What are the challenges that mothers face in a career in marketing?

What are the challenges that mothers face in a career in marketing?

I love Mothers’ Day – the cute cards the little kids make, the daffodils and chocolates, breakfast in bed, teenage kids making the Sunday lunch (creating chaos but doing the washing up), the joy of being appreciated for everything you do.      

To mark Mothers’ Day yesterday, Giles and I are writing a series of blogs this week which focus on the Wonder Women in our book who are Mothers in Marketing – and the benefits that parenting brings to their careers.   

A question in the interviews with our Wonder Women was,

“What are the challenges that women face in a career in marketing? Are these different from the challenges that men face?”

And, there was one issue that most of them came back to – parenthood – becoming a mother and its impact on women’s roles and likely future success in marketing. 

It was interesting that many felt that when a woman becomes a parent, her career was likely to plateau or go backwards, but when a man becomes a parent, his career is likely to soar. 

Listening to our interviewees and thinking back on our own experiences, we knew it is wrong to assume that when women become mothers, they become less committed to their work than their male colleagues, or that part-time working reduces their intellectual or professional capabilities. 

Many talented and hard-working women willingly sacrifice career progression to achieve the ‘balance’ they need, but more enlightened organisations are starting to do things differently.  They have begun to realise that it is not a female problem, it’s a problem with the way companies expect everyone to work.

These organisations are moving away from the traditional male model of leaders working long hours out of home enabled by the support, not just of one woman at home looking after the family but another PA/secretary (likely to be a woman) in the workplace.   They are moving to more flexible working policies, offering a range of parental support systems, and career progression which might not be linear and might take longer, but will not enforce a ceiling.  And this does not just apply to women; men also need to negotiate more workable arrangements to free them up to help with parenting and household management. 

Technology and flexible working hours, as exemplified in the recent Covid crisis, have hopefully further shown the potential of these new ways of working. It is something that both female and male Millennials and Gen Z are demanding too, as they see it gives them more freedom and flexibility.

Many of our Wonder Women also talked about how parenthood wasn’t taking ‘time out’ but that it was actually great training for leadership!  For them, the benefits that being a parent bring to the workplace should not be under-estimated; raised emotional intelligence, better negotiating skills (try negotiating with a toddler), increased perception, seeing things from different perspectives, clear decision making, ability to juggle multiple balls, managing and prioritising time, delegation, creating efficiencies.  This list goes on and on. 

We would argue that there is a need to change our mindset and create working environments that allow everyone, women and men, to pursue a career and raise a family at the same time.

A final note on parenthood, it is also important to remember that not all women (or indeed men) want to come back full-time and here forward-thinking marketing departments and agencies need to see the opportunities for better part-time, flexible working and freelance roles.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s blog …

What the strength of motherhood brings to marketing and leadership

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