LeaderMoms “Advertise” Really Well for Their Positions


A while back, when our kids were younger, Stanford psychologist Wendy Mogel, PhD, made a simple comment at a parenting conference.  With a smile, she said, “A major benefit of being a parent is getting to be a grandparent. Parents, you are advertising for the position. Look like you are having a good time.” The phrase stayed with me because it grounded me in my long game. And her message applies well to leadership. Consider how it sounds, just slightly rephrased:

“A major benefit of being a leader is leaving a legacy.
Leaders, you are advertising for the position.
Look like you are having a good time.”

How Are Leaders in Your Company “Advertising” Their Positions?

If you are a leader who is trying to recruit, retain and advance diverse talent, take a minute to consider these three questions.

  1. Does the way your organization talks about and showcases senior and executive leadership look and sound like “a good time”?

  2. If you had to “swim upstream” (e.g., against internal and external biases), would you be inspired or compelled to put extra energy into that journey?

  3. Does the picture you and your colleagues paint of being a woman in senior and executive leadership motivate a sane person to choose that life?  

Too often, the answer is no.

What Can You Learn from LeaderMoms to “Advertise” More Effectively?

The LeaderMom research and community presents a very compelling picture of leadership in general, and of what is possible as a professional and a parent. Here’s a bit about why and how LeaderMom might inspire someone to choose this life:

  1. LeaderMoms are very accomplished and cool, not perfect; and their lives are pretty darn fulfilling. We work backwards from the positive outliers — i.e., high performers who are admired as highly engaged at work and home.  When we ask our panelists what their lives are like, what they have learned, and what advice they have, and we learn the good stuff, the stuff that can elevate us all. (See some highlights below.)

  2. Along with C-suite executives, our research includes other high-performing senior leaders.  We don’t just focus on the elite, tippy-top of the executive leadership pyramid.  Representation of women in leadership drops off below the top ranks. Senior leadership roles can be a place of powerful impact, joy and fulfillment. Organizations need qualified, engaged leaders at every level. Our research is cultivated to be useful to those rising as well as those at the beginning of their career paths.

  3. We offer a tapestry, with a range of industries and personalities.  With that, there is more chance a woman will see herself reflected in it somewhere and feel empowered to find her own groove. We do not over-focus on one woman at a time because no one person can demonstrate “it all” or pass on any kind of magic-bullet recipe. There are lots of people who find their work-life mojo beautifully on some days and well enough on others.  People find different ways of crafting their lives. We distill what they have figured out, which offers you courage and counsel as you do the same.

  4. We bring “truth in advertising” and are brutally honest so as to not mislead anyone.  This LeaderMom community is clear about very real challenges — nagging guilt, biases, social awkwardness and isolation, and definite logistical challenges. We collect and share guidance on how to navigate these challenges, offer camaraderie on good days and rough ones, and even access humor to lighten the load.

With perspective on the long-game benefits of being a LeaderMom and honesty about the struggles,  the journey becomes both challenging and yet more meaningful and worth the investment. Without being reminded of the over-time benefits, days can feel too long and too tiring (which feeds burnout and unwanted turnover).

To prepare you for your leadership path, we work to show that it is possible to be a highly engaged leader and parent, AND how fulfilling choosing the LeaderMom life can be.   

Highlights of the LeaderMom Story:

  • In fact, 8 in 10 LeaderMoms said their lives are close to ideal.

  • A clear majority said motherhood has made them more effective at work.

  • 97% get a real sense of accomplishment from their work.

  • More than 4 in 5 are satisfied with progress toward career goals.

  • An overwhelming majority of women are very happy with their families.

  • Nearly 9 in 10 exceed expectations at work. 

Of course, there are challenges. Two top the list:

  • Guilt is a big struggle, more in terms of work affecting home life than the other way around.

  • There are structural challenges and biases. About ½ of the women on our panel see gender parity within reach in their organizations.

Catherine Flavin