It’s Mother’s Day and your Facebook and Twitter feed is probably filled with adorable pictures of your friends with their mothers. I am a brown woman in tech and a new mom celebrating my first mother’s day this year. So, it’s safe to say that I fall in the minority pool in my field of work where I spend the majority of my time on a given day. Over the past five years, I have done my fair share of speaking at several diversity in tech events and have heard first hand accounts of some of the many issues women and specifically new moms face in the tech sector. I am also a member of several women in tech groups where we openly discuss these issues.
Why do we need to talk about these now, you ask? It’s 2017 and motherhood is still seen as a penalty for many moms around the world. Read this or this or this - you get the idea, right? So, as you make plans to surprise the mothers in your family, here are some reminders on what would be the ideal gift for the mothers around you:
Advocate for maternity benefits in your organization
This is quintessential to retain mothers in tech. In addition to paid maternity leave, factors like availability of hygienic mothers room, comprehensive insurance coverage, backup child care, flexible options to transition back to work, support for nursing moms who need to travel for work, employee resource groups for new parents, etc make a huge difference. Leaving her infant and getting back to work is one of the hardest thing every mom has to do, and the least the industry can do is help her transition back to work as smoothly as possible.
Ask, don’t assume
Moms dread the mommy-track. Now, there’s nothing wrong with mommy-track if a woman decides to take less responsibility at work in order to devote more time to raising her kids. What is wrong is if anyone other than the mom decides it for her.
Please don’t assume that just because someone is now a mom, she probably is not interested in her career anymore, cannot travel for work, is not interested in getting promoted, is not ambitious anymore, is only working to pay the bills, and thus take decisions based on these assumptions. It is when you take such decisions, moms find their jobs demotivating and take the hard decision to quit.
A woman’s world does not turn upside down when she becomes a mom
For some reason, women are expected to just let go of all their interests the moment they become moms. I like speaking at tech events and have been advised a few times to “keep these extra-curriculars in the backseat and focus on my baby instead”. My friend’s work requires her to travel often, and she has been guilted enough for leaving her baby with the dad.
Here’s a secret: Moms know what they are doing! So, the next time you see a mom kicking ass at work, or stepping up to take more responsibility than what her position demands, or defying stereotypes like a boss — show your support. Don’t go out of your way to guilt her.
Talk tech, not just baby
Women get hormonal during pregnancy, but that doesn’t mean they forget tech! Don’t just talk to a mom about her baby’s milestones or sleeping habits. Ever wondered why a mom is looking confused at a meeting? It’s probably because she is surprised at how non-existent the rest of the team treated her after the baby banter, why her opinions were never heard, and why she has to raise her volume twice the normal range to make herself be heard. Make eye contact with the women in the room, hear out their ideas and opinions, give them due credit for their work. These things matter.
Natural birth or C-section, breastfeeding or formula, co-sleeping or sleep trained, daycare or nanny, solids or purees, public school or private school -- it doesn’t matter. There are no type A and type B moms. This is not a competition. Stop judging others. Just remember that a mother, be it birth or adoptive, does only what is best for her baby. This is the universal law of motherhood.
Women are going to continue to have babies, and they should not have to choose between career, family, or interests. Just because you are not a mom does not mean you don’t have a role to play. They say it takes a village to raise a child, and you are very much a part of some mom’s village. Until the issues surrounding motherhood in tech become non-existent, we need to openly acknowledge them, talk about them and find a way to resolve them. Why? Because our daughters are counting on us.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the strong, wonderful and amazing moms in your family!
Disclaimer: Views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the article are my own, and not necessarily belong to any organization I am affiliated with.