Do You Have the Right Strategies to Increase Female Leadership?

Working mom in leadership walking her daughter home from daycare

The Washington Post recently bemoaned retailers for failing on the provision of mom clothes. 

So I’ll bite -- what exactly are mom clothes? The look that says, “I give up”? 

“Newsflash to writers,” wrote one commenter, “we're not all frumpy.”

Career Aspirations Don’t Vanish with Maternal Ones

Apart from moving dangerously close to this SNL classic (“I’m not a woman anymore, I’m a mom!"), the whole idea of a mom uniform plays into the bigger issue of how we view women after children --- especially at work…as if they magically lose career aspirations when maternal ones arrive.

They don’t. But to read the data, you’d think so. Look at what happens when a woman merely announces a baby. Our Modern Family Index showed that most are fully committed to careers after children. They like working. It gives them satisfaction; pride. Yet 20% felt their status changed with the two little words, “I’m pregnant.” “You can still hear things like, ‘she’s probably going to leave anyway,’” consultant Jodi Detjen told our Work/Life Equation podcast

And that’s how we lose women. The sideways glances. The unbearable weight of the family’s entire mental load. It simply becomes too hard to keep repeating that, yes -- we’re really, truly invested in our careers. And over time, all the passed-over assignments and missed promotions become the dotted line that leads right out the door. And employers pay the price – in lost employees,  leaders, and (not incidentally) profits

The Other Sides of Working Mothers

Motherhood plays an enormous part in women’s lives. But it’s only one thing women are. After children, they’re still engineers, scientists, store managers, doctors, math whizzes – people with smarts and ambition. To leverage those great things, we need structures (formal programs guiding processes before and after leave), benefits, and career development that enable women at every career stage. It’s how employers can establish solid pipelines; virtuous cycles where entry-level women see your company as a place to grow careers; mid-career women stay through growing families; late-career women become leaders and role models; and so entry-level women see your organization as a place to grow careers.  

See the math? 

In my office, there’s no obvious attire that says “I’m a mom.” 

Motherhood doesn’t define how women dress. 

It shouldn’t define their careers either.

Women leaders in the workplace

Pivotal Points: Supporting Women in Leadership at Every Stage of their Careers

Join us as we take an in-depth look at the pivotal points in the careers of working women – and how organizations can create strategies to help support them.

Written by: Lisa Oppenheimer

June 4, 2019

About the Author

Lisa Oppenheimer at Bright Horizons

As Director, Brand Storytelling at Bright Horizons, Lisa writes “from the trenches” about the real life challenges of people in today’s workplaces: from the tensions of being a working mother, to working with millennials in the digital age, and everything in between. With a career ranging from freelance to full-time, Lisa brings a diverse employment background to her perspective.