Author Q&A: Joanna Strober, Getting to 50/50

MT talks to Joanna Strober about getting ahead in your career and still making it to your kid's school play.

by Kate Bassett
Last Updated: 28 Oct 2013

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What’s the central argument of this book?

If women want to keep working after they have children, they should. There are too many limiting beliefs which knock mums out of full-time jobs and keep dads apart from their children. Outdated views about marriage cause problems for everyone. The crux of the book is this: you don’t have to choose between your job and your family. You can have both. If your partner or your spouse is your ally – if you can rely on each other to do your fair share and if you both have a 50/50 mindset – then your kids will thrive and so will your career.

Who have you written the book for?

For all the women who don’t want their careers to end the minute they have children. We wanted to provide inspiration and concrete advice on how females can get ahead in their jobs and still make it to the school play or sports day. We did that by speaking to hundreds of working mums – from nurses and teachers through to Fortune 500 executives – on how they make it work. This is also a very pro-dad book: we want women to read extracts out to their husbands. They need to be part of the conversation.

What are your three practical tips for a working mother who "wants it all"?

First, make your spouse a true partner. Don’t try and be the boss all the time. Second, don’t criticise your husband. If he gives your children pizza for dinner, it’s not the end of the world. Third, believe in the importance of your own career.

What would you like the readers to take away from Getting to 50/50?

Our goal was never to lecture or to knock stay-at-home mums. The aim of the book is to empower women who want to combine a gratifying career with a rich family life. I had a baby while I was writing 50/50. It was a tough time (my milk wasn’t coming through) and I personally relied on all the stories, anecdotes and tips from our interviewees to get me through it.

What type of man should you marry to get to 50/50?

One of the biggest ‘career’ decisions you’ll ever make is who you marry. There’s no particular ‘type’ – it’s all about communication and talking about problems before they arise (who’s going to do the nursery run, who’s going to take time off when the child is sick, and so on).

My co-author, Sharon Meers, married a very conservative man: on their first date, he told her that "women are more nurturing and should stay at home with kids for a few years". But she knew she’d be far happier working; she didn’t want to be in an old-fashioned relationship where she brought up the kids and her husband brought in the money. So they talked about sharing every part of parenting, and he came round to the idea of a 50/50 life. Ultimately, husbands want their wives to be happy – and research shows that women who work are more content.

How can you make sure your boss take you seriously – and still lets you go to the school play?

If you’re doing a good job at work, your boss will be accommodating. Show him or her metrics that prove you’re getting the job done and exceeding your goals. If you have to leave work early to go to a school play, tell your boss you’ll be back online at 10pm once the kids have gone to bed. Frankly, they shouldn’t care when and where you’re working, so long as you’re getting things done. Worry about the person you’re working for, not the organisational policies.

What are the differences in attitudes in the UK/US to working parenthood?

I’m from the States where the maternity leave process is horrible. I was very lucky to get three months off. When I went back to work, it was full-time – part-time was never an option.

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