MONEY Careers

Microsoft’s CEO Wasn’t the Only Male Exec to Say Something Clueless About Women This Week

Microsoft Satya Nadella gives a lecture about dream, struggle and creation at Tsinghua University on September 25, 2014 in Beijing, China.
Microsoft CEO Sayta Nadella isn't smiling after his comments about women in the workplace were universally panned. ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images

Yesterday, Microsoft's CEO said something really wrong about women. But he's just one of a number of tech executives to make similar gaffes in the last few days.

Updated—3:52 P.M.

This has not been a great week when it comes to equality in the workplace. On Thursday, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella made waves when he advised women against asking for pay bumps. “It’s not really about asking for the raise,” he told a mostly female audience at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, “but knowing and having faith that the system will actually give you the right raises as you go along.”

By Thursday night, Nadella was in full damage-control mode, renouncing his previous statement in an email to Microsoft staff. “If you think you deserve a raise, you should just ask,” he wrote.

It’s good that Nadella acknowledged his mistake, but the gaffe shows how many in the business world still have difficulty understanding the prejudices faced by their female colleagues. And as our colleague Margaret Magnarelli points out, “he still doesn’t realize it’s not as simple as ‘just asking’ for us.”

What’s more, the Microsoft chief wasn’t the only boss even in the past few days to make clueless comments about how women should behave in the workplace. Earlier at the same conference, a group of male execs from Facebook, Google, GoDaddy, and Intuit participated in a panel purporting to offer tips on how both men and women could help stamp out tech’s bro-centric culture. A video of the event is available here, and Readwrite gave the blow-by-blow.

It did not go well. Here are a few of the most most off-base observations:

“It’s more expensive to hire women, because the population is smaller.” – Mike Schroepfer, CTO of Facebook

Actually, it’s not. While Schroepfer was trying to say that it’s more expensive to recruit women because they are underrepresented in computer science, it’s been widely reported that women make 78% of what men make. This is the so-called gender pay gap.

And yes, the gap persists even in the supposedly meritocratic tech world: According to a recent analysis of Census data, men with a graduate or professional degree working in Silicon Valley earn 73% more than women with the same degrees working in the same industry.

While some of the pay gap is explained by factors like experience level and industry choice, economists Francine Blau and Lawrence Kahn found that even when you control for those factors, 41% of the gap remains “unexplained.”

In fact, at a conference last month, Australian tech mogul Evan Thornley made the opposite point: that women are “Like Men, Only Cheaper.” That quote comes directly from his slideshow. “Call me opportunistic,” he elaborated, “I thought I could get better people with less competition because we were willing to understand the skills and capabilities that many of these women had.” Thornley later apologized.

“The only thing I would add is speak up … Speak up, be confident.” – Blake Irving, CEO of GoDaddy

This isn’t bad advice by itself — studies have shown that women who self-promote and negotiate harder do end up with with higher salaries — but like Nadella’s email to employees, it fails to acknowledge that women are often punished when they do speak up. “Assertive or competitive qualities are usually associated with men, and are thought to be essential for successful leaders. But for women, they can be a landmine,” said Daina Middleton, global CEO of Performics, in an interview with Fast Company.

Need evidence? Economist Linda Babcock ran a study where she videotaped men and women asking for raises using the exact same script. Viewers of the tape agreed that the man deserved the raise. But they did not like the woman who asked for the exact same thing, in the exact same way.

“People found that to be way too aggressive,” Babcock told NPR. “She was successful in getting the money, but people did not like her. They thought she was too demanding. And this can have real consequences for a woman’s career.”

Other data suggests that women entrepreneurs also get turned down more often than men do. One study found that investors are more likely to accept pitches from male entrepreneurial teams than from female teams — even if they’re making the exact same pitch. In another study, business school students read a prospectus for a mock company. In some versions, the CEO was listed as male; in others, the CEO was female. The students were four times more likely to recommend the company led by the male CEO.

“It will be twice as hard for you … but you can make a big difference in your company.” – Alan Eustace, senior vice president of search at Google

True, but unfortunately women are often absent from the kind of high level positions that would allow them to “make a big difference.” Only 4.8% of Fortune 500 CEOs are female — and those 24 women represent a record high.

Women already know it’s at least twice as hard for them to succeed. They just wish business leaders would do something about it.

To Eustace’s great credit, he acknowledged the panel’s issues on Twitter and made a great suggestion for future male allies.

 

MONEY pay gap

Why Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella STILL Has It Wrong on Raises for Women

Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella
Manish Swarup—AP

The exec has taken back his comments that we should count on karma to boost our salary, but that doesn't mean he gets what it means to be a female at work today.

Easy for a dude to say that women should have “faith that the system will actually give you the right raises as you go along.” Especially a dude who makes $7.6 million and sits at the top of one of America’s largest companies.

But Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, who made that comment in answer to a question about how women should ask for a salary increase—in front of a room full of women at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing on Thursday—at least seems to have realized the error of his statement.

On his blog last night, he acknowledged:

I answered that question completely wrong. Without a doubt I wholeheartedly support programs at Microsoft and in the industry that bring more women into technology and close the pay gap. I believe men and women should get equal pay for equal work. And when it comes to career advice on getting a raise when you think it’s deserved, Maria’s [Maria Klawe, computer scientist and moderator] advice was the right advice. If you think you deserve a raise, you should just ask.

Great that he owned the mistake. But what’s worse, the fact that he didn’t realize that women are paid 22 cents less on the dollar than our male peers—or the fact that he still doesn’t realize it’s not as simple as “just asking” for us?

Yes, We Pay a Penalty for Not Asking

Assuming you care remotely about women’s issues, you’ve seen the research showing that few women negotiate salaries. (By the by, it goes all the way up the ladder. Nadella’s fellow C-suiter GM’s Mary Barra noted at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit that she had never in her career asked for a raise. The emcee then polled the audience on how many of them also had never asked, and “the majority of the conference’s high-powered female attendees raised their hands,” according to Fortune‘s Broadsheet.)

Our reticence has a compounding effect over our careers. By not asking right off the bat, Carnegie Mellon economics professor Linda Babcock has said, we leave lost earnings “anywhere between $1 million and $1.5 million” on the table.

But We Pay a Penalty for Asking, Too

Yet Babcock’s research found that we may be on to something with our sense of caution. Simply stating the case for why we deserve a raise doesn’t tend to get women to the same result as it does men. In fact, it can actually hamper our career progress.

For a study published in 2005, Babcock and Hannah Riley Bowles, a senior lecturer in public policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School, asked participants to watch videos of men and women asking for a raise. The guys and gals in the video used the exact same scripts.

The result? Participants liked the men and agreed to give them the bump in pay, but found the women too aggressive. While they gave her the raise, they did not like her. In particular, male study participants were less willing to want to work with the female negotiator.

We know that being well liked—a quality we women struggle with starting from the first grade-school birthday party we’re not invited to—is also key to getting ahead. So we’re caught between a high heel and a hard place.

Or, as Joan Williams, founding director of the Center for WorkLife Law, put it in The Huffington Post,

If women act too feminine and don’t ask, they end up with lower salaries. If they act too masculine and ask, then people don’t want to work with them. Women walk a tightrope between being too feminine and too masculine. Men don’t, which is one reason why office politics are trickier for women than for men.

So We Have to Give an Oscar-Winning Performance to Get What We Want

The research Babcock and Riley Bowles have done has found that women have to be more, well, “womanly” in their approach in order to get the raises and promotions that they deserve and come out the other side smelling like a rose.

You know—positive, solicitous, and putting others first. Less shark, more 1950s housewife.

Acknowledging herself that these findings are “depressing,” Babcock (along with Riley Bowles) concluded that being collaborative—trying to take the perspective of the company and hiring manager and using “we” statements instead of “I”—tends to be more effective than other approaches. They’ve also emphasized trying to be “authentic” by using language that feels comfortable.

That doesn’t feel the same as “just ask”—it requires us to act a part when what we simply want is for our managers to respect us as workers and people in a gender-neutral way.

We want to be able to walk in and say, “I brought in $2 million in business this year and am underpaid relative to my position,” and be better paid and just as well liked at the end of it.

You know, like a dude.

Related:
5 Ways Women Can Close the Pay Gap for Themselves
When She Makes More: How to Level the Financial Playing Field

TIME gender

Microsoft’s Leadership Is Less Than 20% Female

Microsoft Corp Chief Executive Officer Satya NadellaSpeaks At Company Event
Satya Nadella, chief executive officer of Microsoft Corp., speaks to students during the Microsoft Talent India conference in New Delhi, India, on Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

The company released diversity numbers just days before CEO Satya Nadella was lambasted for dissuaded women from asking for raises

Microsoft’s leadership is only 17.3% female, according to diversity numbers the company released Oct. 3, while women make up less than 30% of the entire company as a whole.

Those numbers are coming under new scrutiny after Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella was the target of severe backlash Thursday night after he suggested women should rely on “good karma” for promotions instead of directly asking for a raise.

“It’s not really about asking for a raise, but knowing and having faith that the system will give you the right raise,” Nadella said at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing on Thursday. “That might be one of the initial ‘super powers’ that, quite frankly, women [who] don’t ask for a raise have. . . . It’s good karma. It will come back.”

Nadella apologized hours later in a tweet and a longer email to Microsoft staff, saying the comment was “inarticulate.”

According to the diversity numbers, women make up almost 45% of the non-tech jobs at Microsoft, but only 17% of the tech positions.

MORE: Microsoft’s CEO Tells Women It’s Bad Karma to Ask For a Raise

 

TIME women

Doing Shots in Vegas—The IVF Kind

Las Vegas sign
ranplett—Getty Images/Vetta

Who needs a man to get pregnant when you've got a lemon drop shot in one hand and a fertility shot in the other?

When people talk about doing shots in Vegas, this isn’t what they have in mind. But on a Tuesday night in July, I sat at the black granite dressing table in a bathroom at the Palazzo, my bikini still damp from the pool, and prepared to jab myself in the abdomen.

I had been thinking about freezing my eggs for a long time. At 38, happily single with a career just starting to take off and a lot of travel in my immediate future, I knew I wasn’t ready to start a family. But since I want a child of my own some day, I figured now was the time to freeze my eggs.

Once I’d decided on the procedure, I told all of my close friends. At first I felt sheepish, as if the decision signaled that I had “given up” on finding a partner. The traditional model of an American woman’s path to happiness and a family, reinforced in movies and television, does not leave much room for deviation. It feels as if the options are black and white—either you follow the traditional path (love, marriage, baby) or you’re a spinster with cats.

Luckily everyone—my parents, friends, and colleagues—was incredibly supportive. My friend Briita even texted me emoji of hypodermic needles and chicken eggs.

After getting over the exorbitant cost—the biggest barrier to egg freezing—my greatest fear was giving myself the shots. I imagined maneuvering giant horse needles into my butt, jabbing backward into the skin like puncturing a watermelon with a bread knife. Instead, the needle I held in the Vegas hotel bathroom was shorter than my thumbnail, and slid into the skin of my abdomen nearly effortlessly.

When Briita invited me to join her for a weekend in Vegas, I almost didn’t go because it was going to be the first night of my injections. But I figured if I had to do them, Vegas would be as good a place as anywhere.

Briita and I discussed the procedure poolside, lounging in the warm desert sun. Glancing at my watch, I realized the two-hour window for the injection time, which started at 6 p.m., was approaching. Briita gave me the idea to commemorate my first one: a shot for a shot.

A waitress came over, and we considered what kind of liquid encouragement was appropriate for my first stab into motherhood. “A lemon drop shot,” said Briita.

The drink arrived in a plastic mini-Solo cup. The purist in me wanted a real shot glass, but this would do.

“Do you want me to go with you?” Briita asked, her voice dropping, the words coming out more slowly and carefully, as if she wanted to offer her help but wasn’t exactly sure of the protocol.

“No, it’s fine. I got this. I’ll text you if I need help.”

Drink in hand, I went up to our palatial hotel room and retrieved my box of Follistim cartridges from its minibar perch on top of tiny cans of Red Bull and Heineken. I meticulously went through all the prepping steps, watching and re-watching YouTube instructional videos produced by fertility clinics, which usually featured married white couples with the husband administering the shot. They zoomed in on weirdly manicured and disembodied hands dialing back the dosage on the injection pen as if it were a gold watch on QVC.

The unofficial videos on YouTube by regular people were far more relatable. If a woman sitting at her computer could slide a needle into a soft roll of fat while talking to a camera without skipping a beat, then I knew I could do it. These women talked frankly about their fertility, the challenges of IVF, and the unexpected side effects. There were women struggling with infertility wishing each other good luck and “baby dust,” message boards where you could find “cycling partners” who were on the same hormone schedule, and endless tips about how to make the shots easier.

Pumping the music out of my iPhone (I had built an injection playlist that included Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Bad Name” and LMFAO’s “Shots”), I laid out some paper towels on a “clean, flat surface,” sang along to the refrains, and giggled at every “shot” reference. Silly puns, it turns out, have great healing value. Aging, single motherhood, infertility, fear of dying alone—these issues are serious enough. When they’re coupled with a syringefest reminiscent of a scene from Pulp Fiction, you don’t need any more fear and trepidation. You need Pat Benatar, cranked up. There is something incredibly rewarding about drawing a deep breath, putting “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” on replay, and just getting it done.

I took a swig of the lemon drop shot with my left hand and steadied the needle with my right. I made two aborted attempts. And then I sank the needle into my belly, released the pinch of skin I was holding, and slowly pushed the medicine into my body. I counted to five, pulled out the needle, and began celebrating.

Las Vegas is such an impossible, unlikely place, a neon metropolis in the middle of the desert. Equally marvelous and unlikely is the technology that allows me to safely retrieve and freeze my eggs for future use, without a single incision. Because egg freezing only recently lost its “experimental” status and the success rates are not as well known as with embryo freezing, I decided to keep my options open and freeze both eggs and embryos. It feels a little bit like I’m living in a science fiction novel.

Now, a few months post-retrieval, I wonder when and how I will decide to use the eggs I’ve just nourished, protected, collected, and frozen. It’s possible I’ll meet someone and have children the traditional way. It’s possible I’ll marry in time for one child, but need to return to my frozen eggs for a second one. It’s possible I’ll decide to be a single mother, the way my mother was for many years. It’s possible I’ll adopt or decide not to have children at all, and be equally happy. But if I do have a daughter or son some day from the eggs I retrieved, I look forward to telling my child about the unexpected summer night in Vegas when it all started.

Tara Prescott is a lecturer in writing programs and faculty in residence at the University of California, Los Angeles. She is co-editor of Feminism in the Worlds of Neil Gaiman and editor of Neil Gaiman in the Twenty-first Century, to be released by McFarland & Company in 2015.

This piece originally appeared on Zócalo Public Square.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME women

I Was an Elite Female Firefighter

Forest fire and helicopter
Erik Simonsen—Getty Images

A female hotshot may spend six months a year out in the woods with 18 hot-as-hell firefighters, but if she acts like she’s in her own private season of “The Bachelorette,” she’s going to lose their respect with the quickness

xojane

This story originally appeared on xoJane.com.

The sound of my squad boss’s voice invaded my sleep. “Spot fire! Spot fire! Get up! Hustle! Hustle!” I pried open my eyes and tried to orient myself. I was lying in the ash of a forest fire, curved for warmth around a small, smoldering stump. Around me members of my elite Pike Hotshot Crew rubbed their eyes and pulled on their packs as they lurched to their feet. I glanced at my watch. It was 6 am. Other than the brief nap we’d just had, my crew and I had been working to fight a raging wildfire on the Angeles National Forest for 24 hours straight.

I jumped to my feet and joined the line of my crew members hiking hard and fast towards a large spot fire that had sprung up in a flat of manzanita, a tangled, fast burning brush native to California. If we didn’t dig a fireline around the spot fire in a hurry, the fire would likely explode, and there was no safety zone we could retreat to easily.

Another day in my life as a wildland firefighter had just begun.

When I arrived to start work as a wildland firefighter on the Pike Hotshot Crew, I had only been camping a couple of times. I’d rarely gone more than two days without a shower. I didn’t even know how to dry brush my teeth. I knew that soon I would hike up and down mountains towards raging wildfires with a 40 lbs. pack on my back. I would suck smoke, and dig fireline for 15 hours a day, and sleep in the ash. I would go two weeks at a time without a shower. I would spend every waking moment with my crewmembers. I knew a little bit of what I was in for, and I was excited and afraid.

When I parked my car at the Pike Fire Center, a cluster of old cabins built in the mountains of the Pike National Forest in Colorado, I was nervous as hell. As I stepped out of the car I heard voices yelling at me, “Make way for the rookie! Rookie on the deck!”

I glanced around, but saw no one — just a life-sized Smokey the Bear cutout that said, “Welcome to the Pike Interagency Hotshot Crew.” Whoever was yelling at me was doing so from the cover of the old wooden buildings surrounding me. I took a deep breath and headed for the bunkhouse, where I would live with the other members of my crew for the next two fire seasons.

When I met my fellow hotshots, the men barely lifted their chins at me. Most couldn’t be bothered to even say, “Hey.” They looked me over, and their looks said, “We’ll see how you do.”

Most of them were from rural Colorado or Wyoming. They had grown up out in the woods. They dipped tobacco and drank Coors. They knew how to swing a Pulaski and run a chainsaw. They could gut a deer, and start a campfire with no matches. I, on the other hand, grew up in Austin, Texas — a hipster and hippie haven — and had just graduated from a small liberal arts college. I loved Kathleen Hanna and films by Jim Jarmusch, novels by Virginia Woolf and micro-brew.

And I was a woman — I would be one of only three women on the 20-person crew that year. All-male crews were generally considered tougher than crews that included a female or two. The hotshots did not give me a warm welcome.

But let me make it clear: No one arriving on a hotshot crew — male or female — gets a warm welcome. Hotshot crews are clannish. The work is so dangerous that no hotshot wants someone on their crew who can’t handle the stress, demands, and dangers of the fireline.

“Hotshots are the best-trained and best-equipped wildland firefighters, sometimes referred to as the Navy SEALs of their profession,” says Rolling Stone magazine. The world of hotshotting is an insular, masculine and exhilarating place. Crewmembers have to trust each other with their lives on a daily basis. And so the guys on my crew wanted to wait and see what I was made of before they gave me even a smile of encouragement.

I’d trained hard, and so I held my own on the initial physical fitness tests. By the time we were called out to our first fire, my crew had seen me keep up on hard training hikes, dig some practice fireline (rather badly at first, but with enthusiasm), and get hammered with them at several crew parties.

I had not hooked up with any of them. Female friends with wildfire experience had warned me against beginning any sort of romantic involvement with a crewmember. A female hotshot may spend six months a year out in the woods with 18 hot-as-hell firefighters, but if she acts like she’s in her own private season of “The Bachelorette,” she’s going to lose their respect with the quickness. Were many of my crewmates ripped and beautiful and manly and sexy as hell? You bet. Did I pretend like I didn’t notice? Absolutely. In fact, I realized soon enough that I would fit in best if my crewmates more or less forgot I was a woman at all.

We finished our training and were soon dispatched to our first fire. After driving for hours through the night, we stopped and slept on the ground outside of a Forest Service District Office for a few hours. We woke up before dawn. My teeth felt furry. I went in search of a bathroom and running water. When I came out of the district office, all four rigs were idling. Everyone was loaded up, waiting for me. I ran towards the rigs and jumped in. “What in the hell were you doing, rookie?” my crewmates asked.

“I was looking for a sink,” I said. “I needed to brush my teeth.” My crewmates gave me hell for that small fail for a long, long time. And I was never late getting to the rigs again.

We arrived at fire camp as the sun began to rise. We loaded into helicopters that flew us up onto a mesa where a wildfire burned through the piñon juniper. We hiked in to the fire and got to work. The sawyers on my crew used their chainsaws to open up a 15-foot space in the tree canopy called a “sawline.” With the other diggers on my crew, I helped to dig a shallow trench or “fireline” underneath the sawline. I bent over and swung my fire tool, helping to scrape a 24-inch fireline. My hard hat tilted on my head, perilously close to falling off. Sweat ran stinging into my eyes. Within 15 minutes, I was desperately out of breath, and felt like I might keel over.

In the following days, the palms of my hands blistered. My entire crew was doused with fire retardant dropped by a “slurry bomber” airplane. We were covered in sweat and dirt and ash, and none of us got a shower. And one afternoon we had to run full speed to our safety zone to escape the 200-foot flames crowning through the treetops. For at least 12 hours a day, I swung my fire tool, and at night I lay on the ground in my sleeping bag— not even bothering to put up a tent — and I slept like the dead.

But a few days into the work, I began to find my rhythm.

In my two seasons on the hotshot crew, my crewmates and I often saved each others’ lives — so often that it was sometimes not even commented on after the fact. We did so by calling out when a burning tree crashed to the ground unexpectedly, by yelling for someone to get out of the way of a falling boulder. If one of us tripped and fell into a stand of burning chaparral, someone else would yank the fallen back to his or her feet before s/he was burned.

Once, when I was pushing over a tree stump that my friend Mark O’Shea was cutting with a chainsaw, I lost my balance and fell with my arms outstretched toward the roaring saw blade. Both of my hands would have been cut off by the chainsaw if O’Shea had not thrown the saw away from us.

The danger that my crewmates and I survived together bonded us. And we grew to love each other. And I got used to basically being a dude. My hotshot buddies would cut warts off my leg with a Leatherman, or ask me how my crap in the woods had gone. And I’d tell them.

Once I was accepted by my crewmates, I did eventually break the golden rule of firefighting and hooked up with one of my buddies (albeit discretely). While it caused ripples of teasing and even some disdain, it didn’t essentially capsize my standing on the crew.

When I left the crew after two years, it was in part because I wanted to hunker down and write a novel inspired by the adventures we had together, and by the challenges of finding a place of belonging as a woman on a hotshot crew. My novel “Wildfire” has just been published, and is dedicated to my friends on my crew. (“Wildfire” has been optioned for film as well, and I’ve written the script. I’ve found out that that only 10% of screenwriters of major motion pictures are female — probably even less than the percentage of female hotshots fighting wildfires. And that’s something we got to change.)

If my life falls apart tomorrow, and I find myself in need of shelter and support, I know that I could show up on the doorstep of a friend with whom I fought fire. I know that he and his wife would take me in. And that’s a sort of miracle.

Mary Pauline Lowry is an author living in Southern California.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Family

My Mother Died Three Months Ago and I’m Still Figuring Out How To Grieve for Her

Flowers and graves
ilbusca—Getty Images/Vetta

It's hard to get out of bed, most days. I am drowning in her

xojane

This story originally appeared on xoJane.com.

This has been, to date, the most difficult essay I’ve ever written. Usually, I can bang one out in a day or two. A week, even. But writing about the death of my mother has been a series of stops and starts, deletions and revisions. How do you write about something that feels as if it happened yesterday and not three months ago? How do you distill grief and heartache in a few paragraphs?

It’s hard to get out of bed, most days. There’s a heaviness in the air, and it’s hard to breathe. Sometimes the grief paralyzes me. I’ll lay in bed and stare at the ceiling, silently willing myself to get up and start the day.

“Mommy, I wanna see grandma.” The toddler always makes this demand casually, usually as I’m picking him up from school or fixing him dinner. Sometimes he’ll ask looking up from his tablet while watching one of his favorite shows. Three months later and I still can’t find the words to tell him she’s gone for good. “We can’t see her right now,” I’ll say, knowing that in a few minutes he’ll forget he asked.

For two months, I’ve been staring at a cardboard box. It is roughly 5×7, and it’s blue. It contains what is left of the woman who taught me everything from tying my shoes to picking greens. Her last name is misspelled on the side. The blue box sits on a shelf in my bedroom, amid books and clothes. Boxes filled with her personal effects crowd the hallway of my apartment. Furniture from her oversized studio take up my dining room. Pictures from her photo albums are strewn across a table in the living room, the same table where I ate dinner until I went away to college. The “Thank You” cards I bought a week after her memorial are in a bag on my desk, untouched.

Every morning I’m greeted by these reminders, and I summon the strength to navigate around them. I will occasionally glance at the blown-up picture of her, perched on a barstool wearing a black dress and a demure smile. It’s tucked in the corner of my living room, near the window. I replay our last conversations while I’m working on an assignment, or look at the blue box as I’m brushing my teeth.

I am drowning in her.

Last month, at the suggestion of my sister-in-law, my husband bought me a copy of Hope Edelman’s Motherless Daughters. Edelman, a mother-loss survivor herself, interviewed hundreds of other women who had lost their mothers at various points in their lives. While the book is geared towards women whose mothers died when they were young, it has helped me a great deal. I no longer try to suffocate Grief with a pillow, or stab it with a fork; I hold on tight and ride the wave until the tide settles, until the calm returns. This isn’t a process, Edelman says, but a life-altering event.

“Expecting grief to run a quick, predictable course leads us to over-pathologize the process, making us think of grief as something that, with proper treatment, can and should be fixed. As a result, we begin to view normal responses as indicators of serious distress,” Edelman writes. “The woman who cries every Christmas when she thinks of her mother—is she really a woman who can’t let go of the past, or just a woman who continues to miss her mother’s warmth and cheer at holiday time?”

One of the last hospital visits, days before she passed in mid-June, taunts me. We’re sitting on the couch and it seems like she’s back to her old self. I am brimming with hope. I’m telling her of the plan to move her into our apartment, to take care of her the way she took care of grandma years ago. She’s excited at the prospect of living with her grandson, of us being under the same roof again. I wondered if I could handle caring for her and a four year-old boy. I had support, but those people had lives and responsibilities of their own. If she fell while my husband was at work, I’d have to find a way to pick her up. I’d be responsible for her diet, her health, her overall well-being. The enormity of what lay ahead frightened me, but this is what I wanted, for her to live out the last years of her life surrounded by love and family, not in a place I no longer trusted. In the Nicholas Sparks’ version of her last days, she quietly slips away as she sits in her favorite chair, catching a final view of the lakefront from our highrise as she goes.

She asked me to stay a little longer. I couldn’t. An appointment to enroll her grandson in Pre-K had been scheduled for weeks. I remember the feeling of relief I had as I left her room, the feeling that everything was going to be okay. Three days later I’d be standing over her body, clasping her hand as the warmth evaporated from her body, as blood spilled from her nose. The third attempt to revive her after another cardiac arrest had done the most damage. In my head, I’d had years to prepare for that moment, years of hospital visits and grave diagnoses. But no amount of preparation will ever soften the blow.

Even as I watched my mother’s health deteriorate in recent years, I still held fast to a glimmer of hope that somehow, someway things would turn around. Maybe she’d get bitten by a radioactive spider, regain full mobility, and take up crime-fighting. It didn’t hit me until hours before she passed, as I sat in the hospital chapel after visiting her, that she was literally in the process of dying. But that’s how denial works. Though it’s taken some time to accept, I realize now that she left when she was ready, and that I knew my mother well enough to know that when she was ready to go, there was nothing you could do to stop her.

Edelman says that most motherless daughters my age process the loss differently than our younger counterparts because we’re able to confront it with a relatively intact personality and more mature coping skills than a teen or a child. “Losing a parent at this time violates fewer assumptions she has about her future,” she explains. “A motherless woman continues to renegotiate her relationship with her mother throughout her life, changing her perceptions and trying to fnd a place for each new image as it develops.”

In my case, my mother’s death has forced to reexamine choices made and opportunities given. That she died in my 37th year, the same age she gave birth to me, is not lost on me. It signifies rebirth. Renewal. A chance to accomplish the things she wanted for me, all the hopes and dreams she’d share throughout the course of my life. It is her legacy that I carry with me wherever I go, and I am grateful that I was loved by such a remarkable woman.

Jamie Nesbitt Golden is a journalist originally from Chicago.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME relationships

Why Dating Someone Younger Shouldn’t Be a Big Deal

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Getty Images

This article originally appeared on Refinery29.com.

One of my friends only dates much younger dudes and it’s not a good look for her. She always end up in super casual relationships where neither of them seem to take it very seriously, but I know she wants to have a family one day. I get that everyone has “a type” but I care about her and don’t want her to keep wasting her time on these scrubs. Should I say something?

Natalie Ruge, Licensed Marriage And Family Therapist

If your friend seems to truly be enjoying her casual relationships and is okay when they don’t last very long, then sounds like it’s more your problem than her problem. A younger man may feel like more of a challenge, give her a sense of control, or just be a better match for her — sexually or otherwise. Some women enjoy being assertive with a younger man, making the first move, and confidently telling him what she likes and doesn’t like. And, if that’s the case, then more power to her! The world needs more people who know what they want and aren’t afraid to go after it, regardless of social norms or peer pressure. It could even be said that the older woman-younger man pairing results in a more equal power dynamic, and research shows that mutual respect and high regard is a strong indicator of a long-term, successful relationship.

(MORE: The Worst Questions Women Get When Online Dating)

I believe that your concern comes from a good place, but it does sound a little bit judgmental. Are these men “scrubs” just because they’re younger, or not in the kind of careers that you consider successful? And, why do you assume that she can’t have a family with someone younger than her? Maybe settling down with an age-appropriate finance type sounds like a death sentence to her. Just because you’re friends and have things in common doesn’t mean you have the same romantic interests. And, that’s a good thing — at least you’ll never fight over an S.O., which is never a good look.

(MORE: Dating 101: The New Rules)

On the other hand, if you’re just curious and want to know her better, there’s no reason why you can’t start a non-judgmental, but honest, conversation about what you want in a committed partner and then ask her what she wants in hers. However you handle it, just remember that for the most part, unsolicited opinions are rarely received well. No matter how nicely you say it, the message will be that you know what’s better for her than she does. If the guys she’s dating treat her like an adult that’s fully capable of making her own choices (and it seems like they are), you should too. Unless a friend is hurting herself or someone else, it’s best to live and let live.

There’s a difference between concern and control, so unless the issue is somehow affecting you directly, or if she seems unhappy about said partners, keep your opinions to yourself and enjoy your friend’s scandalous cougar tales. Maybe she’ll even convince you to give it a go yourself — have fun!

(MORE: Why I Dated a Guy Who Hated My Body)

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: October 8

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Quotas can cause lasting change. Rwanda’s new parliament is more than 60% female.

By Eleanor Whitehead in This Is Africa

2. With open communication and smart procedures, we can contain Ebola.

By Atul Gawande in The New Yorker

3. A simple plan to begin saving for college at kindergarten helps families thrive.

By Andrea Levere in the New York Times

4. Teach For America is sewing seeds for education reform in unlikely places – by design.

By Jackie Mader in Next City

5. How Bitcoin could save journalism and the arts.

By Walter Isaacson in Time

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME relationships

15 Guys Explain Why They Date Women Over 30

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Tom Merton—Getty Images/OJO Images RF

Here's why older is better in some men's eyes

We’ve all heard the sobering statistics: given a choice, straight men of all ages would rather date women in their twenties. Women, on the other hand, prefer guys closer to their own age. In September, a study of 12,000 Finns reaffirmed what prior research had already established.

But there’s something fishy about all that data. If dudes were really so set on their caveman-era mating habits, wouldn’t we see more single ladies over 30 home knitting tea cozies on Friday nights? (Then again, just because a guy wants to date a younger girl, doesn’t necessarily mean she wants to date him!)

As a woman over 30, I decided to try to get to the bottom of this conundrum by asking a series of straight, unmarried men in their 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s to find out why some actually prefer to date “older” women. Turns out, there’s lots to love about women of a certain age.

Men in their 20s date women over 30 because:

“They understand better how to interact in a relationship.”
— José Fernández, 24 (single)

“I appreciate the grace and expression of slightly older women. Certain facial features, like smile lines, can be charming.”
— Niv, 25 (single)

“They know what they want. There is more of an end game. So if you meet their criteria, they’re good.”
— Billy, 27 (has a girlfriend)

“I think women in their 30s are in their prime. Sexual maturity, the way that they carry themselves — for me something about it screams woman.”
— Alex Sanza, 28 (single)

“They are more stable.”
— Solomon, 29 (just started seeing someone over 30)

While men in their 30s say:

“Generally more expert at the multisensory/theatrical aspects of the whole dance.”
— Anonymous, 30 (single)

“Much better sex”
— Anonymous, 32 (actively dating)

“When I was in my 20s, I was drawn to older women because it gave me a certain level of confidence because she was established. She’s not as needy.”
­— Peter Bailey, 34 (“not married”)

“More nurturing.”
— Percy Baldonado, 38 (single)

Men in their 40s add:

“Women over 30 have stopped putting metal through their lips and tongues which makes it easier to kiss them. And they’ve figured out their makeup routine so they won’t keep you waiting as long when you’re trying to get to an event.”
— Anonymous, 49 (seeing someone)

“Age has never really played a role in who I date … I have dated my own age, younger than me, and older. What it comes down to is, I like this girl, she’s cute, and I’d like to see her again.”
— Chris Dinneen, 41 (in a relationship)

“I always liked somewhat older women for their maturity, self confidence and poise, finding those qualities quite attractive and usually absent in younger girls.”
— Daren, 45 (in a long-term relationship)

And men in their 50s prefer women over 30 because:

“We have similar life experiences and similar pop culture references. It’s a little more comfortable.”
— David, 50 (seeing someone, not exclusive)

“Given that I’m 52, I can’t really relate to dating someone in her 20s — too much of an age difference.”
— Patrick, 52 (single)

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: October 7

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Learning from our mistakes: Global response to the current Ebola crisis should improve our handling of the next outbreak.

By Lena H. Sun, Brady Dennis, Lenny Bernstein, Joel Achenbach in the Washington Post

2. A blueprint for reopening the tech industry to women: be deliberate, build a new pipeline that is openly focused on women, and attack the archetype of tech success.

By Ann Friedman in Matter

3. We need to change what’s taught in business schools and the narrative about business success that dominates boardrooms.

By Judy Samuelson in the Ford Forum

4. A health system that learns from its experience through data analysis can change medicine.

By Veronique Greenwood in the New York Times Magazine

5. A long overdue move to align our international development with climate reality could trigger sweeping policy changes around the world.

By Charles Cadwell and Mark Goldberg in the Baltimore Sun

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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