Why a female professional with children is an asset for your team

They will probably select my male colleague who hasn’t got a family”.

That was the answer of one of my clients, who is a senior manager in an international company and has a 1-year-old son, to my question: “What is stopping you from showing interest in that promotion opportunity?”.

In my coaching practice I experience that women, after becoming a mum, are generally more insecure about making a step in their career than before.

These insecurities are not about their own ambition. The insecurity is often about ‘what will my manager and colleagues think of me now I’m a mum?’

Career Coaching Women

You might think, this is something these women should work on themselves. And yes, they do. More and more women seek support via a mentor, coach or support network.

As much as I would love to live in a society in which we, regardless of gender, could just focus on the most competent person for a job, I think we can’t ignore gender.

Because women have to deal with unconscious bias. This is a bias that is outside your control and is triggered by the brain making quick judgments and assessments of people and situations.

Warmer, but less competent?

For example, did you know that several studies[1]show that when a female professional becomes a mum, she is perceived as warmer but less competent to work than before.

Yes, you have understood it correctly. Less competent…

Working men don’t make this trade. When they become fathers, they gain perceived warmth and maintain perceived competence.

So, parenthood is a plus for men and a risk for women.

This unconscious bias results in the so called ‘Motherhood Penalty’. Managers are relatively less interested in hiring and promoting working mums to working dads and childless employees.

A different perspective

When coaching my client, I asked her: “As a woman with a child, what are your strengths in comparison to your male childless colleague?”

That shifted her perspective and she connected with her strong true self again.

The coaching session triggered me and I asked the same question to several friends who work in senior leadership positions in different industries (banking, film, oil, government and aviation) and have children.

They came up with the following strengths:

  • Facilitative leadership skills: listening, compassionate
    communication, encouraging participation etc.
  • Agility in the face of a crisis or change
  • Efficiency: maximizing every minute of the working day
  • Emotional intelligence (empathy, social skills, motivation etc.)
  • Prioritizing
  • Inspiring young women as a role model

Of course, this isn’t a complete list so please feel free to add (at the bottom of this blog) any skills or competencies you miss.

Ninjas

Besides that please spread the word, because together we can make a shift from an unconscious to a conscious bias and even create a new perception that female professionals, who become a mum, are even more competent than before.

Like Sarah Lux-Lee said in her TEDx Talk: “Motherhood makes us ninjas. And ninjas are an asset in any workplace”.

And about my client.
After the coaching session she did show interest in that promotion opportunity. Both for her and the company (because organisations with more gender balance outperform others), I hope she will get the job.

Have a great week!
Eefke

PS: Curious what coaching could bring you and your career?
She does it offers women a free coaching session of one hour, so you can experience coaching for yourself. Of course this conversation is both entirely without obligation and confidential. 

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[1]Correll, S. J., & Benard, S. (2007). Getting a job: Is there a motherhood penalty? American Journal of Sociology, 112(5), 1297-1339

Cuddy, A. J., Fiske, S. T., & Glick, P. (2004). When professionals become mothers, warmth doesn’t cut the ice. Journal of Social Issues, 60(4), 701-718.

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