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The Most Powerful Women Series
“Why Dropping the Ball is the New Leaning In”
by Tiffany Dufu
January 26, 2018
Many women find it difficult to leave their infants on that first day back from maternity leave, but I was not one of them. I loved my work. I have always been a passionate advocate for the advancement of women and girls, and I had been offered my dream job directing the fundraising efforts of a national women’s leadership organization. The salary was enough to allow me the peace of mind that comes with leaving a child in the hands of a skilled and loving caregiver—a privilege too many working mothers cannot afford—and I had even negotiated for a private room where I could pump breast milk. petite styled items in the cocktail to wear

As I got dressed for that first morning back, I couldn’t imagine I’d have to compromise on anything: career, marriage, raising a family, keeping our home life running smoothly while advancing the cause of women and girls. I left my apartment confident I would be successful doing it all. That illusion lasted six hours.

Work was a whirlwind. I was so consumed with getting up to speed and running from meeting to meeting that by the time I realized I’d forgotten to pump, milk was leaking through my blouse onto my suit jacket. To add insult to injury, the “private room” I had negotiated turned out to be a bathroom stall.

There I was, kneeling on the floor of the stall in my drenched silk blouse and designer suit, tears streaming down my face and milk streaming from my body. My vision of a future in which I gracefully managed both career and home had been obliterated.

On the suffocating train ride home from Wall Street to 125th Street in Harlem, the reality of my new circumstances began to sink in. If I was too consumed at the office to remember to do something as essential as pump milk for my baby, what else was going to fall through the cracks? How was all of this going to get done?

Over the course of my career, I’ve been heartened by the growing support for women’s empowerment in the workplace. But I’m mindful that while efforts to encourage women to keep their feet on the gas pedal of their professional lives or to better equip and incentivize workplaces to support their female employees are vital—they don’t give guilt-ridden and exhausted women a practical, actionable solution to juggling the competing demands of work and home.”

- Tiffany Dufu

Fortune Magazine


Drop The Ball. Stop trying to do it all.
- Tiffany Dufu