I often hear tales of working mothers being passed up for promotions, and as a woman and a business owner, I understand that the issue may not be such a simple one to untangle. On one hand, you have competent women who have chosen to contribute to society both by bringing new citizens into the world, and also by using their intellect and talent to further the businesses in which they are active. On the other hand, you have business owners who need to make sure that the needs of their businesses are met with the same unflagging commitment and undying energy that they imagine a working mother will bring to bear on her children. Business owners often want to leverage the very valuable talents that working mothers offer to their organizations, but then hesitate to give them more responsibility fearing that it will clash with their family duties. And while it's true that the two can come into conflict, I think that most women can sort out this struggle, and find ways to serve both home and office without sacrificing the needs of either. Here are four concrete reasons you should promote the mom you were contemplating for a management position as soon as possible.
Moms are uber-empathetic. Becoming a mom teaches you to always try to imagine the perspective of others--from your child's to that of another parent. You learn that every person, event, and conflict, has a back story that must be recognized in order to understand, evaluate, and defuse. The ability to accurately assess and positively engage those being managed is the most important skill any good manager can bring to the table.
Moms aren't easily deterred. Moms get the unexpected thrown their way constantly. Whether it's handling a diaper blowout 5 minutes before take-off when the captain's already turned on the seatbelt sign, figuring out how to create a classroom snack using the seemingly incompatible ingredients in the fridge at midnight, or making a last-minute plan to cover two kid's events at once at opposite ends of town, moms rarely throw in the towel, because they know that doing so is just not an option. Managers need the same resolve because they are responsible for finding the way forward, with the people and resources they are given, regardless of the circumstances.
Moms are notorious cheerleaders, coaches, and overseers. When a kid needs a word of encouragement, a reminder of the rules, a victory high-five or a hug to pick up the pieces, moms are there. The awareness that staff members require the same type of motivation, monitoring, redirection, and celebration is the special sauce of the best managers, and moms provide this key ingredient effortlessly.
Moms have a special radar that picks up on the weaknesses and strengths of others. Moms know how to inspire a kid to do what he's best at, and how to get him help for the areas in which he is lacking. They have an innate talent for sensing when it's time to let a kid give up or push him to persevere. Managers that employees look up to are those who give them the courage to stretch themselves, but also allow them to acknowledge and hone their imperfections.
Working moms are much more than a potential workplace liability. They are consummate negotiators, creative thinkers, caring advocates, and conscientious leaders. They find ways to placate the unruly, to inspire the misguided, and to pull everyone around them, instead of just themselves, forward. And the ultimate truth about working moms--and the one that no one likes to give voice to, is that the only one who might suffer in the equation is the mom herself, because she will always put her own needs behind those of her company, her children, and her spouse.