Though it may come across as unbelievable, research by McKinsey shows that hiring working moms helps with the bottom line as they bring a lot of 'mom qualities' to the table that other employees do not have. Some of these include patience, multitasking and efficiency, all skills which can be useful in the boardroom. In today's hybrid and remote work environments, it pays to have women in leadership positions. But for mothers specifically, many of the workplace skills that are bolstered by their experience as moms and caregivers seamlessly translate to leadership roles.
Also Read: Why I'd rather be an imperfect mother
The research also showed that the traits women rated the highest on both personal and professional fronts were “capable and multitasking”. Sruthi Ravindran, a psychologist and workplace wellbeing coach at The Happy Space, a mental health organisation, offers clear reasons why women do so well at juggling so much. These include the following: crystal-clear awareness of values to make effective decisions; the ability to understand and act with a sense of urgency; impeccable discipline and organisational skills; the ability to invest time and effort into delivering their best; a zest for work and the ability to drive the workforce through effective leadership.
We chat with experts to understand what working moms bring to the table in terms of skills and how organisations can make the work environment more conducive for them.
The transition from mother to leader
Saloni Suri, a neuro coach and trainer, turns to neuroscience to decode the experience of working mothers. According to her, many new parents undergo changes in their brains that allow them to be more present, empathise with others, and collaborate more effectively; all these are important leadership skills. New moms learn to pick up non-verbal cues very well as they are taking care of a baby who effectively cannot communicate using language, she says, adding that motherhood leads to heightened emotional intelligence, too. “It also teaches how to collaborate with others and delegate work, as it takes a village to bring up a child,” she says. She adds that the neural networks of decision-making and agility also get built in the brains very quickly as the subject the mother is taking care of is quite unpredictable, and she needs to react with speed. “It is often found that a parent will catch a falling child quite quickly,” she reveals. All of these are critical leadership skills that mothers pick up on the job of bringing up a child.
Reflecting on mom skills
Ravindran states that a working mother is very clear about her priorities and work-life boundaries. She knows that she has limited hours, and she acts with a sense of urgency and impeccable organisational skills. That leaves no room for procrastinating or wasting a second at work. Additionally, as she points out, mothers are also quite vigilant of what their children need, a skill which, when extended to the workplace, ends up creating great team players and potentially excellent leaders, who "care, understand people's needs, nurture relationships and support each one to grow,” she elaborates. In her opinion, giving birth to a human changes a woman’s life like never before. “Nurturing and caring for a child is a 24/7 job even at the cost of her own sleep, eating habits or comfort levels. This innate ability to take on new challenges and adapt is exactly what organisations need to thrive in a VUCA world. A leader who isn’t afraid of changes and exhibits an exemplary level of resilience,” she says.
Karuna Raghuvanshi, an organisational psychologist and leadership and career coach, believes that we need more leaders who are mothers at the top. “ The very fact that many of them are in leadership positions today despite multiple pressures, societal expectations, etc., is testimony to their determination and commitment to their growth," she says. She adds that working mothers, regardless of the job they do, have to ability to be perceptive and understand real business needs. They also are good at effective communication, nurturing people's aspirations, demonstrating technical depth and ensuring seamless delivery.
Bringing in inclusivity
Suri believes that workplaces need open communication to manage expectations, which is key for mothers who are returning to the workplace. “Educating managers about how they can best work with returning mothers is critical to ensuring a mutual understanding and a smooth transition," she says. She adds that this time is a deeply personal, individual transition for everyone — and the manager plays a critical role in influencing the experience. "Something as small as the timing of meetings can make a big difference. For example, meetings in the early morning or late afternoon are often difficult for parents who are managing online school, tiffin’s, school / drop and pick up timings,” she shares. She adds that organisations can develop a stay-in-touch program to help mothers feel connected to their children to overcome the gap while they are away. A buddy program or a plan to rotate co-worker engagement can be used to keep it going if the leave is long, she adds.
She also offers some tips for working mothers:
Divya Naik is a Mumbai-based psychotherapist