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The Corporate Athlete: Balancing A Technology Career in the Motherhood Space

three women in technology

The alarms sounds. It’s 5:00 am. The house is quiet. It’s here, my most productive and focused time of day. The smell of fresh brewed coffee fills the air as the sun begins to peek over the trees outside my office window. The stillness allowing for the clearest focus and strategic thinking to set up for a productive workday. I know I have just the right amount of time and mind space before the day fully engages:  inboxes fill, teams begin to meet and customer meetings ensue.

Working amidst the pandemic over the course of the last few years, this has become a normal morning for many people, however, when working and balancing motherhood in a fast-moving and demanding technical space – this schedule has become my recipe for success.

There is no doubt that you can find case studies and statistics related to the number of woman vs men in the tech industry, but refine your search for working moms in the consulting tech industry and you’ll find low percentages. This comes as no surprise, but what is surprising is the number of women who are making it work while making a name for themselves at the C-suite level.

Currently, women make up only about 25% of the tech workforce. The representation of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields drops significantly at the midcareer level. One major reasons for this is women can feel overwhelmed with managing their careers along with their family, especially those in leadership positions as they manage teams, high profile accounts, and financial growth targets.

In a recent study, 51 percent of women said being a working mother made it harder for them to advance their careers while only 16 percent of fathers felt the same way. The same study also found that 42 percent of mothers reduced their work hours to make time for their growing families while just 28 percent of fathers said the same. This claim is further supported by the National Center for Women & Information Technology. Their report found that as many as 56 percent of women leave their tech jobs mid-career. But there is good news! In recent years they have observed these statistics drastically reduce as organizations shift their focus to accommodate for more work/life balance.

Key to note are the powerful woman who have successfully navigated motherhood while holding high profile technical careers. They are key stewards proving you can be a working mom in technology and still hold a powerful position within your organization. Examples of this are Gwynne Shotwell, President and COO of SpaceX, Sheryl Sandberg, former COO of Meta Platforms, Kimberly Bryant, Founder of Black Girls Code, Safra Catz, CEO of Oracle, and Amy Hood, CFO of Microsoft who helped propel the organization to become a trillion-dollar company while jockeying with Apple for a larger market cap. All of these women made influential strides within their organizations, while also managing motherhood.

While these emerging tech leaders managed their roles and motherhood, they have also found ways to navigate balancing both their work and motherhood by focusing on the following goals:

Prioritize The Day: Do the hardest things first, during the time of the day when you have the most mind space. Tackle your most time sensitive items, scrub your meeting agendas, schedule your day in 15 to 30 minute increments, and leave space for the unknowns that come in along the way. Leave room for customer requests and project team support as well as calls, which represent a majority of regular working hours.

Be Flexible: Generally we start the day with a perception of how the day will go, but it rarely goes the way we planned; this is due to both personal and professional obligations. Be willing to bend and shift when and where necessary. Often we encounter budget and strategy reprioritizations. Stay flexible; navigate through change and don’t get caught up in how you think things should have gone. The best employees shift on a dime when and where needed.

Know What is Hot and What is Not: Many colleagues and customers are vying for your time and attention, similar to your role at home.  Know when and where to focus your energy; what is a problem that needs to be solved immediately, and what can wait. It’s okay to prioritize, and highly successful employees have mastered this philosophy.

Delegate Tasks: Lean into your teams when needed. They are there to support you and likely would appreciate the same in return. The most cohesive, high functioning teams are those that lean on each other when needed. You are one person. You don’t have to take on everything, and the fact of the matter is you won’t be able to. Productive leaders have mastered delegation, while taking on tasks from others that warrant support.

Plan Ahead: Don’t fear Mondays, they account to 14 percent of all the days you will ever get. To get the most done in the least amount of time, use appropriate shortcuts and plan strategically. Start viewing the start of the week as an opportunity to plan ahead and balance your list of priorities.

Let Go of the Guilt: I once heard someone say, “I am either a good mom or a good employee but not both of the same time.” Why not?  The fact of the matter is that you likely are because you are doing both at the same time. You have had to sharpen the skill of working smarter and faster to make the best use of time and focus when accomplishing tasks.

Take Time to Disengage: Rest and reset. Take the time to turn off and unplug – and that means trusting the teams you work with everyday.  You have their backs, I promise they will have yours.

For working women who balance motherhood and careers, taking on leadership roles within their organization can seem daunting at first. Tackling the day by focusing on these goals will result in a high level of productivity and, ultimately, contribute to greater growth for both you and your organization. Take nothing for granted, having a job is not a guarantee and having a big job is a privilege.

It will not be easy, but you will fall in love with the challenge.

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Erin Rushman

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