My leadership team is currently 100% women; however, when I started my company, my husband was the sole male member of our team. He comes from some male-dominated workplaces within tech and venture capital, so I was surprised when he observed, "I have never seen such a hard-working and unentitled workforce as this team"—though, in truth, I wasn't too surprised.
The Power Of Working Mothers
His perceptions support the research that found that women-led businesses outshine the competition, with "returns that were 226 percent higher." Additionally, the research found that "women-led teams were more collaborative, communicative, and open to learning—even when managed across remote locations."
(For the record, my husband exited the company for a new venture, and we are still happily married.)
However, I live in Utah, which ranks among the bottom three states in terms of pay equity, and more recently than I’d like to admit, I have heard antiquated narratives that a "woman's place is (exclusively) in the home."
This article is not to convince women which path is best for them; however, I want to make a case for women who desire to stay or re-enter the workforce. Additionally, I wish to shed light on the hurdles confronted by women, particularly mothers, across the United States and elaborate on how incorporating more mothers into your team helps both businesses and society thrive.
Overcoming The Motherhood Penalty
I strongly identify with the adage, "If you want something accomplished, hire a mom." Yet, ironically, mothers endure a disparity ranging from lower compensation to how they're treated in the workplace—in stark contrast to non-mothers and their male counterparts.
This phenomenon has been aptly labeled the "motherhood penalty" by a Harvard study, which highlights numerous distressing symptoms, including a noticeable decrease in perceptions of competence and commitment; increased professional expectations; reduced chances of securing employment and career advancement; and even lower salary recommendations. Another shocking point from the analysis revealed that men tend to receive raises when they are expecting a child compared to women, who are more likely to receive pay cuts and lower opportunities for promotion.
While the challenges posed by the motherhood penalty are undeniable, I’d like to be another voice highlighting the benefits of the motherhood advantage. I hope two things come from this article: First, to inspire employers to recognize and embrace the remarkable assets they have in their workforce, and second, to empower mothers with a work gap to better understand their strengths while coming back into the labor market.
The Power Of "Mom Brain"
Working with moms globally, I’ve seen so many advantages (much of it backed by research) that they bring to a company, including but not limited to diverse perspectives, loyalty, empathy, mentorship, leadership, problem-solving, adaptability and the promotion of work-life balance.
As a new mom, one of the platitudes I had to reframe is the notorious loathing of "mom brain." For instance, I get stumped on remembering menial facts like "Who’s that 80s fitness guru? You know, the one who wears short shorts. Ugh, what’s his name again?" While I may not be the first to remember Richard Simmons' name at celebrity trivia nights, it doesn’t mean that my new mom brain isn’t something to celebrate.
As observed by a neuroscientist and mother, Elizabeth Amory Meyer, we transform from "a self-centered organism into an other-focused caregiver." Spoiler alert: This is the thesis and basis of the popular leadership training book, The Outward Mindset, a platform that touts a 65% increase in productivity and a 400% increase in sales. Dr. Meyer’s research also shows that mom's brains enhance courage, hyperfocus and resilience.
Not only this, but motherhood is an excellent training ground for 21st-century leadership skills such as becoming a better listener, calmer in crises, more diplomatic and adept at time management.
Other research shows that mothers outperformed other employees. A recent study from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis showed mothers outperformed those without children at practically every stage of the game throughout the course of a 30-year career. In fact, mothers with more children were actually the most productive.
If you’re still on the fence about hiring a mother with an employment gap or a woman feeling guilty about returning to work, here is something to consider: Not only is work good for women’s mental health, but research shows better health, fewer symptoms of depression and overall positives for families.
Additionally, when women work, it helps families financially—but maybe in ways you haven’t considered. Some years ago, I worked with a new group of Ugandan artisans; the excitement was contagious as they were about to receive their first payment. The women started collectively chanting, "Leero abaana baffe bagenda kunywa amata!" Translation: "Today, our children will drink milk!"
Research shows that around the world, "When women work, they invest 90 percent of their income back into their families, compared with 35 percent for men." Through a concentrated emphasis on women, forward-thinking businesses and organizations have the potential to ignite economic advancement, broaden market horizons and enhance overall health and educational achievements.
Beyond the financials, I am inspired by a new working paper from Kathleen McGinn and her colleagues for Harvard Business School, which "purports that working mothers are more likely to raise successful daughters and caring, empathetic sons."
The ripple effect of women in the workforce—especially mothers—has impressive rewards for companies, mothers, families and society. If you’re a mom re-entering the workforce, I hope you celebrate your strengths. And if you’re an employer, I hope you seek out the job title "mother" on resumes.
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