Since 1987, March has been designated as Women’s History Month and is a time to acknowledge the contributions that women have made to American culture and society.
As the Strategic Director and owner of Hansen Belyea, I know from experience that being in a leadership position is hard but rewarding work. I can also say with authority that being a mother while leading a company adds another level of complexity and mental load that often goes unacknowledged and unseen.
In the annual report released last year by the combined forces of McKinsey & Company and the nonprofit Lean In, they found that female leaders are much more likely to than male leaders to be burned out for various reasons.
More often than not, women tend to balance multiple roles both at the office and at home. This includes more time on unacknowledged tasks that usually fall on females both professionally and personally such as supporting employee mental well-being or providing household management.
Women are also more likely to either be mistaken for a lower-level role within an organization or more often experience their decisions being questioned. Add that to the responsibilities and expectations of women at home as a caregiver and all contribute to the likelihood of female leaders being more overextended.
In my own lived experience, I’ve found that as a working mother, frequently I’ve had little support, yet there is the expectation that I need to make it all happen. All of this while undergoing the little talked about aspect of losing yourself that women experience when becoming a mother. Six months after the birth of my first born, in addition to running a business, I was the President of the American Marketing Association Puget Sound Chapter. And then before I even finished my term, I was pregnant with my second child. I can assure you 16 months apart is no joke! Although twins are for sure harder.
This isn’t meant to be a rant. It’s my way of acknowledging that it’s not easy. If you are a woman reading this – I see you! While I was pregnant with my first son, I was on a video shoot in a remote location. A woman we were about to film said, “You know, you are a role model [as a pregnant woman and businessperson] and it’s important you show other women balance. Don’t try to do it all because it’s not a good nor a reasonable example to set.” Well, if you know me, you know I take on a lot. And yes, I can nearly always handle it. But there is a price to pay and one that is not easy to see.
I look forward to the day – maybe when my daughter is a mother – when women and men take equally active roles at home and with the mental load. I am proud that unlike my mother and women before her, I can actually choose what I want to do for work. Yes, on average we get paid less and do more. And for sure that needs to change. But it is impressive how far in a generation that we’ve come. I am proud of all women getting it done. You know who you are. If you ever want to talk about this, I would be happy to!