How employers shape the experience of motherhood
MAY 6, 2022 • BLOG POST • JENNIFER TEMPLE, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT AND CHIEF COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER
IN THIS ARTICLE
- While a largely personal affair, employers play a significant role in shapping the motherhood experience and career paths of women
HPE’s people-centric culture offers flexibility for parents, as well as benefits that keep mothers' careers on track with flexible, personal options that help minimize the career interruptions that are typically associated with motherhood
I have generally considered Mother’s Day a personal affair, when families show gratitude for the tireless work that mothers put into raising the next generation. But as a mother of two teenagers and an executive at a global tech company, I can’t help but reflect on the significant role employers play in shaping the experience of motherhood.
After all, 86% of women in the United States will become mothers in their lifetimes and about 71% of mothers with kids at home are part of the United States workforce. And, even in dual career homes, studies show women still carry the majority of domestic and childcare duties. That tendency is especially true for mothers of young children, who might have to flex unexpectedly when kids are home sick or when childcare arrangements fall through.
Over the years, I have been an advocate for workplace policies that factor in life’s realities and support all parents and caregivers to step in when duty calls. While public policy and broader cultural norms influence these experiences, in many countries, it is often employers who are exploring new approaches and driving mutually beneficial progress.
The illusive idea of work/life balance
Many of us chase the illusive idea of “balance” – balancing parenting, relationships, self-care and work. I have certainly had my days of feeling overwhelmed and unsure of where to start. But, instead of throwing up my hands, I've found success in taking a step back, looking at the big picture, and being strategic about how and where I spend my time.
I don’t always get it right, but I try to prioritize the moments where I can make the most important impact, recognizing that any prioritization is accompanied with a trade-off. To prevent seeing these trade-offs as happening “to” me, about six years ago I began writing down three or four priorities for the year ahead. When I need to decide where to focus my attention, I consider how an activity will help contribute to those priorities. I encourage my teams to find a similar system to help us all stay intentional and strategic about driving the outcomes we want for our careers and our families.
Not everyone has a workplace that affords such discretion or the privilege of such support, but if the last two years taught us anything, it’s that it is impossible to disentangle our private and professional lives. 2021 research by McKinsey & Company showed that women’s burnout rates escalated faster, nearly doubling the burnout gap between men and women. And the figures are even worse for women of color.
Building a trusting workplace culture means empowering team members to make choices that allow them to perform at their best – professionally and personally – and it is a culture I set out to build every day.
How HPE supports working moms
Over the last four years, Hewlett Packard Enterprise CEO Antonio Neri has made culture one of his top priorities. That focus contributed to the launch of HPE’s Work that Fits Your Life program in 2019 and then our Edge-to-Office hybrid work model in 2020.
By offering our team members six months of paid gender-neutral parental leave, with the option to ease back to work part-time for up to three years, HPE aims to support women’s careers, work-life balance for all parents, and a more equitable environment that also supports men to take on childcare responsibilities.
I am proud of these policies and practices, but they are not the norm in most global work settings. Since I joined four years ago, HPE has been recognized many times for our employee-focused programs. But we know there is still work to be done to support women in the workforce, not only through the early years of parenthood, but more broadly with programs dedicated to elevating more women into senior leadership positions and technical roles, as well as with company-wide initiatives to bolster allyship across the organization.
Mother’s Day is about celebrating mothers, but I have increasingly come to see it as a celebration of the supportive systems that make motherhood possible. This Mother’s Day, I choose to celebrate all dimensions of my identity as a mother in the C-suite. I choose to celebrate my parents for epitomizing graceful leadership, my husband of 21 years who is committed to flexible and creative partnering, my kids for teaching me every day and for embracing my imperfect, yet, very honest, role modeling, and HPE for empowering me to make fulfilling choices.
Happy Mother’s Day.