Then she went on maternity leave.
Ten months later Suzy returned. She had done all the right things. Kept in touch, offered to come in for specific meetings relevant to a project she would be leading, checked her emails etc. Much more than she was supposed to.
Guess what happened?
Suzy got made redundant. Although the company found a way to make it look like she just wasn’t needed, it was clear it was about her new status as a mother.
The details are too many to share here. But I guess you won’t be surprised to hear that there are no mothers in senior leadership in that organisation.
Before the redundancy Suzy was moved. The role that was supposed to be hers, changed. Responsibilties shifted. Information traveled differently. I could keep going.
The story is sad, but not unique. Unfortunately I see way too many mothers experience similar challenges. Such a shame.
The talent a mother has before she has children doesn’t go away just because she gives birth.
In fact, there are extra bonus reasons for hiring and promoting a woman who is already a mother.
Here are 3 easily ignored reasons to promote a mother:
She will give it her all.
A mum will make sure that she makes it worth her while to be working. Childcare is costly. To make it sustainable she needs to keep earning and preferably increasing her income, so she is motivated to perform and deliver.
Secondly, dropping your children in care every day easily breaks your heart a little. For it to make sense to keep working, a mother will do everything she can to find success and meaning in her work.
She will be super efficient and productive.
A mum needs to leave on time. She has to pick up the children. Or get home before the nanny leaves. So you might think she will work less. But I assure you that’s not the case. She will be your most productive employee. She knows she doesn’t have time for chit-chat. She needs to get stuff done.
If a mother works four days a week, everyone’s Thursday is her Friday. She needs to turn around work quicker. Many of your employees will be creating extra work that doesn’t add anything but time waste. Many of your team members will invite to countless meetings that could easily be avoided. A busy mother won’t do that. She will find the best and most time-efficient way of getting things done.
She will be attending leadership development daily.
Every day, day in and day out, a mother is honing her leadership skills. You might think that a mother isn’t fit for leadership because she needs to look after her children. But that’s a majorly missed opportunity.
A mother is practising working under tremendous stress every day; holding her calm during tantrums, staying patient with endless why, why, why questions, maintaining eye contact and interest when she’s exhausted and ready to explode.
A mother is practising her people development skills daily; finding the right balance between being directive and letting the child try by themselves, finding the right balance between managing risk and letting the child have space to fail and fall, finding the right balance between passing on a set of rules and moral codes and teaching the child to trust their own judgement.
I could keep going, talking about how she practises the skill of prioritisation every hour, she learns to listen beyond the words for what the complaint is really about and she knows how to keep going with the task in front of her even if she would rather put her feet up. She gets what it takes to nurture talent and foster loyalty.
So look around your organisation. Is there a mother who could add value at the next level?
Talk to her about what flexibility she needs to make it work. Talk to her about the value she can add.
Give that mother a confidence boost. That’s likely all she needs to be your shining star.
For Suzy that didn’t happen…
After a second miserable experience at another company, Suzy decided that the best way to be a mother and fulfill her ambitions was to set up on her own. It’s the right decision for Suzy and I am thrilled for her. But both Suzy and I wish that the appreciation of working mother’s will change in organisations. Running your own business is great for Suzy. But it’s definitely not for everyone. And in Suzy’s case – it’s definitely the organisation’s loss.
Do you have a story about a mother in a senior role and how she is making it work? Or perhaps you are that mother?
Let’s share more stories about mothers who are in leading roles AND having quality time with their children. We need role models to make it more common place and maybe then these 3 reasons to hire and promote a mother won’t be so easily ignored.
* This article also applies to the many dedicated fathers out there. There is a growing number of fathers who also want to be present with their children daily and don’t want their career to be the blocker of that.