During this Women’s History Month I am struck by just how much history is being made for working moms right now. In fact, it’s hard to remember when, in my lifetime, we have been the subjects of so much attention.
First there is Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo. At first, working moms of all stripes were excited last summer when Yahoo! named Marissa Mayer CEO, even as her maternity leave loomed just a few months away. But soon she began concerning us–first with her two-week maternity leave and most recently with her ban on work-from-home policies across the company. Was she discounting all the progress made by corporate America and documented by the Working Mother 100 Best Companies over the past 27 years? Doesn’t she realize that flexibility is an incredibly powerful benefit that can boost employee engagement and loyalty, while lowering absenteeism and ‘presenteeism’…not to mention being a boon to the bottom line?
On a brighter note, there’s Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook. Last year I wrote a blog post about how Sandberg is living the working mother’s dream. She set a great example of how flex can work even at the highest levels of the corporate world when she announced that she would be leaving work at 5:30 pm each day so that she could have dinner with her family. And now, with her new book, Lean In, she tells women not to doubt their ability to combine work and family. She believes women who “lean in” and believe in themselves succeed professionally, and that they are in better position to ask for what they need and make changes that can benefit others. It is especially telling that the book was reviewed by Anne Marie Slaughter, who made her own headlines by quitting a high-profile government job after only two years because she hadn’t taken steps to ensure work life balance in her own life, and she needed it back.
Now, a new study by the Pew Research Center shows that the number of moms who prefer to work full-time has risen to 32 percent from just 20 percent five years ago, according to a report released on March 14. Additionally, the study shows that moms and dads increasingly share not only the duties of earning money and taking care of kids, but also the emotional burdens associated with each. The new data showing that dads want to spend more time at home and moms are pursuing substantial careers illustrate the cultural shift we’ve all been living, and that the Working Mother Research Institute has been tracking.
What can we take away from all this? I believe that If both parents –those at all levels, not just the high-profile ones in the C-suite—had the option to work flexible hours we’d all feel more positive about our kids, our families, and ourselves, and more hopeful about our careers and companies. Working Mother supports companies like Sodexo that are openly committed to flex, making it a true business focus. Sodexo’s Flexibility Implementation Team continues to work to embed flex into the complete Sodexo culture. Sodexo understands that flex is not only the right thing to do; it’s also good for business. As more companies follow Sodexo’s lead, they will all fare the better for it, as will our families. And working moms will continue to make history.