Bayer Sexual Discrimination: Stop the Mommy Wars

Last Updated Jun 10, 2011 7:23 AM EDT

Six women have filed a lawsuit against Bayer, saying that Bayer discriminates illegally against women. Their complaint has some pretty nasty accusations in it--including inappropriate sexual statements, counting legally protected FMLA leave against an employee, and saying that women are "weak". If their complaints are found to be valid Bayer is in a world of hurt, as they well should be. My BNET Colleague, Jim Edwards, describes some of the more shocking claims, including one involving a donut and another involving racism.

They have more than enough claims to convince me that there is enough evidence to proceed with a case. (Please note they haven't convinced me that their claims are true, as there are at minimum 2 sides to every story and often about 16.) But, these woman lost a good deal of credibility with your friendly Evil HR Lady when I got to claim number 14.

The few women who have advanced beyond the director level and into the highest echelon of management have achieved this rank by sacrificing their personal lives and abandoning work-life balance. Female Vice President of Global Health Economics and Outcomes Research Kathleen Gondek is unmarried with no children, female Senior Director Susan Herster has no children and female Vice Presidents Shannon Campbell and Leslie North have others who serve as primary care-givers to their children.
And this is a problem because? Ladies, let me give you a dose of reality: Climbing into the executive ranks of a major pharmaceutical company requires the abandonment of work-life balance for men too.

Do you really think that the male vice presidents are running when the school calls to say that little Paisley has just puked all over her desk? If you can show me that they are, then I apologize but I suspect if that were the case, it would have been documented in the lengthy complaint. My guess is that their wives/ex-wives/mothers-in-law or nannies are running to pick up Paisley.

If you choose to be the primary caregiver to children (and yes, it is a choice), you get the consequences along with it. One of those consequences is that you cannot spend as much time working as can your coworkers who are not the primary caregivers. I know that not everyone needs the same amount of time to accomplish the same tasks. But, when you have to skip out of a meeting because daycare is closing in 15 minutes, it's going to affect your career.

It would affect a man's career as well. It's just that fewer men are the primary caregivers for their children.

Work-life balance is not a guarantee. Attacking other women who have made different life choices than you have, and therefore have different consequences, is a cheap shot and an attempt to say, "We're better mothers/women than you are."

Really? Do we need that.

It makes sense that people--male and female--who choose to "abandon work-life balance" in the company's favor should be rewarded by the company. If you're not willing to do that, don't expect the reward. Why should you?

The Bayer women have a strong enough complaint of wrong-doing to leave out the petty, meaningless attack on other females at the office. Perhaps people would be more inclined to take sex discrimination seriously if the complainants stuck to actual problems.

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