How Working Mothers Can Ditch The Act In 2020 And Bring Their Authentic Selves To Work
In this year’s edition of Motherly’s State of Motherhood survey, a small but significant number (10%) of mothers cited employer conditions not being conducive to working and parenting for a variety of reasons, including the work culture not being supportive. Fewer than 1-in-10 (9%) feel that becoming a mother has helped them in their career and the majority of those (59%) say they have felt that way since their child was a baby, indicating that this empowering is coming from within, rather than the workplace recognizing and validating the contributions of working moms.
Many of the women surveyed are still establishing their reputation in the work environment, feeling the initial pressure to be agreeable, readily available, and to make work a priority. Yet, when asked how work impacts their parenting skills, more than half of working moms (55%) say that working has empowered or inspired them to be a better mother. Even more positively, 90% say their work choice has helped them set a positive example for their children.
What America seems to have is a segment of empowered, motivated women who are striving to set positive examples for their children, yet continuously feel suppressed by demoralizing work cultures.
As a black professional (and mother), I firmly believe the solution to this problem is not for mothers to mask their identity at work. These ideas may not seem related; however there are many black Americans in the corporate world who do just this. It is called covering. (A Deloitte research study found that 8 out of 10 black people covered in some way to conform to mainstream corporate culture.) Downplaying association with a race (or in the instance of working mothers, role) doesn’t effectively sidestep discrimination, it only leads to psychological distress. Covering for motherhood in the workplace is a popular solution, but with one in five women suffering from a maternal mental health disorder and American moms being called the most stressed out moms in the Western world… how effective is it, really?
As a triple minority (and millennial) in the workplace, I’m an advocate for diversity and inclusion in all forms. I think women should be defined by motherhood, even at work. When I interviewed Tamera Mowry in 2018, she agreed, saying it definitely provided her with more patience and insight when she interacts with others professionally and affects how she solves problems professionally.
Ditch The Act authors Leonard Kim and Ryan Foland.
Ryan Foland and Leonard Kim are the authors of Ditch The Act, a book that helps professionals present their humanness in strategic ways to achieve clear, defined goals. As advocates for personal brands that are honest, authentic, and that reveal struggles they agree. Foland adds:
“When you look to mothers who choose a path of entrepreneurship, they are likely to face challenges like discrimination, funding bias, and risk of not being taken seriously by their male counterparts. It’s no wonder that some women feel like they must hide their motherhood for fear of backlash in a traditionally patriarchal corporate and startup ecosystem.”
Kim acknowledges the history of work culture in America: compartmentalize one’s life in hopes of achieving success. Even in 2019, many of us are afraid to be vulnerable with others, especially our peers and managers, for fear that they will judge, stereotype, or misunderstand us. However, Kim argues this outdated notion of fitting in actually limits one’s career growth:
Revealing your true self is what actually propels your career to the next level. And bringing examples from your personal life into the office is what gives you that compelling edge you need to form a camaraderie with your peers and executive leadership. It helps you take your career to the next level.
Foland and Kim encourage mothers to ease into being transparent, as sharing to build stronger and more reliable relationships will initially feel uncomfortable. Foland suggests moms uncomfortable with the transparency learn what it means to create a personal brand, to differentiate for success and profitable growth. Kim also recommends working mothers put all their life events into perspective, a method he and Foland call an “Exposure Resume.” Instead of touting accolades, one shares the bad moments (both personal and professional) of their life. Sharing the moments seems debilitating at first, but it puts the remaining moments in one’s life into perspective.
“When comparing sharing events around motherhood to maybe a tragic incident that happened in your 20s at the office, it seems like a piece of cake. And that helps people overcome their fears when it comes to sharing personal events in the office.”
Choosing between your children and work responsibilities comes with a delicate balance. It can cause a lot of stress, especially if you are trying to hide the responsibilities of having children. Foland shares an insightful risk associated with covering- the risk of not being transparent with employers could negate everything an empowered, motivated mother wants.
“The only thing that will happen if you don’t expose yourself is that you will stay stagnant in the exact position you are in now. And staying in place leaves you open to the most vulnerable spot of all—being complacent and losing what you have worked so hard to build. How can you expect your employer to trust you if you are not honest with them?”
Foland and Kim often consult mom executives or mom entrepreneurs whose clients are Fortune 100 executives, women in high-pressure work environments who can’t afford to mismanage expectations. Millennial mom Amber Fehrenbacher is currently responsible for driving growth and customer acquisition as the marketing director for construction tech company EquipmentShare. Fehrenbacher parents two members of generation Alpha and feels doing so exposed just how critical emotional intelligence is and the role it plays for any interpersonal relationship.
Fehrenbacher believes patience, empathy, self-awareness, accountability and the ability not to take myself, my life or my daily challenges so seriously are the products of her experience as a mother. “They have served me well also when applied to my life as a team member, peer, and manager.”
Motherhood shows leadership ability. For your personal brand, it validates your patience and problem-solving skills. You are willing to take on new opportunities. You are willing to assess the situation and look at all possible solutions. That is motherhood on a daily basis. We are constantly approached by these little people, who are our internal stakeholders. We have to think of all of the possible outcomes to please these stakeholders and set them up for success. The skills you acquire as a mother are undoubtedly transferable. Foland summarizes:
“With supportive and compassionate men, influential female corporate leaders and successful mompreneurs acting as examples for others, I hope that more mothers can face their fears of judgment and bias. I hope they embrace their whole, authentic self as both dedicated workers and mothers.”
Everyone has the right to be confident to show up to work without being judged, and because top-down changes are slow to happen, mothers must ditch the act that they may think they need to hold on to and let their whole selves shine.
This content was originally published here.