Women are moving into C-suite positions at a faster rate than ever before. In 2023, 24% of senior leadership positions worldwide will be held by women. Many of those positions are held by women who are also mothers.
The conflict between executive management positions and motherhood has not dissipated, even as the glass ceiling is shattered, moved up, and then shattered again year after year. People still question whether a female executive can be a present mother, yet still don’t ask the same questions of male executives who happen to be fathers. The scrutiny of working mothers can be fierce and lead to female executives questioning their positions, their mothering skills, and their value.
Shiela Mie Legaspi, president of the virtual assistant platform Cyberbacker, knows well the scrutiny that executives who are mothers are under. “Being a working mother was difficult even before the world was turned upside down by COVID-19,” said Legaspi. “Many mothers have had to make tough decisions between working and supporting their families, or being home with their children during their formative years.”
Society still holds fast to the idea that a woman’s worth is being a good wife and a mother. However, many female executives prove every day that females have a place in the C-suite and that their positions as engaged mothers needn’t change.
As an executive who is also a mother, Legaspi wants to offer some tips for others who find themselves juggling executive roles and motherhood. Though the full list of tips could be exhaustive, here Legaspi offers five things moms in executive positions should keep in mind:
1. Seek Positions that Provide Resources for Success
Not all companies are the same. Some are still firmly rooted in the dark ages, believing that mothers cannot possibly give their all to an executive position due to their responsibilities at home. However, the winds of change are shifting in the working world, especially in the wake of the pandemic. More and more companies are offering generous benefit time, unlimited PTO, and remote work opportunities, freeing women with children to work and be there for their kids when necessary.
Legaspi, who works remotely, has seen the benefit in shifting opinions on remote work and more equitable family leave policies. “Having the ability to work in the comfort of my own home while assuring that my children are well cared for is a wonderful opportunity for both workers and their employers,” she says.
Women should seek positions with companies that have a forward-thinking view of a work/life balance and family time. Companies have started auditing their family-leave time policies and for a good reason. The old ways served to keep women out of high-ranking positions. The new focus on equitable workplace treatment seeks to buoy women’s position and support them as they climb the corporate ladder.
2. Remain Organized
Throwing children into the mix of any task is a recipe for chaos. This can be especially true for mornings when you are trying to get ready to head to work, get the kids ready for school or child care, and still arrive at the office prepared to do your job well, rather than rolling into the boardroom a frazzled mess. Staying organized is the key to having mornings run smoothly and staying on top of job-related duties.
Try packing lunches and arranging clothing the night before. Always split duties like bath time, bedtime routines, and dinners with your partner, if that option is available. Remain organized during the workday so you’re not sitting in bed in a cold sweat at night because you forgot to return an important phone call or prepare for a meeting. Many organizational tools are available — from scheduling software to a good old written datebook — that can help a busy executive mom stay on task.
3. Ask For Help
It can be challenging for executive moms to admit they can’t do it all, all the time. Nevertheless, if one doesn’t ask for help, everything can devolve into a disaster quickly, especially where kids are concerned. With school, homework, housework, leisure time, and work responsibilities, executive moms can often walk around with a plate so full that it is bound to topple.
Asking for help can look different to different people. For some, it may be as simple as getting recommendations from friends for good child care, nannies, or cleaning services. To you, it could be letting your spouse know if you have a particularly busy time coming up and will need them to step in on some tasks.
“For mothers to succeed — not only in the working world, but within their homes as mothers — they need a strong support system, and this support system must also include their employer,” Legaspi explains.
No one expects executive moms to do it all, and asking for help is not a sign of weakness. Rather, it shows good management skills and the ability to delegate.
4. Take Time for You
Burnout is real, and it is especially for women executives. When your job is going well and you are experiencing success, it can be easy to keep your nose to the grindstone and continue climbing that ladder. However, as a mother, there’s another full-time job you have to consider as well. Without taking time to rest, relax, and practice self-care, burnout will creep up faster than you may expect it to.
“Me Time” can look different for everyone. Maybe you need a half hour when you get home to decompress before anyone asks you for anything. Perhaps you want to take an hour for yourself every weekend to read or take a walk. Whatever “me time” may look for someone, it’s integral to fighting off burnout.
5. Lose the Guilt
There’s plenty of guilt-tripping to go around for female executives — even today — as more and more companies recognize the need for equity and changes to support levels for female workers. There’s more than one way to be a great executive, just like there’s more than one way to be a great mother. Making it all work means getting rid of the feelings of guilt you may have. Many women may feel guilty at work because they are not with their children. Conversely, they feel guilty at home and not toiling away at the office after hours.
To be successful as a mother and as an executive, you must let go of the guilt. Set achievable goals at work and home so you don’t feel pulled to be all things to all people at all times. Some nights, you’ll have to shut down your computer at 5 pm and head home. Sometimes, you won’t be able to chaperone the field trip, and that’s okay. Female executives who are mothers thrive when they realize there’s nothing to feel guilty about.
As the workplace continues to evolve, more and more women will join the executive ranks. These women will come from all walks of life, and some of them will inevitably be mothers, too. Organizations that continue to place a focus on a healthy work/life balance, equitable family leave, and equal approaches to promotions will see the benefits of dedicated female executives. As a bonus, these female executives show their children that dedication, education, and perseverance can pay off.
“My children can bear witness as I work on fulfilling my career goals and dreams in real-time. This is a precious time that we will never get back,” explains Legaspi. “Living it to the fullest with my children while being able to financially support them and save for their futures has been a life-changing shift.”