Driving positive solutions to workplace challenges faced by career mums

Career Mum and proud: 5 great reasons to hold your head high

Whether you’re employed or self-employed, as a career mum the constant push-pull forces between work and home will be familiar. Whether it’s sleepless nights, illnesses, the challenges of being a new parent, or the sheer busy-ness of life as a parent, it’s easy to start feeling overwhelmed, and questioning your choices.

Our environment does little to quell these feelings, let alone overturn them, and we can often overlook the enormous value that a career mum brings to the workplace, and to our economy.
Here’s why you should hold your head high, and feel good about what you’re doing.

1. Your contribution is important

As a career mum, you are raising the next generation, whilst also contributing your skills and experience to your workplace and to the economy. The importance of this can’t be overstated.

As an economy we are observing the following two trends:

  • Educated women having fewer children – childlessness is 18 percent for this group, compared with 10 percent for women with no formal qualification. [1]
  • We are leaking and under-utilising talent, as women drop out of the workforce, return to a lower skilled role, or curb their career progression following childbirth. This comes at a time when businesses are experiencing a skills shortage, and are striving to increase gender diversity. [2]
As a career mum, therefore, allow yourself to think positively about your journey, and to channel this energy towards positive actions that will help you thrive.

2. Dividing time between work and family can benefit everyone

Whilst children of course benefit from being with their parents, a mounting body of research shows there are social, economic and educational benefits to having a working mum, for both boys and girls. Daughters are more likely to complete more years of education, more likely to be employed – and in supervisory roles, and earn higher incomes. Meanwhile sons of working mothers are more likely to spend more time on childcare and doing the housework. Returning to work can also offer women a sense of self-fulfilment, and valuable interaction with other adults, away from their children. [3]
Finding the right trade-off in time between work and family can therefore be beneficial for all. It can also enhance the quality of time the family has together. Focusing on this can dampen that feeling of guilt that often accompanies returning to work.

3. You are helping others believe

Whether you realise it or not, you are a picture of a career mum. Others will see this, and are likely to be influenced in one way or another by the fact that you work, and by the subconscious messages you convey through your body language, behaviours and actions. Embrace it. Being a career mum isn’t easy, and you needn’t pretend it is, but allow yourself to feel good about what you’re doing, despite the challenges.

4. As a career mum you are changing the working landscape for women

Gender diversity is not only an ethical imperative, it has also been shown to improve business performance. Despite this, women only make up around 19 percent of senior positions in the private sector. Achieving true gender diversity, and growing the number of women succeeding in business, and in senior decision-making roles, means that as an economy we must get better at supporting women to re-engage their career alongside family. Career mums have the potential to boost the pipeline of women progressing to senior roles, and to positively influence mindsets around career and parenthood. [4]
So next time you have a workplace “parenting” need, consider that by putting it out there, alongside fulfilling your own needs, you may also be helping to shape a better environment for other mums, mums-to-be, and dads.

5. You can make flexible working work for you, and for others

Flexibility is a key enabler for women looking to re-engage their career, whether it’s in the form of part-time hours, flexible hours, working remotely, or any other form of flexible working. But working by flexible arrangement can bring its own set of challenges, particularly if you’re one of only a handful within your organisation to work in this way.
A growing body of research, however, shows that offering flexible work arrangements to employees supports better business performance. Finding a way through the challenges of flexible working is therefore in your organisation’s interests, as well as your own, and could make a significant difference to your experience at work. Businesses are slowly recognising this, and are developing programmes to support flexible working. So as well as improving your own work arrangement, your valuable insight could also inform the development of a successful flexible working programme for the wider business. [5]

Hold your head high, take positive action, and prosper

Little prepares us for the challenges of being a career mum. Getting out of the door in the morning can be an achievement worth celebrating! This is a busy time, and the realisation that you can’t do everything can be hard-hitting.
Amid these challenges, allow yourself to appreciate the importance of what you’re doing and why, and to frame a positive mindset around it. This positivity will go a long way towards empowering you to succeed in your dual role, by helping you to take control of your experiences at work and at home.
For example, putting yourself forward for new opportunities to bring you that new challenge you’re craving; re-scheduling your weekly team meeting to take pressure off your morning drop-off run; pushing back on work or switching off your device after hours to help you achieve better balance and a better night’s sleep, and leaning on others to reduce your ‘to-do list’ – your partner, a junior colleague.
Taking positive actions such as these to take care of your “needs and niggles” will take a significant load off your mind, help you deal with the unexpected, and will ultimately help you to succeed.
Our ambitions are a big part of what defines us, and the ones that are truly important will not disappear after having children. So allow yourself the opportunity to progress towards these ambitions in the best possible way, and to feel good about it. Chances are, those around you will also benefit from you doing this.
CareerMum offers fresh, New Zealand focused perspectives on the topic of gender equality, and aspires to improve the working landscape for career mums. www.careermum.co.nz
A version of this article was published in the Spring 2017 edition of OHBaby!
Note: This article does not set out to criticise the choices made by women. It does, however, recognise the need to better support women who re-engage their career following childbirth, and the important role this plays in progressing workplace gender diversity.
Please feel free to share this article with those you think will benefit from it, and to contribute your feedback and views – they continue to be an important source of insight for CareerMum.
[1] Figures taken from the New Zealand Census 2013, and pertain to the private sector. Educated women, in this case, are defined as having a bachelor’s degree or higher.
[2] Winning the fight for female talent: how to gain the diversity edge through inclusive recruitment. PwC, March 2017
[3] See:
– Miller, C.C. Mounting Evidence of Advantages for Children of Working Mothers. Published in NY Times, 15 May 2015.
– Sugar, R. Study Finds Being Raised by a Working Mum Can Lead to Greater Career Success. Published in Business Insider Australia, 20 May, 2015
[4] Tracking Equality at Work 2016: Human Rights Commission (hrc.co.nz).
[5] See:
– Biro, M. M. 5 Reasons why Workplace Flexibility is Smart Talent Strategy. Published on Forbes.com, 18 August 2013
Winning the fight for female talent: how to gain the diversity edge through inclusive recruitment. PwC, March 2017

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