Press & Research

Lessons in Leadership: Insights into how women thrive at work while raising families

Cathleen Swody and Catherine Flavin


In popular media, we regularly hear messages about the challenges experienced by working mothers and the shortage of women in executive leadership positions. In companies, we have seen women turn down leadership roles purportedly because they have kids (or want to have kids), and struggle to find viable models for how to thrive at work and as a mother. In academia, researchers have well documented the negative outcomes of work-family conflict for individuals and organizations. The image of the challenging work-family interface can be discouraging for women who are considering their professional aspirations and for organizations that want to develop

high-performing employees. In our research, we have observed a strong positive relationship between personal feelings of accomplishment in work and the belief that family responsibilities are compatible with advancing a career at an organization. In presenting the firsthand experiences of the women leaders who participated in our studies, our goal is to offer useful practices to individuals and their managers and to foster additional work-family research in organizations.