It’s no secret women and men—and moms and dads—are treated differently. One CEO mom perfectly summed up how this happens in a professional setting—and how the simplest of questions can inhibit women’s progress.
Tiffany Sauder, the president and CEO of Element Three, a marketing agency in Indianapolis, Indiana, recently returned from maternity leave with her fourth daughter. She took to LinkedIn with a story about an otherwise routine meeting forced her to think about how women are unfairly scrutinized when it comes to promotions.
Colleagues were discussing a big, new opportunity and a “very capable woman’s name” was thrown in the ring for consideration. Someone noted, “She is pretty busy, [it’s] a big job and her two kids are young.” Another man in the room then said, “We also just talked about this same opportunity for several men—and not once did we mention how many children they had.”
While we’re glad at least one man at the table seems to be an ally, it’s going to take more than that to get more women in the C-suite. Women need to be at the table—women of color, moms, LGBTQ+ women and women with disabilities are needed in leadership positions everywhere to create a more equitable workplace for all. And we can’t do it by ourselves.
“This was a great reminder that it’s going to take both men and women in leadership to give women not just equal pay, but equal opportunities. Regardless of how many kids, pets or plants we have depending on us,” Tiffany wrote. “For those young women wondering, ‘Can I do both?,’ you can. And it’s wonderful.”
Moms are assumed to be the primary caregivers and so men are rarely asked how many children they have when being considered for a promotion or new opportunity. This dangerous assumption that moms can’t take care of their kids while growing their career is stunting women’s progress altogether, and it needs to stop.
If the coronavirus pandemic has taught us anything, it’s this: Working moms can do it all, for better or worse. With women taking on the majority of caregiving responsibilities over the last seven months, all while working full-time and, in some places, managing kids’ distance learning, we should be up for every promotion.
Unfortunately, for many US moms, the pandemic has had the opposite effect. As many as 40 percent of parents will quit or scale back due to school closures, with moms being nearly twice as likely to leave the workforce as dads. In fact, while the nation has adapted to remote work, dads are three times as likely as moms to receive a promotion during the pandemic. If that doesn’t capture the quintessence of how moms and dads are treated differently at work, we don’t know what will.
It’s this difference that is widening the wage gap and preventing women from attaining higher-paying roles and moving forward in their careers. Without employers willing to offer flexibility and compassion to parent employees right now, working moms’ dire circumstances will only get worse. Tiffany’s post is a reminder that dads and moms taking care of kids ought to be treated the same in the workplace. Employers: Offer more opportunities for working moms to progress in their careers, and help us with childcare. It’s the least you can do to help us through this crisis—and you won’t regret it.