The challenges facing working moms

Working mothers are less dedicated. Working mothers are less adaptable. Working mothers’ skills are outdated. Working mothers are going to take maternity leave as soon as you hire them.

These are just some of the reasons 69% of companies in South Africa won’t be hiring working mothers according to www.Fin24.com journalist Vida Booysen’s article “Hard times ahead for working moms

Does this make you as mad as it made me when I read it?

I was retrenched along with 900,000 other people in the 2009 recession. With few employment opportunities available, I started my own marketing and public relations agency, L Communications, I’m also a freelance writer and I run www.hiccupsandgigglessa.com a parenting website.

Like every other working mom I know, I work incredibly hard. I’m in the home office every morning at 07:20, sometimes even 05:00 if I have a deadline and run flat out till five that evening, when my amazing nanny Mirriam goes home.

Then I swop my busy executive hat for my mom hat and my full focus turns to Ciara, my nearly-three year old daughter. She is 92cm bundle of energy and light, who is full of wonder and excitement wanting to learn everything, help with everything, and taste everything. I don’t stop till I pass out around midnight every night. If there’s a deadline I have to hit, my supportive husband wakes me after an hour’s nap and herds me back to the office where a strong cup of coffee sits steaming on my desk. He stays up with me till I’m done to make sure I hit the deadline.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could change the perception of working mothers? Wouldn’t it be great if we could show the business community the following traits that make us great mothers and great employees?

  • We are flexible
  • We are patient and tolerant
  • We are time management gurus
  • We are great with budgets
  • We are great at listening, interpreting, understanding, empathising, helping and solving
  • We are excellent problem solvers
  • We are fantastic at researching and exploring
  • We work well under pressure and meet deadlines
  • We are constantly planning
  • We are creative
  • We are excellent teachers and trainers of others
  • We are strong decision makers
  • We thrive at developing and coaching and mentoring others

These are skills we use every day as mothers, and they translate beautifully into the workplace.

So working mom’s hold your heads high, 31% of South African companies are smart enough to recognise the talents we bring to the table. Let’s show the other 69% what we’re made of.

Copyright © 2011 Lindsay Grubb

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Author

Lindsay Grubb

Lindsay Grubb

Lindsay Grubb -when she’s not mixing elixirs out of Aromat, salt, soil, water for imaginary baby birds with her daughter, Lindsay’s writing copy for her corporate clients or articles for magazines.

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7 Responses

  1. As much as this article is true, business need to be engaged on this issue on a level that they understand – how hiring working mums benefits them and the societies they function in – and how hiring working parents benefits their profit line.

    In the long run (because business’s reasons for not hiring working mothers are short-term and based on prejudice) businesses in SA need to consider that NOT hiring working mums means it ultimately reduces the talent pool and worsens the economic environment necessary to make a profit – families with just one working parent don’t earn enough, and SA has a very large number of single mothers as well.

    In the long term, making a business environment attractive to working parents, (as has been done in some of the world’s most economically successful countries) makes companies better able to compete for talent, more flexible to weather market ructions and creates and builds the loyalty companies so crave from employees.

    Someting important to remember is that working parents also tend to stay in jobs longer.

    Maternity leave is a planned event, unlike having to deal with an emloyee’s sudden sickness or death.

    With the internet and the proliferation of technology that allows the office to be portable, working parents’s schedules, while hectic, can stil allow them to operate away from the office, ie from the doctor’s office and the sport field.

    In terms of skills being kept fresh and relevant, working parents are not idiots, nor are they completely out of touch, in fact if anything the enforced isolation of a maternity period forces many women to develop a close relationship with the internet and the opportunity it offers for keeping in touch with what’s going on.

    Mums can, after an initial rest period, return to their offices as up-to-date as anyone else.

    Business also has to realise that working parents are the norm, working mums are not an exception and the “litle missus” staying at home is a luxury most South Africans can ill afford if they want to educate their children and pay taxes. The old way of businesses being a “man’s world” is also changing with the best businesses recognising “female” talents (networking, non-verbal communication and overt communications skills, etc)

    It’s also not just women looking to spend time with their children but men too. Underpinning current sexist social hierarchy will mean SA’s women never achieve equal footing with men and SA remains an economic backwater. Societies that value families and parenthood are very successful compared to those that don’t. Rates of violence, poverty, illiteracy and all other social ills are far lower.

    Profit is just one goal of any good business. Sustainability is another. Functioning in an environment in which single mothers are the norm means leaving outdated/sexist thinking behind.

  2. Brilliantly put, and a topic that I, and our company, feel very passionately about! The sooner the 69% of companies realise what an asset we are the better for all.

  3. Hi Ann and Jude

    Thanks for the kind words and futher excellent points raised. Some days it really feels like we’re very third world when it comes to companies looking after their staff. For years I have followed with interst how the rest of the world are doing it. In the United States in particular, they have identified the need to look after their staff from a wellness perspective, allowing for telecommunting, having child care facilities on site for employees children, personal mental health days to name a few. Even in the small to medium enterprises they are paying close attention to the important things. They realise that it isn’t just about a salary but a quality of life that is of paramount importance to their employees and many companies foster a positive environment through these types of initiatives which encourage employees to want to come to work every day. One just has to look how far behind we are as a nation when it comes to things like the length of maternity and paternity leave. Take a look at Sweden’s statistics if you’re looking for an ideal situation.

    Jude I’m thrilled that your company is forward thinking – keep encouraging them to think that way!

    L

  4. Hi Lindsay,

    What you’ve said is so true. Becoming mothers doesn’t freeze our brains or our time, it just helps us become more creative and resourceful.
    Hugs for gorgeous Ciara!
    Theola Isaac

  5. I once had an interview and got to the 3rd level.

    The Director said to me that he would not be employing me due to the fact that I was a mother.

    Basically what he was saying was that because I was a mother that I would not be able to work the ‘required’ overtime they thought they where entitled to over and above the hours you already worked. Even though I have a fully equipped home office in place.

    Companies don’t want to employ woman with children, within child bearing age or unable to guarantee that they will work ‘required’ over time without prior notice.

    Those that do employ tend to pay a minimal amount of Salary due to the constraints that a family puts on your ‘over time’.

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