Veronica Webb is such a mom. The former supermodel implored her lunch companion, who struggled with a stubborn cough, to drink his water and attentively pushed a plate across the table to prevent his slice of artisanal pizza from staining the tablecloth at Fred’s, the formal restaurant atop Barneys. Ms. Webb, 50, has honed her maternal skills raising four children (two from her first marriage plus two stepchildren from her recent marriage). Yet she still finds time to serve as beauty director of As If magazine, launch a startup “in the beauty space this fall” and moderate the annual DivaMoms.com Mom Moguls Breakfast! at Urbo on Thursday, May 7. The conference examines the nagging question: How can mothers balance a family life and a career?
You vacation each summer in France, which provides more social services to support new mothers than the United States. Do you see policies we should import? Longer, paid maternity leave. But that’s very difficult for businesses to maintain.
I am the janitor. I’m the CEO. I’m the president. Everything. I’m the switchboard … Someone needs something? Someone loses something? Everything comes through me. Moms are the emotional center of the household.
We’re one of the few industrialized countries that doesn’t provide legally mandated paid maternity leave and only about half of first-time mothers here take paid time off. Even six weeks would be amazing in this country. Six weeks is nothing, but it would be amazing.
What is the one thing most men still don’t understand about their working mother colleagues? That women work just as hard at home as they do at work.
You’re married. Does your husband… He’s great with the kids and a fantastic father.
You still do most of the work? I run the house. I plan all the meals. I order all the food. I make sure everything is clean. I know where everything is. I do the organizing, the disciplining. I am the janitor. I’m the CEO. I’m the president. Everything. I’m the switchboard … Someone needs something? Someone loses something? Everything comes through me. Moms are the emotional center of the household.
Do you have regrets about working in a field that critics argue often demeans rather than celebrates women? I really respect and appreciate everyone that I have ever worked with. There are times when I really wish that I had been able to do more with what I did for a living—that I had been more benefit to my community. One of my sisters is a math teacher, just retired. Another sister is an oncologist.
Can you think of women who fostered your dreams and others who tried to thwart your ambitions? My mother fostered my dreams. Then I can’t tell you how many teachers encouraged me.
Tell me about one? Ann Bickle, my art teacher in Detroit. She would let me into the art room on Saturday and sit with me. She helped me get my scholarship applications together for Parsons. Every one of my girlfriends is a girl’s girl; we all help each other. And women who tried to thwart my ambitions, who even wants to think about them? When you’re in an industry like modeling, it can bring out the worst in people because everyone is sitting around comparing themselves to everyone else and how they look. And there’s no quicker way to become completely miserable than to do that.
Imagine a Dante-esque punishment for women who stymie other women. Maybe they have to spend all eternity on a crowded subway, needing a diaper for their baby—but they can’t find one.