Every year, we celebrate motherhood worldwide on Mother's Day. It's a time when roses are
bought, chocolate-covered strawberries are delivered, and restaurants thrive with Mother's Day brunch reservations. Mother's Day is one of the biggest holidays in the US–reportedly generating over $35 billion in revenue this year alone.
However, motherhood in today's world is more challenging than ever before. With little support from the government and private sector, being a career mom has become an intricate balancing act that goes largely unrewarded.
Regrettably, many employers fail to see the leadership potential that motherhood brings. Studies have shown that career moms often face penalties when they have a baby, while fathers are rewarded and promoted. As a result, working mothers feel exhausted, stuck, and are prone to mental health issues such as anxiety and burnout. This has led to many quietly quitting or leaving the workforce altogether.
The situation isn't any better for stay-at-home moms (SAHMs) trying to re-enter the workforce. A recent survey by Indeed revealed that 73% of respondents experienced bias during the hiring process due to their SAHM status. This bias is nothing new. As a former recruiter, I remember the convincing and cajoling I had to do to persuade hiring managers to consider candidates with a career gap due to raising children.
So, what can leaders do to genuinely support moms in the workplace and move beyond mere lip service? Here are a few ideas:
1. Provide Flexibility: Above all, professional moms need the flexibility to work remotely or have hybrid arrangements. This choice allows them to balance the demands of career and family effectively. Autonomy in setting work hours is also essential, considering the unpredictable nature of parenting.
2. Address Biases: Challenge workplace biases such as flexibility bias and motherhood bias. It's crucial to develop self-awareness, communicate effectively, and avoid making assumptions about working moms' dedication and commitment.
3. Foster Open Communication: Encourage open and honest communication between leaders, managers, and working moms. Creating a safe space for feedback, concerns, and challenges can lead to better understanding and improved support.
4. Think Outside the Box: Leaders should challenge conscious and unconscious biases when hiring or promoting employees. Recognize the leadership potential of moms, as they possess valuable skills such as emotional intelligence, planning, persuasion, resilience, empathy, problem-solving, and conflict resolution–all highly sought-after leadership skills in 2023.
5. Set Realistic Expectations: Combat the culture of overwork by establishing realistic business expectations and deadlines. By clearly communicating organizational goals and scoping projects effectively, working parents can alleviate the pressure and anxiety of balancing work and home demands.
In today's fast-paced workplace, the growing business demands require teams to be agile and adaptive. However, there seems to be a reluctance to push back on unrealistic deadlines and excessive requests, leading to constant stress. This puts immense pressure and anxiety on moms (and dads) as they struggle to balance work and home demands.
Instead, leaders should aim to be clear about organizational goals and how each employee can make a meaningful impact. When scoping projects, it's important to discuss and establish reasonable expectations. By setting clear expectations and realistic deadlines, they can significantly reduce the pressure and anxiety faced by parents.
To support working moms effectively, we must move beyond mere lip service on Mother's Day and create the necessary conditions for success. It is essential to lead by example, foster open communication, and create an environment where vulnerability is embraced. Mothers already carry a heavy load, and while there is much work to be done, leaders can make a difference by providing the support they need. Let's go beyond symbolic gestures and take real action to help these incredible leaders thrive. By doing so, we not only benefit the individuals but also contribute to a more inclusive and successful workplace for everyone.
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