If you're a woman who works outside of the home and a mother as well, you get it in spades. If not, it's time to.
Women are more than 50% of the workforce. And many of these same women are also mothers, raising children. Problem is, the business world doesn't seem to fully understand what this means. Yet.
There are some areas where businesses are starting to listen and beginning to understand -- wage equality, paid family leave, and the push for more women in leadership positions. All important issues, not only for women but for our society as a whole.
And most of us would agree that work/life issues as they impact working mothers (and fathers) are "at the table" today in many business discussions. Steps forward. Yet particularly for working mothers, the steps aren't far enough. The realities are that millions:
Are unable to achieve and maintain any modicum of work flexibility; are being challenged in terms of their commitment to their jobs when a need arises regarding their children (and make no mistake about it...these "needs" continue for 21+ years); and are being forced -- often in subtle but powerful ways -- to choose between their careers/jobs and being a parent.
I don't know anyone who would want to face these kinds of choices.
Let's think about a few things:
Do companies -- and we're actually talking about those in senior leadership positions (i.e. those who establish the culture and acceptable behaviors in their respective businesses) -- think that it's okay for such struggles to exist for working mothers? Would they want the same for their wives, daughters, or granddaughters? And yes, I realize that women can be the ones exerting this pressure too.
Do companies think choosing motherhood means that their education and experience becomes an afterthought or that the time they've spent investing in and creating their careers suddenly has no meaning? Or value?
Do companies not understand the big picture and think that the time (measured in years) working mothers spend raising and instilling values and qualities in their children -- the same ones companies want in their future employees ... things like integrity, honesty, respect and kindness -- happens in only a brief few months? Or by age 5? Or by chance?
An article just appeared (child care gap) addressing what mothers should do in terms of their resumes when a "gap" appears during the years they decided (if they even have the ability to choose) to remain at home. Why is stating that raising the next generation something to be ashamed of, to excuse or to hide? Since when did raising a child equate to something to apologize for? What messages are we giving and being forced to accept?
I'm a working mother too and spent years devoted to my work and to my child. Still do. And if anyone questioned my commitment to either role/job or would ask/expect me to "explain away" years when my child's needs were the priority, well...need not say more. The value, importance, and necessity of being a present, engaged, and responsive parent and caregiver cannot be overstated. And the skills required to do so easily translate into value-added skills for any employer.
Working women who are mothers deserve to have their abilities *and* their needs supported, both as parents and employees. And this happens when "family-friendly" companies -- their culture and behaviors up and down the organization -- resonate with every working mother no matter their position, title or role. Policies are great, but don't replace attitudes and actions.
For those companies truly embracing working mothers and not asking or expecting an explanation or apology about their life choices or how they've spent or spend their time, hats off. And for those who aren't there yet, it's okay...the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step (Lao Tzu).