Want to be a workplace that truly supports mothers? That begins with getting buy-in from employees in key supervisory positions. If that’s you and you’re reading this, we’re making progress!
It’s true, every workplace is different, just as the needs of every working mom on your team is different. So you won’t find a one-size-fits-all prescription here (and trust me, you don’t want one). Rather, I’ll be delving into some of the larger themes of mama-positive management strategies that I’ve found have worked for me, both as a working mom and a business owner. Let’s dive in!
I know what you’re thinking. Duh, Lisa. However, what might seem like a no brainer is often dismissed. If you’ve got a working mom on the team, set aside some time to ask her what works best for her. What works for one mama won’t necessarily work for another. Don’t assume that she’ll want increased flexibility or greater work from home capabilities. She might find it easier to reinforce the boundaries between home and work life if she maintains a more structured office-based day, and prefer to work in that manner.
The same goes for celebrations of motherhood. Too often I’ve seen corporate baby showers thrown during office hours with little to no warning given to the mother-to-be. Celebrations are awesome, but only when the celebrant is in the know. After your expecting coworker has delivered her baby news to you, ask her how (and if) she’d like to tell the rest of the team.
Women are notorious for systematically undervaluing our skills, especially at work. We’re here to do the work, do it well and get it done. We’re also incredible advocates when it comes to recognizing and encouraging talent in those around us, but self-advocating? Let’s just say we’re getting better.
In the meantime, look to your team and help them vocalize their worth. Whether it be a compliment on a project, an appreciation for their work ethic, or just a simple “job well done!” Don’t let your admiration build up until performance review time, be a champion for your working mamas throughout the work cycle.
Make sure you’re also championing your working mom even when she’s not in the room. If she’s the perfect fit for a big new client - mention her! If she would make a great speaker at your next conference - recommend her! If she deserves a raise - talk numbers! A cheerleader takes energy, but a champion takes action.
Make sure that your working mamas’ ideas are attributed to her. There’s been a renewed awareness for gendered intellectual misattribution, especially in the workplace. If men repeat the same sentiment as their female coworkers, they’re more likely to do it louder, and more likely to get credit for the original thought.
As a manager, you can help combat this phenomenon by ensuring that credit is given to the working mothers on your team where credit is due. When a mama pipes in with a fresh perspective, take a second to acknowledge and attribute her idea to her, “Awesome Kelly, that might be exactly the solution we’re looking for.” Or if you notice misattribution happening further into a conversation, reel it back in with a simple, “I really like the way you’ve built off of Kelly’s thoughts here.”
It doesn’t take very long, but will make a noticeable difference in the visibility of your working mamas’ contributions to your team.
Perhaps these are little things, but to the working mamas - me and so many others I’ve worked alongside - the effect is immense. Plus, the effect amplifies as recipients are encouraged to do these very things to the mamas coming up behind them.
Lisa Durante is a Toronto-based working mama who believes in the power of AND. She offers real life insights and practical solutions that you can use to prepare for baby’s arrival as well as your life as a working mama.
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