From Panera Bread to the Boardroom: Two Moms Collaborate to Empower Women

WLAM-Talent Think Partnership promo

Three years ago, I was a part of a small social media team that was covering the NY Business Expo Summit in New York City. After several hours of busily typing soundbites of some of the brightest minds in Social Media, I sauntered to the nearest lavatory where I was approached by Dr. Hilary S. Berger, Ed.D of Work Like a Mother®. She was fascinated with the speed at which I was typing and covering the event and asked me if I could help her hone her skills.

Not too long after the event we met in a Panera Bread in New York City to discuss the possibility of working with one another. As we were sharing our backgrounds and journeys as mothers, we realized we both had a passion for seeing women thrive. We spent most of our time talking about what we might be able to accomplish together someday. These lofty wishes were wrapped up in us being able to provide programs, events, and workshops that could assist women who have lost their way with a way to become relevant again through unique learning opportunities- an academy of sorts.

Some three years later, I am happy to say that academy was launched in 2015 as the Work Like a Mother® Career Academy for Social Media and Job Search Training. I came aboard as a social media and personal branding instructor. In 2016, we are collaborating in a more formal fashion to create new programming and provide the next iteration of the Work Like a Mother® Career Academy for Social Media and Job Search Training.

Our first collaboration is a program that was one of my proudest achievements for 2015- my Talent Think Social Circle Virtual Mentorship Teleclass ™. I launched this program with an idea, shoestring budget and blind faith from October through December of 2015 following the conclusion of the academy and it was a success.

Class “Usie” after my Art of Personal Branding and Social Media Workshop.

 

With the interest and support of Work Like a Mother®, my program has an extended lifeline and has grown into a multi-level program serving two separate needs for the women we serve:

1) Some women just want to re-enter the workforce. As such, their primary interest is in enhancing their skills and building the confidence needed to become a marketable candidate in an ever-difficult and selective job market.

2) In complete contrast to the previous example, there are women who have ideas for businesses they want to launch and need a place where they can incubate and grow those ideas into businesses. They too require some up-skilling and coaching to get there and we want to serve that need as well.

Who better to nurture women who have either of these needs than two mothers/business women that understand and empathize with their journeys. Corporate America isn’t checking for them and certainly hasn’t made much progress in ensuring the career mobility and flexibility of women, so we are tackling it in the only way we know- through education and coaching.

WLAM Open House

Work Like a Mother Open House (1.15.16)

 

You may be thinking what does this have to do with Human Resources?

On the surface, probably not anything. Let’s dive a little deeper though. When I worked in HR, I recognized that people could skip along all day creating policies and procedures without any care or concern for how it impacts the workforce. We were keeping the organization compliant and that is necessary. However, I often wondered if things would be different if Human Resources could function in a truly altruistic manner. My HR buddy, Dave Ryan shared something rather profound in a recent blog post. The post titled: “A Utopian Workplace”drove home an important consideration which is: “it is hard for HR to create a utopian society in the way everyone expects when society has yet to right certain human wrongs. I have to agree and I believe one of the things we have screwed up left and right is how women are regarded and treated in the workplace. More disturbingly is how women who choose to become mothers are often displaced and forgotten. While my collaboration has really nothing to do with HR directly, indirectly Hilary and I are attempting to triage the ills of society from the outside-in-with the hope that these women can thrive and succeed in the way that is most meaningful for them.

If you are interested in learning more about our programs, go to: http://worklikeamother.com/Mentorship.html.  In addition, if you are interested in featuring us on your blog, publication, podcast etc. to discuss our work we would welcome the opportunity to collaborate with you.

Here’s a little more insight on Dr. Hilary S. Berger, Ed.d and Work Like a Mother® worth knowing:

Dr. Hilary S. Berger, Ed.D. is the founder of Work Like a Mother®  and is a Career Counselor and Board Certified Licensed Professional Mental Health Counselor who earned her Doctoral Degree from Columbia University’s Teachers College. With office locations in Fairfield County Connecticut, Dr. Berger has pioneered a solution oriented career counseling system designed exclusively for educated mothers at home raising their families. She has counseled women in transition both in university settings and in private practice for over twenty years.  Work Like a Mother®, a thriving and dynamic community for mothers, is a one stop shop for mothers rebuilding their professional relevance and marketability during and after their parenting years.

“Pregnancy” is not a bad word

Image Courtesy of “Think Progress”

After being pregnant three times over the past seven years, I have seen, heard, and endured things that have both shocked me and made me angry. For starters, there are far too many employers that are still treating pregnancy as if it is a cardinal sin and a complete undoing to their business. Having children whether as an older more tenured employee or an early careerist is a life decision that need not be vetted or agreed with by an employer. Certainly, there are the usual considerations of the inevitable impact of having children depending on where you are in your career; but they are just that- considerations.

Consider this instead:

*The U.S. is one of only 4 countries that doesn’t offer paid leave to new mothers — the others are Papua New Guinea, Swaziland, and Lesotho.

*Having a baby is a leading cause of “poverty spells” in the U.S. — when income dips below what’s needed for basic living expenses.

When you are notified by an employee that they are pregnant, they haven’t just given you their resignation simultaneously. Pregnant women are not only capable of continuing their duties (unless sickness and or the physical nature of their job interfere), but they are worthy of having your support as an employer.

As a new business owner, I would like to impart some food-for thought for dealing with pregnancy in general and pregnant employees:

  1. Stop saying dumb things to your pregnant employees. If you are hesitant to say what you’re thinking or you are unsure; do yourself a favor and be quiet.
  2. Be kind. In as much as pregnant women are willing and capable, a little compassion can go a long way.  Ask them how they are feeling. If they are struggling during the first trimester or beyond; allow some leniency. It’s that whole do onto others philosophy.
  3. Did you also know?  *51% of new mothers lack any paid leave so some take unpaid leave, some quit, some even lose their jobs. If you can help it, get out of this third-world mentality that exists in the US and offer your female employees a dose of relief in the way of a paid maternity leave, the ability to phase-back to work, short-term disability etc.
  4. While said employee is on leave, do your best to refrain from contacting her regarding work related things or anything in general. Maternity leave is supposed to be a time for healing, bonding, and family. Respect the employee’s time.
  5. Lastly, if there are concerns about adequate time and the like- communicate your concern, but don’t over communicate. There are dr.’s appointments, unforeseen sicknesses, etc. Again, if this is a good employee do your best to work through these hurdles. In business, there are always workarounds whether you want to openly admit it or not).
  6. Don’t forget your male employees. They are becoming dads too and may need your support as well.

Pregnant women are not second-class citizens. You do not have to fundamentally agree with the act of childbearing or its timing but you do have an obligation to respect the decision and support your employees as best you can.

Every year Working Mother.com compiles a list of the best 100 companies for the working mother. One of their requirements for application acceptance is that they offer at least one week of paid family leave or they must be on their way to implementing some sort of paid maternity leave. The list is great and proof that nothing I said here is pie-in-the-sky. Check the list of companies out here.

Here’s a wacky bonus tip: don’t touch your pregnant employee unless you ask. I once had a manager push in my protruding belly button because she thought it was odd and cute. Please stop doing these things. It doesn’t bode well for anyone involved.

What are some innovative arrangements or policies you have implemented to support your pregnant or even new mother employees?

*Statistics from MomRising.org- http://www.momsrising.org/issues_and_resources/maternity

Translate »
Font Resize