How to balance maternity and work in technology

“Diversity, creativity and innovation go together.” These are words by Sigal Shaked, the co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of Datomize, a Tel Aviv-based company that helps drive machine learning models regarding the role of women in technology.

To that regard, a research study by the National Center for Women and Information Technology of the United States showed that “gender diversity has specific benefits in technology settings,” which could explain why tech companies created initiatives to boost the number of female applicants, recruit them in a more effective way, retain them for longer, and give them the opportunity to advance. But is it enough?

In fact, for working mothers, challenges are even bigger, given that, at the same time, they care and help their children. It is known that mothers are less likely to be hired, interviewed and promoted in their careers. 

Challenges to be faced

The pandemic has shown that working has had a huge cost, in particular, for mothers. Even in other countries, the result could be the same. On that point, Girls in Tech, a non-profit international organization who works to bridge the gender gap in technology, adds the devastating effect of COVID-19 for women working in technology.

In that regard, Dana Sumpter, an Associate Professor of Organization Theory and Management at Graziadio Business School, and Mona Zanhour, an Associate Professor of Management and Human Resources at California State University, recommend some ways for managers to ensure that mothers may continue working during the pandemic and afterwards: provide certainty and clarity, correct the labor expectations, and continue showing empathy, among others.

How to empower women who are mothers

(Sources: Harvard Business Review, Forbes and CIPPEC)

  • Provide certainties: Anxiety and job insecurity have increased stress. Therefore, it is important that the leader communicates clearly which the labor expectations and the performance standards are as well as which decisions are being taken and why.
  • Adjust expectations: The blurring of the borders between family and professional life of mothers requires rethinking the work dynamics. The understanding by bosses raises the commitment of the team.
  • Continue acting with empathy: Managers should ask their employees proactively about what they need, how they feel and if they are comfortable with their jobs. Showing vulnerability and compassion at the workplace promotes more cooperation and less rotation.
  • Balancing work and family responsibilities is essential in any decent work schedule. For instance, a compressed workweek or a shorter workday may reduce exhaustion. Managers could allow their employees to work according to their possibilities.
  • Readjust roles: In a predominantly male environment, Edie Ashton, IT Principal of Carlyle Group, affirms that the world of technology has evolved a lot and that there are several functions for which no deep technical knowledge is required, and which are mainly focused on being familiarized with the business strategy and with the challenges that technology solutions may help resolve. They are more compatible at the time of balancing welfare, maternity and work. 
  • Implement equal paternal leaves: In Switzerland, for instance, the leave for fathers is mandatory and it is one of the keys to achieving more equality at the workplace in order to achieve social co-responsibility for the caring tasks.

In line with these suggestions, Allison Robinson, founder of The Mom Project, a project born in Chicago, that connects women from all over the world, states: “I am disrupting the workplace for moms so that we don’t have to choose between our families and our careers never again. The initiative arises from understanding that mothers have a lot to offer, but workplaces were not designed thinking on them.” Therefore, The Mom Project is changing the way women work and redefining professional structures by providing them real job opportunities. 

In the United States, 43% of women leave their jobs after becoming mothers. This initiative seeks to revert the trend by generating a market (a platform of 400 000 mothers). This is a kind of digital talent community that connects professional women with companies around the world that understand the added value and the experiences that these profiles contribute to the companies, with the strong belief that diversity in perspectives is essential to promote businesses.

With these evident results, it is clear that women should not have to decide between making advances in their careers or becoming mothers. It may seem a crucial decision, but it should not be so. Finally, it is necessary to continue working ―both at company and policy levels― to achieve a real balance which does not leave out equality in opportunities.

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