CAREER: Do working moms make great managers? YES!

I read in USA TODAY a very interesting article about if working moms make better managers. Some of it was interesting, and some of it got me pretty peeved. It began with the results of a study in which "A survey last Mother's Day by the professional women's networking organization WorldWit found that 69% would rather work for a mother than a non-mother, and only 2% prefer a non-mother. They say mothers have patience and listening skills, and understand when others encounter family demands." The article goes on to interview a few CEOs, many that were women, who go on to say that hiring working moms has many issues. This was the stuff that got me peeved. It was as if the study said one thing, but business managers want to stick to their own preconceived perceptions what working moms bring to the table when it comes to management. A lot of their past experiences with a few moms were bad, so they made blanket statements about all working moms. Its the "one bad apple spoils it for the rest of us" kind of scenario.

So lets get into what working moms DO bring to the table based on what they bring to their own dinner tables and see how they align from a management perspective. After all, aren't managers just parenting a bunch of grown ups with varying temperaments and personalities?

Patience: Any mom trying to coax their child to get dressed or do their homework understands patience. Now fast forward to the workplace and imagine trying to get your team motivated for a new business pitch or to take on an extra assignment. You learn really fast what my Grandmother always told me, you attract more bees with honey than with vinegar. Mothers find out quickly that losing your temper just escalates a situation or causes complete shut down, whether it is a 5 year old or 30 year old. You learn quickly what I call "the art of the velvet hammer" to motivate others. For some, it takes years to learn. For moms, about 6 months.

Mentoring and Growing: This is pretty much the definition of being a mom in my book. And if you as a manager don't have this as a focus for one of your goals, you are doing yourself and your people a disservice. Subordinates are in their career to grow and learn new things, move up the corporate ladder, become better and get recognition doing so. Managers need to make sure their people are on the right path. Sometimes that has to do with gentle discipline and sometimes rewarding the behavior you do want. It also has to do with constantly communicating to your staff about changes or directions in your department or company. You do this so there are no surprises. So they feel safe, focused and able to grow under your supervision. A great management article I read regarding managing creatives (which is what I do) was titled "Keep 'Em Safe and Warm" showing a picture of a dozen eggs. The article talked about the feeling of safety and being cared for being particularly important for creative people, who need that environment to feel good about sharing their ideas openly –and to come up with more. It is the same for children, and it is our job as mother's to create that environment for them. So creating it in the workplace is second nature to us.

Time Management: If you ever came to my house in the morning before school, you would understand the meaning of time management (or birth control!). If you are a working mother with a full household, you are juggling many schedules and many house chores all at once. If we as mothers don't do this, the household would fall into ruin. There would be no food, no clean clothes, no clean dishes, and the children would be in disarray. No one would get anywhere when they were supposed to and with what they were supposed to bring. It would be a complete mess. Time management IS our life. We could not survive without it. In the article, a CEO talks about one working mom that stayed up all night working on her child's halloween costume, and missed her business flight. That was not because she was a mom. That was just poor planning. But that CEO was using that incident as a way to make blanket judgments against all working moms. Most working moms live by timelines and set routines. Managing not just their timelines, but their household's timelines is part of their DNA.

Budget Management: This goes hand in hand with the above, but a household with children gets very expensive. I am amazed daily how much money I am shelling out for school alone; $5 for a hot dog lunch, $15 for book order, $7 for the field trip, $50 donation to the art program. Most of these are unexpected costs that come up. Then when you add groceries, gas, child care, nights out, bills, you better hope you have enough for that iced mocha you were craving to get you through the day at Starbucks! Budget management is part of a mother's daily life. It is a talent that is developed out of necessity and could be put to work in any career.

Multi-Tasking: Any high pressure job includes needing to multi-task. Juggling timelines, staff needs, meetings, new business prospects, day to day work, administrative duties all need to be done every day. To do your job well, your mind needs to be able to think about many things at once. A working mom's brain has had to go through this transformation already. For instance, one trip to the upstairs means picking up some toys, delivering laundry, bringing up more toilet paper and garbage bags to change the cat litter while up there. Running a household means being very efficient with every step you take. It's asking yourself, "If I am making a trip to another room in the house, can I cross off more things on my mental list of things to do?" It's setting things out at night for the morning rush, folding laundry while watching your child on the back deck, making calls on the commute in, running to the pharmacy or getting groceries on your lunch hour. Working moms have very few hours in the day to GET IT DONE, but we GET IT DONE.

Seeing the Big Picture: There is something to be said for the perspective being a mom gives you when looking at the bigger scheme of things. Before I was a mom, I would just have a heart attack if a client did not like a layout or I made a mistake on something. I was very stressed out all the time about my job. Don't get me wrong, I still am stressed! But work is not the be all and end all of my life anymore. Creating and nurturing another human being kind of puts that in perspective. I guess I do have a more important job, at the end of the day. It does not make me any less dedicated to my paying job, but I can see things from another place-–a place with more understanding, compassion and steadiness. I think this is why many people in the survey said they would prefer to work for a mom. They mentioned that moms had better listening skills and understanding. Why wouldn't these CEOs want those qualities in their leaders?

Commitment: The common theme in the article that jumped out at me was the feeling that moms that work have a lack of a commitment. I would argue that they have MORE of one. First of all, if they leave their beloved children every day, they better make it be for something worthwhile and make a difference, right? I don't think that doing their job at 50% is part of that equation. Yes, do working moms have schedule issues at times? Yes. But all that warrants is creativity with time and dedication. The workplace has changed and technology has allowed it to– America needs to get on board. Work does not all have to be done between 9 and 5, and no one knows that more than a working mom. A working mom would not think twice about working on Sunday if she can get to her child's baseball game by 6 p.m. on a Tuesday. As I said before, WE GET IT DONE. So if it means answering e-mails at 11:00 p.m. while waiting for the dryer to finish so you could get out early for a parent teacher conference, than what's the big deal? Its getting done, and on a mother's personal time. That's commitment, time-management and flexibility all rolled into one. Wouldn't you want someone like that working for you?


Comments

  1. Yeah...I can see budget management in the number of times I have seen working moms with a history of bankruptcy...ha! Working moms are always looking for any excuse to increase their paychecks at the expense of other workers. Now they want to use domestic "experience" as work experience. I am not surprised. They have garnered enough token positions already, I assure you.

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  2. Principessa di Napoli, I caution you against using such broad terms.

    Working moms and a history of bankruptcy? Are you trying to say that it is working moms who have declared bandruptcy and because of that, you feel they would be (or are) deficient employees? So, there are no men in your office who have declared bankruptcy? Give me a break. Bankruptcy hits everyone, whether they are a working mom or a working dad. And why are working dads not subject to your tunneled vision view of the world?

    Working moms are always looking for a "excuse" to increase their paycheck?! Normal people call that assertive. What surprises me even more about your comment is that normally, women (moms or not, so in the general sense, if you can wrap your head around THAT) have a harder time pushing for raises AND historically are paid less than their male counterpart for the same job. There is a stigma associated with a woman stepping up to their (usually male) boss and arguing for a raise by showing accomplishments. Men do it all the time, and they are assertive. They get a pat on the back. Women do it, and we are "agitators" or bitchy. YOU are a woman, and you probably have dealt with getting the short end of the stick as opposed to your male counterparts, but instead, you are focusing your disdain on your female counterparts who have kids! It's strange! Sounds to me as if you have 1 specific employee in your head and it has jaded you toward the entire working mom group. I wonder, are you the one who hired this woman? Maybe you made a bad choice. And if you didn't hire this woman, then someone else was trying to give her a chance but maybe made a mistake.

    And as far as your generalization that "they" want to use domestic experience as work experience is concerned: There are many working moms out there who have Masters and PhDs! They are not using their domestic "experience", as you call it, as work experience. I have a 4 year degree and almost 12 years of experience in the industry in which I work.

    Many working moms either were in the work force and removed themselves for a spell so that they could raise their kids, or they always were in the work force, and never left.

    Seriously, it is people like you who poison the growth potential with your jaded generalizations. How about at least acknowledging the fact that your opinion does not apply to all working moms.

    Start there, Pincipessa, or are you too good for that, as your name implies?

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  3. Wow! jgelsomina1, great retort. Sounds like Principessa is young and clueless. Some of the best managers Ive worked with have been working moms. They are more focused, compassionate and organized than their male counter parts.

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  4. I honestly am shocked and outraged that another woman would post a comment such as Pincipessa. Such a narrow-minded post would lead one to deduce that you are not a mother. I can guarantee you that as a single mother, who has been working as an executive level manager for many many years, that the fact that I AM a mother plays into my role at work everyday. I am ashamed that even without children, that another woman would not be greatful that as a society, maybe, just maybe we might be advancing to point that we are finally recognizing the fact that many women not only have the intelligence and the skill sets to run departments but are strong enough to balance their hectic lives and go home and take care of their families. Something that should be honored, not downgraded and mocked.

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  5. In an attempt to educate the ignorant, below are bankruptcy statistics.

    Per The Fragile Middle Class: Americans in Debt; Elizabeth Warren, Harvard Law School; Smith Business Solutions
    Link to article: hhttp://www.bankruptcylawinformation.com/index.cfm?event=dspStats
    _____________________________________

    The average age of a bankruptcy filer is 38
    Couples filing jointly make-up 44% of all bankruptcy filings
    Another 30% of the filers are women filing bankruptcy alone.
    Just 26% of the bankruptcy filers are men who are filing alone
    Another statistic says the most bankruptcy filers are slightly better educated than the general population
    Two out of three bankruptcy filers have lost a job
    Half of all bankruptcy filers have experienced a serious health problem
    91% of bankruptcy filers have suffered a job loss, medical event or divorce
    The states that have the highest bankruptcy rates are Tennessee, Utah, Georgia, and Alabama
    40% of bankruptcies result from medical crises, unemployment or divorces
    90% of these filers have two car payments, a house payment, and an average of $2500 in credit card debt
    10% of filers were delinquent only 5 to 29 days before bankruptcy.
    ____________________________________

    It's so sad to see that ignorance has taken over the intentions of this blog. Flora's article is perfect and accurate. As a business owner and after years of experience working in an office (including in management roles), I can accurately state that based on my experience, working mothers are usually terrific managers. I have witnessed that working moms have great skills in time management, balance, prioritizing, organization, efficiency, goal orientation, delegation, detail orientation, having grace under fire, conflict resolution, knowledge, experience, communication, documentation, fairness, compassionate leadership, creativity, and being team players/builders. They either strive to achieve professional growth, or they are happy with the roles they have and perform better than anyone else. Questions can be raised at times regarding reliability, but strong management recognizes their value and can remain rest assured that even if this mom may need a more flexible schedule, they are bring such value to the office that they are not replaceable. There is an interesting component to being a working mom, especially a single working mom, they understand the value of their job in their personal life and take ownership of their work. If a single working mom looses her job, she can not support herself let alone a child, so she works harder to keep it. An interesting fact is that working mom's go through school twice, once themselves, then along with their children. We get a refresher on all the basics as we do homework with our kids which is greatly helpful professionally. My math, social studies, grammar and science skills have notably improved over the past 5 years thanks to my sons. Coincidentally, I find I am more interested in taking time to research things before forming opinions (hint, hint). It is because I have gone through the ups and downs of learning how to balance a career and raising wise children, as well as critical life experience, that allowed me to be in a position today where I can now own a successful growing business.

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  6. In response to the ridiculous bankruptcy comment. It took me years to understand this, but wise people acknowledge when change is necessary, and know when to quit to allow for change. We often associate quitting with loosing, but this is not true in all cases. Quitting in this sense is a liberating choice when someone recognizes they are in too deep and are now slaves to an adverse lifestyle. Our country is full of corporations that were started by successful people who went through bankruptcy, such as Trump, Disney, Ford and Heinz. These people recognize that their priorities are not in the right places, their lives are spinning out of control, and they are not healthy. People don't go through bankruptcy unless they are suffering, statistically this is most often due to medical bills, divorce and/or job loss; three risky events that all people are exposed to. I learned through employees of credit bureaus and mortgage underwriters that people who have high debts and struggle to pay them off are not considered good risk, this is why we have a credit score system. The credit bureaus are set up to spot a person who is struggling whether they are paying debts or not. Their credit scores are dropped to show lenders this person is in over their head and can't take on more. The credit bureaus also will keep a persons score lower for a period of time as they are paying off debt, and then a while afterward, to ensure that they learned their lesson and adapted better habits. There is no coincidence that a person who pays off their debt will go through the same 2 - 7 year credit recovery as person who files bankruptcy. The credit bureaus in essence rewards those who recognize a change is needed and file a bankruptcy, because they know when to quit. Note in the statistics in the prior blog, 30% of bankruptcy filings are single woman, 26% are men (that is only 4% less than woman), and those filing bankruptcy are 38 years old and tend to be more educated than normal. The 4% difference in men vs woman can be attributed to men not having as many medical bills and living expenses, 62% of custodial mothers do not receive child support (per DHHS Greenbook, chapter 11), and men historically avoid handling personal finances. When I have to hire an accountant to run the books for my business, I would never be opposed to a mother who filed personal bankruptcy, as long as they can be open about it and are proud of who they have become, the changes they have made in their lifestyle, and the knowledge/experience the process has brought to them. People who have been through financial hardships and succeeded have a lot of lessons to those who haven't faced those challenges. Sounds like the perfect input a business owner needs to steer wisely. Life experience, hardship, struggle, are unwanted, but those who have persevered through these times look back on them with a gratitude that words can not explain. Principessa, I don't wish bad on anyone, but I do pity you for your lack of experience and knowledge. When you are confronted with adverse situations in your life, as we all are at some point, I hope that besides knowledge you learn discretion, and compassion.

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  7. I don't think Principessa is a woman at all! I think he's a disgrunted guy that's seen smarter, more organized women pass him up in position or status at the office.
    As a full-time working Mom and director of a department, I totally agree with your comments Flora. I've always compared my job to being a teacher. How do I motivate each "student" to be the best they can be? These are skills you hone as a Mom. The reason I love the company I'm currently at is because it's female dominent at the top with many working moms. They understand the value in supporting moms because the return for the company is total commitment, appreciation and extreme loyalty for the privilege. Some of these women are only paid for working three or four days, yet the company benefits by getting "full-time" thinking from these women. These smart moms I work with get a full weeks work done in the appreviated work week. Everyone wins in this situation.
    Principessa - you must have had some very bad work experiences. Maybe you need to find a new job!

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  8. The originally posted comment from Principessa would not hurt if there wasn't a grain of truth in it.

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  9. Oh, wow, Anonymous! It wouldn't hurt if there wasn't truth to it? How about it is hurtful b/c it paints a picture with a very broad brush! I am a successful, brilliant, highly paid single mother...and I ROCK AT MY JOB. I, by no stretch of the imagination, EVER fit into the ridiculous box that Principessa would like to put every working mother into.

    Here's the thing. There are men that suck at their jobs and it isn't because they are fathers. It's because they suck. There are women who suck at their jobs - and they may be mothers...but they suck at their jobs b/c they suck. Not b/c they are mothers.

    The bottom line is that, until recently, mothers have been pigeon holed b/c of the fact that they were mothers. The glass ceiling was even lower then than it is now.

    Mothers bring a special set of attributes (above and beyond the normal requirements for a particular job) to the table b/c of the fact that they have to be so selfless and so on top of everything all the time. Are all mothers like this? NO. But I am. and Principessa put me into a bucket that implies that I am a crappy employee.

    Honestly, this isn't even worth it b/c Principessa doesn't even truly understand what the original message was of this article. She has shifted the entire focus elsewhere.

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  10. Guess that they make better employees since they have so much free time to devote to their work. Go ahead and support your own hypothesis. :-)

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