Mothers aren't sexy

Here’s what is….Disruption, Innovation, Agility, Fourth Industrial Revolution, Diversity. But if you mention ‘Motherhood’ skills as a topic worthy of exploration in the business world, there is a sense of foreboding amongst some, perhaps an awkwardness attached to exploring it as an area worthy of our corporate attention?

We are happy talking about the implications of motherhood

In the literature, in posts on LinkedIn, in HR and on Boards, we seem to be able to discuss the implications of motherhood on the workplace, flexible working, part-time leaders and parity. We know the huge benefits of working mothers to organisations (well at least I do, and I think most people are familiar with the literature now). We also know how slowly things are changing and how much more there is to do. Many businesses are indeed taking this topic (as well as other diversity initiatives) seriously and are implementing great solutions.

For those bristling at the topic of motherhood

If you have started to feel bristly about this topic you may want to think about what is behind that. Not my place to tell you, well not in an article anyway! But if you want to replace ‘motherhood’ with ‘fatherhood’, that’s fine, I’m not discriminating. If you are not a parent and you have started to bristle, that’s also OK of course. But remember I am not saying you are not skilled or that you don’t have as much to offer or anything else you have started to bristle about. I am just talking about ‘mothers’, in the same way that I would talk about ‘leaders’ and am not discriminating against mothers or not-mothers, those who would like to or not like to be a mother, and those who can’t or haven’t. And it goes without saying that mothers are not the only worthy group for discussion, peoples’ rights all over the place require special consideration. If you are a mother and you have started to bristle, again I will leave it up to you to think why that is, and whether you are happy with your explanation.

My point – There are skills developed in motherhood that are relevant skills to the workplace. A more explicit discussion about the crossover is needed to enable a greater sense of pride, authenticity and satisfaction at work.

What I am interested in is why in a corporate set up, it seems pervasive that we do not explicitly discuss the skills attached to motherhood as being relevant to our leadership skill development (if you doubt it, how often do you or others talk about them explicitly in their cv, their written articles, their interviews etc.?). Why do we not focus on the skills associated with motherhood in the corporate space? Does it feel irrelevant? Controversial? What do you think? Is there a sense of unprofessionalism attached to looking at the cross over?

If you open a leadership textbook or read post on leadership and look at the qualities discussed, I can see these same qualities applying to the role of the mother. Of course the corporate environment is different from the family home.  But in relation to the skills, there is huge crossover e.g. delegation, prioritisation, engagement, changing your communication to suit the other, resilience, being able to say no, being able to put others before you, keeping focused on the long term and the short term simultaneously, making decisions quickly, admitting failings, continuous reflection and learning, letting go, negotiation – I could go on. Are mothers therefore not consistently learning in two different spaces, one that is arguably more complex, changeable and demanding? Shouldn’t we be exploring the benefits of this skill development to our corporate lives? Shouldn’t we be using this skill development to increase our authenticity, our contribution and our influence over our workplaces? Couldn’t we be more explicit about what mothers bring to our colleagues, our vision and our practice? Couldn’t we be more proud of having mothers’ skills in our workplace? How would this impact our lives as a community? How could it influence our leadership, if mothers were encouraged to be explicit about their skill development and how it contributes to our corporate development?

Amy is running the first public event for Mothership in Melbourne, May 2016. Find out more about Mothership please click here

Dr Amy Silver is an expert in behavioural change for business excellence. If you would like to be added to her mailing list ‘Silverline’ings’ to hear of her news please visit or email!