While most moms will agree that since becoming a mom, they have honed their skills as negotiators, facilitators, creative problem-solvers (and in Crina’s case; triage nurses) they are frequently paid less, promoted less and treated as “less” than their counterparts who don’t have kids. Let’s stop putting moms in boxes and start rewarding them for being awesome at work!
Don’t be mean to moms - or really anyone! This episode of Crina and Kirsten Get to Work is about the bias faced in the workplace against mothers, and by biological extension, all women (who are often assumed to be able and want to have children).
Our hosts start off with the exploration of the word “mom.” In many respects “mom” is an honorific, a sacred and respected title. However, there are times when “mom” is derogatory and limiting - such as “mom” hair, or a “mom” car or “mom” clothes . In fact, Crina and Kirsten think moms have GREAT hair!!
The fundamental problem with mom bias is that it limits our experiences, defines our roles, names our place, confines us to expectations simply because we have children. It’s limiting and frustrating - a box too small.
One article notes:
“The pervasive American assumption that mothers should be committed to their children without reservation, that children’s emotional health and academic achievement depend on their mothers being available to them 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Never mind the time a father, relative, friend, or trained caregiver spends with a child — it is a mother’s time that is critical and irreplaceable.” How to Recognize Bias Against Working Mothers
Given these societal expectations on moms, how do moms make it in the workplace? Crina took both her boys to work until they could walk - and was promoted several times while doing so. Kirsten also took her youngest to work as an infant, but worked very hard - and was successful - in keeping it a secret from her bosses. Here’s the truth: Being a mom is an asset to professional growth, driving productivity, management skills and more.
Researchers from the Center for Creative Leadership studied productivity of parents in the workplace, and found just what working mothers already know: “Raising a family helps develop skills such as negotiating, compromising, conflict resolution and multitasking.” How Working Mothers Can Overcome Bias. Unfortunately, the strengths are often not recognized and moms face compensation disparities, are less likely to be hired and promoted to jobs and are more likely to leave jobs.
There are lots of things our governments and communities can do - childcare, paid leave, support for caregivers, flex hours and the like, but there are also things that we, as moms, can do to push back against and mitigate this bias.
- Overcommunicate your intentions, do not leave co-workers and supervisors to make conclusions based on bias against working moms - articulate your plans, particularly career goals - because those around you may assume you have none or will quit.
- Let folks know when you are out of your office - otherwise they assume you are with your kids. Telling your coworkers that you are visiting a client, at an appointment etc prevents another assumption about moms.
- If you are the boss, bring your children into the workplace, literally or figuratively. You will make it more acceptable to integrate the reality of children with the reality that you (and other women) are a successful, kick butt worker!
- Advocate for the changes that would make work and parenting more manageable.
- And do not forget your legal rights:
- Lactation breaks
- Pregnancy accommodation
- Caring for a seriously sick child
- Using your sick leave to care for a sick child
- Parental Leave
And here are some more good reads: