While I seem to be on a kick about talking about family, you may have noticed another Williamson on The Beacon Group’s website besides myself, my daughter and VP of Assessment Solutions, Shannon Williamson. Shannon has worked for The Beacon Group for 17 years now, through the birth of two children, just a year apart in age. As any small business owner can relate to, her “maternity leaves” consisted of nap time conference calls with clients, numerous consultations with employees trying to cover her job as best they could, and quite frankly a whole lot of work just getting done because it needed to get done. When Shannon returned to the office, she scaled back from her previous 45+ hour/week schedule to 4 days a week from 8:30-4:30pm (plus whatever was necessary from home)… and the work still got done! Lunch breaks and water cooler chit chats were replaced with an absolute laser beam focus on the tasks at hand, because the most important task of getting home to her children motivated every hour leading up to the end of day. Shannon comes to work focused and ready to provide value to The Beacon Group, she also leaves early to go to volleyball games, takes days off to go on field trips, and then often works through an evening or on the weekend to make that all important deadline. It’s a give and take. The Beacon Group provides flexibility and, in return, gets a loyal, grateful worker who is willing to go the extra mile for her job.
Those who know me well, know I am not a fan of generalizations, including generalizing about “who” makes the best employee. Are older workers better because they are more loyal and self-sacrificing? Or are younger workers better because they are more comfortable with technology, diversity, and change? Are men better workers because they don’t feel obliged to run out of the office, pick up a sick child at school, and then take them to the doctor mid-afternoon? Or are mothers better workers because they do all of the above, and then go home and work through the night to make up the missed work and then some? Quite obviously any one of these scenarios could apply, or not apply, to any one individual, in any one of the groups above.
In my own experience, I have witnessed how the competing demands of having both children and a career can contribute to making moms highly effective workers, forcing them to multi-task, adapt, and discover efficiencies that otherwise may not have been required. However, as highlighted in the following Forbes article, commonly held assumptions and misconceptions about working mothers as a group continue to negatively impact their careers and pay, including women’s own self-perceptions around how much value they provide, and how much compensation they deserve. Working mothers need to stop feeling like lesser workers because of cultural stereotypes that reinforce the unproven myth that you can’t be as effective as a worker, if you have competing demands on your time, attention, and energy in the form of children at home. Perhaps it is time that we all take a fresh look at understanding and appreciating where our assumptions about mothers in the workforce came from, and why they are no longer supported (and likely never were), relevant, or fair.