Many young women feel they must choose between pursuing a career and having children. While support is (slowly) growing for paid family leave and employer-supported day care, only a few role models exist of women in senior leadership roles who are also new mothers. Some recent examples provide inspiration for both women and men.
Charlotte Graham-McLay of the New York Times reports that Prime Minister Jacinda Arden of New Zealand recently became only the second world leader to give birth while in office (Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan was the first in 1990). While Prime Minister Arden acknowledged that she is privileged to have a partner who will be a stay-at-home parent, she also speaks openly about how her dual responsibilities as a leader and a parent still require a balancing act. “And there is guilt behind every door,” she explains. Her hope is that one day women will be able to feel satisfied with making choices and doing the best they can in both the workplace and the family without guilt. Prime Minister Arden notes that seeing women who are both leaders and new parents is still unusual, but she predicts that one day this situation will become normal. In fact, in the New Zealand Parliament, at least five lawmakers returned to work after the most recent elections as parents of babies under a year old.
In the United States, Senator Tammy Duckworth became the first senator to deliver a baby while in office in April 2018, forcing changes in senate rules that previously did not allow children in the senate chamber. Another example of a new mother forging pathways is Rebecca Slaughter, a newly appointed Federal Trade Commission (FTC) commissioner — one of the nation’s top business regulators in Washington, DC. Cecilia Kang of the New York Times reports that Slaughter, who gave birth to her third child on the day of her nomination to the FTC, brings her nursing baby to work. Slaughter shares that while she is tired, she cares deeply about her career and her family and it feels worth it to navigate the two.
None of the senior leaders in these examples say that having a new baby and a career is easy, but they stress that certain adaptations can help, like cutting back on business travel and evening networking events. Kang reports that the male colleagues of Slaughter say that her decision to continue working with the baby helps all working parents.
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Anne Litwin, Ph.D. is an Organizational Development and Human Resources Consultant, Keynote Speaker, and Author of ‘New Rules for Women: Revolutionizing the Way Women Work Together.’
Originally published at www.annelitwin.com on September 24, 2018.