourself: A Woman’s Guide to Growing Beyond Emotional Dependence, and See Jane Win: The Rimm Report on How 1,000 Girls Became Successful Women. I read all of them, along with How to Win Friends and Influence People, The Road Less Traveled, and countless others from this genre, which lined my father’s bookshelves, and he avidly read himself.

I read and absorbed the books, but mistook my father’s silence for a lack of understanding. Only years later did I realize that my father keenly observed and understood the struggles my sister and I faced as motherless teenagers, but he couldn’t speak to us directly about them. My father has always been painfully silent man, rarely communicating about the small details of our daily lives, let alone the overwhelming pain that created a huge chasm in our family. Instead, he relied on the wisdom of self-help authors to solve our problems for us. (read more…)