In my 20s and most of my 30s I was the employee you wanted on your team. I was highly ambitious, worked insane hours and prioritized nothing above my job. When I learned I was pregnant, I was certain I would return to my job--as VP of global marketing communications at SuccessFactors--after a brief maternity leave. Yet four months later, I was still at home cuddling my precious daughter, knowing there was no way I could go back to the international travel and 70-hour weeks.
But I still wanted to work. Being a woman had never held me back in my career--being a mom was a different story. So I looked around at positions where I could work normal hours, yet not compromise with a more junior role… crickets. Then I sought the advice of a former mentor and colleague, Dave Yarnold, who had just joined an early-stage startup, ServiceMax, as CEO. He needed executive marketing help but didn’t have the funding yet to go full-time. He hired me on the spot for a half-time job with the goal of shifting to a full-time VP role later on. Offer accepted.
I spent the next eight months in bliss--working 20-hour weeks in a strategic role for a dynamic company, and the rest of the time focused on family. I got a lot done in little time by focusing on the important deliverables, staying on task and saying no to anything that wouldn’t have a big impact.
Once my sweet girl turned one, I became a full-time VP again, but with a new outlook: These days I rarely arrive before 9 a.m. and I’m always out the door before 4 p.m. I do have to put in night and weekend hours, but it’s not at the expense of my time with my family, and no one at work ever questions my output or work ethic.
Three years later (and pregnant again), I run a team full of moms like myself who were all in my same predicament. Out of 12 reports, I have five moms with kids under five, and I guarantee you the jobs are getting done. Instead of one full-time generalist, I hired two experts who work fewer hours. They are senior-level high performers who do phenomenal work, yet also get solid time at home with their children. Everyone wins.
Why don’t more companies do this? There are so many phenomenal women who have much to contribute but have trouble finding organizations willing to hire in a flexible manner. Everyone loses. Here are few pointers for CEOs and other leaders who haven’t yet caught on:
Results matter. Hours don’t.
Do you care more about the number of hours people are in the office, or how well the job gets done? Does it really matter if someone finishes the workday at home because she needs to leave at 4 p.m.? Evaluate your people on performance, not on the amount of time they’re at their desk. (Half of your full-timers are on Facebook right now, anyway.)
Moms are wired to kick ass.
Despite what you think, the term “working mom” is not a dichotomy. Think about the majority of moms you know. They’re organized, they multi-task, and have zero time to screw around. And because they’re in a parenting frame of mind, they also tend to have a heightened focus on “doing the right thing.” Isn’t that who you want on your team?
A half-time mom can outshine a FT hire.
Recently, my company needed expertise in two different functions, but I only had one open headcount. We now have a part-time mom doing each job for the cost of one full-time employee, and I get great performance in both areas. As their kids grow, they may want to get back to working full time, and I can hire a proven high performer with no headhunting or training required.
They’re there when they need to be.
We have our weekly executive-team meetings at 8 a.m. and with my daughter’s schedule, I am always calling in by phone for the first 45 minutes. It’s not ideal for any of us, but really, who cares? Likewise, scheduling meetings takes some extra effort, and sometimes ad hoc discussions that come up on my team have to wait until the right person is back in the office. But I know I can always reach anyone in an emergency, and the benefits far outweigh the logistical hiccups.
They’ll upgrade your culture.
Don’t be afraid to foster a culture in your company that promotes flexibility and life-work balance. You’ll have elated employees who work harder and smarter. I can promise this: Moms know better than anyone how to squeeze twice the output into half the time. And the loyalty and commitment your employees will have in return is invaluable.