Carly Van Orman:
"Feminism is about having
You can also read this article in Russian.
— You have a very diverse career path. Can you tell me more about it?
I come from a fairly small town. I went to a high school for the performing arts to study theatre. But our head administrator discouraged us from pursuing creative careers saying that it can be very hard to make a living as an artist. In the end, I studied international relations in college. After that I went to law school.
I think in my life I had been very lucky because I was able to do things at the right time. For example, if I had started law school two years later, the economy would have been worse and it would have been much harder to find a job. I got into the Foreign Service at the time when they were hiring new diplomats.
— Who were the biggest influencers in your career?
When I was working at a law firm, I had a female colleague who had become a lawyer back when there were not as many women practicing law. She was the president of our Bar Association and a really prominent person. But while I was working with her I watched her pass up two family vacations. Not even because there was something urgent that she was doing but because she just felt that she was too busy to take the vacations. Then her husband had a stroke and, all of a sudden, she realized that she did not want to work at all. She wanted to stay with her husband and nurse him back to health. Just the idea that it took something dramatic for her to reassess her priorities made me reassess mine.
— What advice would you give a young woman who has a boring job and wants to change careers but does not know where to start?
— You have managed to have a career whilst also having a three-child family. What has helped you to combine career and family?
I would say that you cannot even imagine how much you are capable of doing until you create a family. There are plenty of people who do not plan their families. But life happens and they manage. There is so much possibility out there. You just have to listen to your heart and do what is right for you.
— You travel extensively for work. How challenging is such a lifestyle especially with three young kids?
Besides, we are so lucky to live in the world where you have Skype, WhatsApp and other ways to keep in touch. I try to set up WhatsApp playdates for my daughter with her friends who are back home. By keeping those ties with home you do not have too much culture shock or homesickness in a new place. Second is looking forward. When we arrived here, I did not have to work my first week. During this time, we went to Gorky Park, a playground, some restaurants, and museums and just tried to embrace the new city as quickly as possible. Also, I guess here it helped to download all the right apps such as Uber and 2GIS and figure out how to take a bus. I think people choose to go into my lifestyle because they have an interest in embracing new cultures and trying new things. So I do not think that part is particularly challenging.
— How do you define "feminism"?
I have noticed here people making jokes or asking if I am a feminist in a way that is very discouraging. The term seems a lot more loaded in Kazakhstan and in Russian. I am not sure why the word tends to produce a negative reaction here. During the Soviet times, women were able to build their careers. They became doctors and lawyers and had so many important roles that the women in the States did not have during the same years. Looking at history, I thought that in some ways the countries of the former Soviet Union were more progressive.
— Do you agree that in order to succeed in her career a woman has to work harder than a man?
As a child I remember goofing around in my grade school cafeteria and being told that my behaviour was not "ladylike". Even as a child I thought, "Why do I have to be ladylike while the boys sitting next to me are goofing around and are not being told the same thing". When I worked in a law firm I had to be more conscious of my behaviour because in a law firm you are often judged by your toughness. But I work now in a world that is really equal and where all of that is much less true. These days inappropriate behaviour and old attitudes stand out. When someone acts unfairly or expresses something sexist other people will object and those who acted inappropriately feel ashamed and correct their behaviour.