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CONCIERGE LEADERSHIP

The Power of Motherhood: Supporting Maternal Talent in the Workforce



Despite being multitasking mavens, strategic thinkers, and resilient leaders, mothers continue to face unique challenges and systemic barriers in professional spaces. From navigating bias and stereotypes to juggling work and family duties, mothers often encounter obstacles that hinder their career advancement and professional growth. But don’t worry, there's hope! Employers hold the key to easing these burdens. By implementing supportive policies and nurturing an inclusive workplace atmosphere, employers can create an environment where working parents feel valued and supported, enabling them to thrive both personally and professionally. Here are four ways employers can flex their influence and make policies that support working parents.


Understanding the Motherhood Penalty

The Motherhood Penalty—a phenomenon where women's pay decreases, they are less likely to be hired for jobs, and they are perceived as less competent after becoming mothers—is a stark reality that highlights the disparities in our workplaces. Research shows that moms working full-time, year-round earn only 74 cents for every dollar paid to fathers, perpetuating economic inequality and jeopardizing their financial security. This disparity is compounded by hiring biases, with mothers facing discrimination in recruitment and compensation. Closing the gender pay gap is essential for achieving economic parity. Managers can play a crucial role by ensuring equitable compensation practices and promoting pay transparency.


Redefining Work-Life Balance

Since COVID, it's become crystal clear to most that the trade-offs we've been told to accept for years were based on a false promise—that if you work relentlessly and go above and beyond, then you will have this steady, upward career trajectory with no interruptions and a constantly rising salary. Employees now know that is just not the case. We've reached this era where the way we think about balancing work and life is changing. Mothers, in particular, are redefining what it means to succeed professionally while prioritizing their families. It's important to let go of outdated paradigms and embrace a more inclusive approach that values individuals' diverse needs and priorities.


As employers, it's crucial to recognize that self-care isn't a luxury; it's a necessity for overall well-being. Women, in particular, face heightened risks of anxiety, depression, and various stress-related ailments. It's also important to note that the lack of adequate care infrastructure, such as affordable healthcare, childcare, and eldercare services can impact the health and well-being of women. Therefore, as employers, it's important to encourage employees, especially mothers, to prioritize self-care ruthlessly. Provide them with the support and flexibility they need to dedicate time each day to nurture their well-being. Offering resources for mental health support, stress management, and work-life balance can benefit working mothers facing multiple responsibilities. Encourage an environment where saying no to additional tasks, taking breaks, or opting out of non-essential meetings is not only accepted but encouraged. By fostering a culture of self-care, you not only promote healthier, happier employees but also create a workplace that values and prioritizes holistic well-being.


Creating a Supportive Environment

Leaders play a pivotal role in fostering a workplace culture that supports working parents. If we want to create a workplace where caregiving is valued, we need to get comfortable with the concept of "Parenting out loud," as advocated by Leslie Forde, founder of Mom’s Hierarchy of Needs. This approach entails encouraging managers, supervisors, and those in positions of authority to openly acknowledge and share their caregiving responsibilities. Instead of concealing family commitments behind vague terms like "appointment," managers must be real and specific—whether it's attending a child's soccer game, scheduling a dentist appointment for your child, or addressing childcare challenges. By normalizing discussions about caregiving duties, we not only cultivate a culture of transparency and trust but also empower others to do the same. When leaders lead by example in embracing their parental responsibilities, it sets a precedent that allows employees to prioritize their family obligations without fear of judgment or repercussion.


Building on “Parenting out Loud”—leaders should also consider providing mentorship programs, networking events, and opportunities for professional growth to their teams. These opportunities can empower mothers to progress in their careers and overcome hurdles like the infamous “broken rung,” highlighted by McKinsey & Company as the greatest barrier to women reaching senior leadership. Additionally, implementing Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) for parents can provide a vital support network, offering a safe space for parents to navigate the challenges of balancing work and family responsibilities.


Policy Recommendations

With issues like rising prices and fewer options for family planning in certain states, it's getting even tougher for employees to juggle work and family. One of the biggest issues present today is, unlike many developed nations, the United States lacks essential policies guaranteeing paid annual leave, sick leave, or parental leave—a big issue that intensifies the struggle for working parents, particularly mothers. To bridge this gap and create a more supportive environment, companies must take proactive measures to implement policies and programs that cater to the diverse needs of their employees. Prioritizing flexibility in work arrangements, such as offering flexible schedules and remote or hybrid work options, empowers women to navigate their professional and personal lives more effectively. 


Furthermore, advocating for family-friendly benefits designed to support employees in managing their work-life balance, including parental leave, health benefits, childcare stipends (or resources to help employees find reliable childcare), dependent care assistance, wellness programs, and tuition reimbursement programs, not only enhances employee satisfaction and retention but also contributes to a positive workplace culture that values the well-being of employees and their families. By championing these policies and coaching mothers on how to leverage them effectively, employers can create a workplace culture that not only attracts and retains top talent but also looks out for the entire team’s overall well-being.


Parenting is an intricate balancing act, requiring patience, resilience, strategy, negotiation skills, and much much more—qualities that often go unrecognized in mothers. Despite the undeniable benefits of hiring moms for business, women continue to be underrepresented in leadership roles. It's time to recognize the immense value mothers bring to the workforce. Supporting mothers in the workplace isn't just the right thing to do; it's a strategic investment in the future of our workforce. By advocating for policies that prioritize fairness and inclusivity, we can unlock the potential of working parents and foster an environment where everyone, regardless of their family situation, can flourish without trade-offs.


If you're struggling to implement these changes in your workplace or need additional guidance, remember that support is available. Consider reaching out to human resources professionals, diversity and inclusion specialists, or consulting firms specializing in work-life balance and family-friendly policies. These experts can provide valuable insights and assistance tailored to your organization's unique needs and challenges.


I am also ready and happy to support you in this journey towards creating a more inclusive and supportive work environment. Send me an email at sarah@conciergeleadership.com, and let’s start a conversation about how we can work together to make a positive impact for working parents in your organization.

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