Companies Need to Do More to Support Working Moms

Being an Agency Leader and a Working Mom Is a Balancing Act

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This Sunday I'll be one of the very lucky women in the world who gets to celebrate being a mom. I became a mom three years ago and to this day, it's still the most rewarding, terrifying, vulnerable and exhilarating thing I've ever done.

As a working mom in a leadership position in a male-dominated industry, reflections are free-flowing as Mother's Day approaches. My news feeds are always filled with studies about the benefits of being a mom who works outside the home. Some of this admittedly helps me deal with the guilt I often feel about choosing a demanding career and how much I love my work and thrive from the satisfaction that comes from tackling a hairy business problem or working with a team. Some of it is to help me understand the longer-term impact my choice will have on my daughter, and some of it is for me to track how far (or not) the workplace has evolved for working moms.

Countless studies, from those in the Harvard Business Review to Forbes to the hilarious ones shared by Scary Mommy (one of my favorite blogs), consistently conclude that there are big benefits to kids who have working moms. The findings are stark, decisive and hold true across more than 24 countries. For example, men raised by working mothers are more likely to contribute to household chores and spend more time caring for family members. Women whose moms worked outside the home are more likely to have jobs themselves, are more likely to hold supervisory responsibility at those jobs, and earn higher wages than women whose mothers stayed home full-time. In the actual workplace, other research has shown that female employees are more likely to rise through the ranks of a firm (and less likely to leave) when they have females as managers, mentors and role models.

So it's conclusive.

Then why are still so few working moms out there? Why do women opt out of their career after having children, or continue to postpone their path to career progression? Only one out of 87 new CEOs named to lead large public companies in 2015 were women. At an international Young Presidents' Organization conference this past weekend, I was dismayed to learn that the percentage of female membership has dropped to now 8%. While my own marketing communications agency network is making strides in female leadership, there's still room to improve.

I'm lucky to call myself a mom, and, as a woman in a leadership role, I'm fortunate to be in a position to try and spearhead changes that can help more working moms. Changing this world starts with every single leader making a commitment to action, and then following up relentlessly. Not just by women, but by the men in leadership positions who benefit daily from insights brought by working moms.

In the spirit of leadership, I would challenge us to commit to making it easier to balance work, home and family responsibilities and to make it an inspiring re-entry to the workplace for women who have children. To start, companies need to offer flex schedules and generous parental leave. We do at George P. Johnson, as evidenced by the flexible time-off policy we implemented at the beginning of this year. Companies need to establish effective advancement programs for women, offer training programs on everything from identifying strengths to technology refreshes, and to establish a culture of transparent communications where it's safe for women to speak up during times of stress.

While we work toward these industry changes, here are some tips that have helped me in my own journey.

First, let go of guilt. At least try to let go of the guilt. I've often been guilty when I'm not with my daughter. And, I feel guilty when I'm not at work. And then I'm guilty when, at the end of the day I don't have much left to give. Guilt is an unproductive emotion. Always remember that you can't make everyone happy. You're not Nutella.

Limit distractions and time wasters. Before motherhood, this was not a big priority as I had more flexibility, more time and more energy. Now, it is about juggling schedules and responsibilities and getting enough time with my family around my career demands. Efficiency is essential. You can have everything, but not at once. And, don't try and make yourself indispensable. The only one that suffers is you.

Those are mantras by which I live. Being a working mom and an agency leader is not always easy. But, at the end of the day, I wouldn't change a thing.

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