By Elyse Stoltz Dickerson—
Working mothers: you know how hard it can be to give 100% to your job and 100% to your family. You feel like you’re being pulled in a thousand directions and there’s only so much of you to go around.
Working mothers are often stretched too thin, and there are certain problems women in entrepreneurship and business face that most men don’t. There are issues we have to balance and prioritize and obstacles we encounter that are simply different than our male counterparts—especially during a pandemic. It can feel like walking on a tightrope.
A lot of these obstacles include taking care of our children and families while working (sometimes more than) full-time as well as rising up against stigma and stereotypes in the workplace. These obstacles are heightened during unprecedented times like these in 2020 (cue the 2020 memes). Did you know a recent study found that during the pandemic, women on average are spending 15 more hours per week on household work than men (reported by The Skimm, 2020)? Being a female in business is more challenging than ever before considering COVID-19 and its effects on small companies.
To say being a working mother is a balancing act would be an understatement. Being a mother in business (especially owning your own business) is a full-on Las Vegas Chris Angel magic show, except for no one claps for you when you successfully make it through a Zoom call with only a few toddler interruptions.
It Takes A Village
I am not the only person who has shaped my kids into who they are and who they will be. That’s okay. In fact, I celebrate that.
There are many people that are involved in my kids’ lives. Their father, grandmothers, grandfathers, uncles, aunts, caretakers, babysitters, friends, teachers, coaches, and family. I am not their only adult influence, and I fully believe that it takes a village, especially when you’re a working mother. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or to let others help you.
According to Pew Research Center, 72% of moms are employed today, including both full-time and part-time. According to the same research, more than 3/4ths of respondents said working full time is ideal for fathers. For mothers? Only 33% said working full time is ideal. Additionally, half of employed moms said working and mothering made it harder for them to advance their careers. Fathers don’t resonate with that sentiment, as “mothers are more likely than fathers to say being a working parent makes it harder for them to advance at work” (Pew Research Center, 2019).
Employers are more likely to question working mother’s commitment to the job than fathers. Additionally, mothers are more likely to be passed up for a job or promotion because of their children.
CNBC reported that motherhood costs women $16,000 in lost wages per year, and mothers are seen as less capable and less committed to their work to employers. Coworkers of mothers tend to hold the same views. Due to parenting responsibilities, 23% of moms turned down a promotion because they were balancing work and parenting responsibilities as opposed to 15% of fathers.
There are also upsides to female entrepreneurship. The comradery felt between other working mothers is palpable in hallways and boardrooms. The fresh, interesting, female perspective a woman entrepreneur brings to the table is valuable and needed. Leadership styles of female entrepreneurs are sometimes more participative than commanding, which can be refreshing in not only startups, but established businesses with long histories. Women are needed in the offices, and there have been a number of studies showing that gender diversity in the workplace boosts productivity and increases the bottom line. My advice? Lift other women up as you rise yourself in your office and job. Corporate America can be cutthroat, and there’s more than enough room for comradery.
The Next Generation & Balancing The Scales
I know firsthand how infuriating it can be to be a woman in business, fighting stereotypes and breaking glass ceilings, while having kids at home. I also know that we’ve come a long way since our mothers and our grandmothers were in business, and our daughters will take us even further in the fight for equality. Teaching our children about equality—not just about women in the workplace, but about all aspects of humanity, will equip them to be leaders. It seems that every generation, the tightrope gets a little thicker. Hopefully, when their turn comes, we’ll have made it easier for them to balance it all.
Asking for help from your village, lifting other women up as you rise yourself and teaching our children about equality are small ways to make a big, needed change. The statistics for lost wages for working mothers are telling (16K per year), but I believe we can equalize the scales between working mothers and working fathers. After all, it’s about balance.