Three Reasons Your Time as a Parent is Valuable to an Employer
A Business Perspective on Full-Time Parents
In Spring of 2014, I was subject to an extreme hiring bias against me.
What bias would a highly educated, privileged white woman be subject too? No, this wasn’t gender bias. I had handled plenty of that, with attitude to spare, as I learned and worked elbow-to-elbow with men in the field of engineering.
This bias was much more sinister because it was universal and hidden beneath politically correct messaging. This was a bias against me because I had chosen to take time to raise my children. Whereas society might profess that “being a mom was some of the most valuable work in the world,” the reality of seeking a job revealed otherwise. The bias against women who take time to be with their kids is shocking, sharp and jarring.
After taking ten years to raise my three children, my value was assessed to be on par with an entry level candidate, at best, regardless of my 15 years of work experience and laudable education.
This made no sense to me.
Consequently, in May of 2014, I vowed to challenge that bias and help women learn to negate similar bias against them so they could re-launch their careers to a comparable level of responsibility. However, before I could do any of that, I knew I had a long road to travel.
I knew I had to break through the power the bias held over me and consider that perhaps there was a legitimate reason to be biased against full-time moms.
With luck and determination, I managed to relaunch my career back into Leadership Development and gained invaluable experience working with and teaching senior leaders at some of best known companies in the country. I regained my former Director title in less than a year and concluded that the idea that parents had lost their drive and capacity to contribute at a high performing level is ludicrous!
After more than a decade of watching parents from both inside and outside my career in professional development, interviewing over 100 parents and spending years teaching executives how to be better leaders, here is what I can tell you about the value of time spent as a full-time parent:
- When we step away from our career to be a parent, we don’t stop thinking, working, or contributing to the good of society: we just stop getting paid for our efforts.
~ Parents volunteer thousands of hours, applying their skills and knowledge to create and implement thousands of programs and raise millions of dollars for non-profit organizations, communities and families.
~ They are intrinsically motivated to make a difference.
- Parents naturally develop business relevant and valuable skills and traits while spending time with children.
~ The skills we learn through parenthood are the very same human skills that are needed to be a great leader.
~ There is no better research laboratory for soft skill development than the world of raising a child. Parenthood teaches you what it really means to be a servant leader, to differentiate development, and to understand the impact of your own emotions on others, just to name a few of the critical leadership skills learned during this time.
~ As a full-time parent, your responsibilities, benefits and challenges are very similar to that of a CEO of a small company.
- Due to the rapid changes in technology and automation of hard skills, the soft skills parents develop while caring for their children are more valuable to future employers than they were to past employers.
~ Looking to the future, the skills that make us truly invaluable are the skills that make us human – our creativity, ability to build and navigate relationships, develop others, interpret meaning and be growth minded problem solvers. All of these skills are developed while being a parent.
On August 22nd, at “The Business Value of Being a Parent” event, I gathered a panel of rock-star parents and shared these observations. Finally, after three-and-a-half years, I fulfilled my vow to publicly challenge the bias against parents who take time to be with kids. Rather than just state that the bias was irrational and unfair, I now had years of experience and observations to help me paint a clear and constructive picture. Not only is the assessment of minimal value of full-time parents incorrect, the opposite is true: time spent as a parent might be some of the most valuable training we can invest in to develop skills and mindsets that make us better leaders and more relevant employees in the future.
Will these ideas make a difference? I’m not sure.
I can only hope that they pushed a few people to pause and consider that perhaps they have been looking at parents with an unproductive and close-minded perspective.
If I can put a crack in the stereotype somewhere, I’ll consider my efforts a success. Parents can figure out how to take it from there. We have learned to be incredible negotiators and conflict navigators, after all!
Listen to Julia’s bias challenging talk below!
One final note:
During my relaunch years and my work with parents, there were some valid reasons to view relaunching parents in a different light than other candidates, but they had nothing to do with their capabilities to complete a task or take on a high level of responsibility. The concerns were more about their ability to thrive in a state of constant change. But then again, don’t you have that concern about all of your employees? More on that in another post…