The pandemic allowed women to care for their family and work as a professional. Don’t stop now

My ambitious, accomplished mother was fired from her Wall Street job when she became pregnant with me. She sued her employer for pregnancy discrimination and lost. Despite strong evidence on her side, she was outlawyered by a big white-shoe firm.

Fast forward 30 years and the child who disrupted her career is one of those fancy lawyers (albeit at an elite boutique). Thanks to my mother’s sacrifices, I have more access to power than she had. Yet as I reach the age she was when her corporate journey was rerouted, I find myself confronting the same structures that force successful women to choose between job and family—or, as was the case for my mother, make that choice for them.

In 2023, I’ve seen friends struggle to get legal jobs while pregnant and be chided or mocked for wanting to prioritize family life. A female partner at a previous job told me the best advice for advancing my career is “don’t scrimp on child care.” What if I want to have a satisfying career and primarily care for my future child?

The pandemic’s normalizing of remote work has done a lot to bridge that gap. I see my coworkers go offline to take their kids to the dentist or to see the school play, popping back on from home on their terms, and every instance of that chips away at the stigma. But the ease of remote work also creates a fallacy that everyone is available all the time. The legal profession is especially guilty of this delusion. Client, court, and colleague expectations often fail to account for lawyers being human. And women can bear the brunt of those unrealistic benchmarks, as they face equally potent pressures in their personal lives.

To me, “breaking the glass ceiling” is not riding unbridled ambition straight to the top. It’s shaping my career to my values in a system designed for men. It’s having autonomy over my day-to-day and authority to set my own priorities at work and home. It’s pushing back on the corporate structures that prevent women from having control over their lives, not adapting to them. The best way for me to create these conditions is just to live them out, come what may. And for the sake of my future daughter, I hope other professional women do the same.