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Despite Their Unique Skills, Working Moms Are Penalized in the Workplace

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As women grow their families, it can hurt their careers.

Bright Horizons’ fifth annual “Modern Family Index.” The study revealed that 72% of both working moms and dads agree that women are penalized in their careers for starting families while men are not.

Despite being viewed by their peers as possessing the qualities that make for strong leaders, working moms find they come up against roadblocks at work. 78% believe they must prove themselves more than others to gain a leadership position at work. And with leadership roles often dominated by men, almost two in five (37%) working moms worry that they do not fit the leadership mold.

“We need to support and embrace motherhood in the workplace and learn from our leaders who are also parents,” said Maribeth Bearfield, CRHR of Bright Horizons, a United States-based child-care business that is one of the largest providers of employer-sponsored child care. “In order to move forward, change attitudes and make progress, organizations should focus on supporting young female professionals and holding all employees accountable to make sure there is a real path to the top for women as they grow their families.”

Motherhood Translates to Leadership
According to the survey of 2,143 working Americans, those who “lead like a mom” may be the missing ingredient businesses need to realize their full potential. 91% of respondents said that working moms bring unique skills to leadership roles and 89% feel they bring out the best in employees.

  • 85% percent of those surveyed agree that being a mother helps women prepare for the challenges they will face as business leaders, and 84% believe having mothers in leadership roles will make a business more successful.
  • 65% describe working moms as better listeners than other employees.
  • They also describe mothers as calmer in crisis (51%), more diplomatic (47%), and better team players (44%) than as compared with working fathers or employees without children.
  • Working mothers were rated better at multitasking than others in the workforce (63% vs 37%) and better at time management (56% vs 44%).

Deep-Seated Perceptions Hurting
Despite possessing the skills needed to succeed in leadership, working mothers are being held back in the workplace, the “Modern Family Index” showed. According to the survey:

  • 69% of respondents said working mothers are more likely to be passed up for a new job than other employees.
  • 60% of respondents admit that career opportunities are given to less qualified employees instead of mothers who are more skilled.
  • 41% percent of working Americans view moms in the workplace as less devoted to their work and 38% judge them for needing a more flexible work schedule.

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