Today’s new mothers are changing the game in all the best ways. In a sharp turn from women of the past, many current first-time mothers (in their late twenties and mid-thirties) are emerging leaders in their industries, unapologetically dedicated to their careers, and proud to be so. They’re not cautiously dipping a toe back into the workforce; they’re coming in full steam ahead.
Their self-assurance should make us all wonder if today we are making too many assumptions when we talk about women in the workforce. As managers and coaches, we’re supposed to be guiding them, but when it comes to modern working mothers, there are important things we should be listening to.
What do we need to know about today’s emerging female leaders?
They’re ready to roll
Many want to return to work after motherhood and pick up right where they left off. This does not mean they’re not also feeling tired and sometimes overwhelmed. Rather, they’re often more equipped with the knowledge that there is light at the end of the tunnel and this piece of the journey should not overshadow their goals.
They want to prove themselves
They may be new mothers, but they don’t want to postpone their yearly job performance appraisals or give up projects they’re spearheading to let someone else lead them during and after their leaves. They might not even want to completely and fully disconnect during leave. Whatever their preference, they see this very much as their choice.
They’re bold without apology
These strong leaders are direct and comfortable with advocating for themselves and others. They don’t take no for an answer. They work full-time and parent full time and pursue graduate degrees. And they do it all not by being over-the-top superstars, but by using a strategic approach to work life balance and planning for the time and resources they need to make it all work. And they’re not afraid to pack up and leave if they meet resistance. If they don’t feel supported, they will take their talent elsewhere. The phrase, “love them or watch them go” rings true.
Don’t Underestimate Women in the Workforce
The above commentary warrants our attention. In this competitive talent market, we need women’s contributions. And to get them, we, as employers, coaches, and managers, need to listen to what they want and need. If we have them pigeonholed as exactly the same as people we hired a decade ago, we don’t have a prayer of getting the most from them.
Listen to them, coach them, and let them own their paths back to work. Help organizations change the way we allocate benefits, review performance, and advance women in the workplace.
Ultimately we all will gain from it.