Shattering the "Motherhood Penalty," One Cover Shot at a Time
Last week, working mothers celebrated the shot heard (rather, seen) ‘round the world with The Wing CEO Audrey Gelman gracing the cover of Inc. while visibly pregnant. With women now making up the majority of the college-educated workforce and are holding more leadership positions than ever before, progress like this is instrumental in inspiring other women to unapologetically chase their career ambitions without sacrificing their personal life.
Nearly one-third of women (34%) do not return to work after having a baby. The Modern Family Index report finds the “Motherhood Penalty” in today’s workplace is real – 41% of employed Americans perceive working moms to be less devoted to their work and 38% judge them for needing schedule flexibility.
These are disappointing perceptions, considering 89% agree that working moms in leadership roles can bring out the best in employees due to their proven problem solving and motivational abilities, including more mindful listening, diplomacy, remaining calm in crisis and galvanizing teams. I can attest to how a mere 16 months of parenting has already refined my skills used daily in the challenging and sometimes stressful role of a public relations practitioner.
Here are six ways to apply parenting skills to improve our public relations practice and benefit your team’s personal and professional growth:
We’re in the sponge phase where everything my husband and I do or say is being imitated by our little one. I often find myself narrating what I’m doing and explaining why – especially with redirecting behavior – so he can start to understand more about the world around him.
This teaching mentality benefits both clients and colleagues by keeping our mind sharply focused on “the why.” When we take the time to explain the strategy behind our communications recommendations, our clients see our value and our team learns how to connect PR tactics to an organization’s goals.
If either of us wants to have a prayer of getting out the door on time, we have to plan ahead the evening before. Prepping breakfast, organizing lunches, laying out clothes, preparing work bags and packing gym clothes has become second nature to us. My husband and I have organically begun verbally previewing the next day to each other, so we know what we need to prepare for.
Training your brain to constantly think multiple steps ahead is an invaluable skillset to master in the PR workplace. By learning how to plan ahead, you will be better equipped to anticipate client needs and proactively prepare for them, making you an invaluable asset to their team.
Parents quickly learn how to use multi-tasking to their advantage – I’m more efficient with my time than ever before, using any second of precious downtime to my advantage. Waiting on gas to pump? Round up the trash in your car, shake out floorboard mats and wipe the milk splatter off the car seat. Cooking dinner? Enjoy quality time with little one by making it a dance party in the kitchen.
The same level of efficiency can be adopted at work. Maximize breaks in between meetings and projects by focusing on proactive efforts that leave you feeling productive and inspired – taking a walking podcast break, proactively scanning HARO for a story lead, helping a colleague solve a problem or checking in with a professional mentor.
Speaking of mentors, I’ve relied on the tried-and-true advice of varsity-level parents through every step of my journey in motherhood, whether it be through classes, Facebook groups, parenting books and podcasts, or texting with a trusted mom friend (which I almost always am).
As a public relations practitioner, we should constantly be striving to enhance our abilities through seeking accreditations, joining professional organizations like PRSA, reading industry articles, listening to podcasts and seeking the counsel of trusted mentors.
Though I’m only a mother of one, sometimes my toddler seems to take on multiple personalities throughout the day. My communications delivery must adjust accordingly to make the most impact, much like the way PR pros tailor communications styles, methods and frequency to their clients.
If you’re not sure their preferred style, don’t be afraid to ask how you can continue to bring value or adjust your approach. Some may prefer weekly emails over monthly reports, a team Slack channel rather than lengthy email chains, or in-person feedback meetings instead of tracked changes. Being intentional about how I connect with clients has strengthened our partnership as a result.
I’ve never understood the powerful phrase “it takes a village” more than when I became a parent. Most of the time, it’s me and my husband tag-teaming to keep our household afloat, but we have learned to embrace the help of friends, neighbors or family members when they offer to babysit, bring over meals or lend a hand with home improvement projects.
It takes a talented team expertly leveraging each other’s strengths to pull off a successful public relations campaign. Aligning on a shared vision, leveraging each other’s strengths and welcoming new other perspectives is crucial.
Our PUBLISHED by Peritus takeaway is this:
Whether you’re focused on building your empire, starting your family or both, find growth in the challenges. The public relations industry is already stressful as it is, but I believe that as mothers, we have an amazing opportunity to leverage the skills our children teach us to improve our practice and inspire those around us.