I love it when someone screams out mom in a department store and dozens of heads turn in response. Would it surprise you to know that all but two members of the female CEO elite at big U.S. businesses would answer? It surprised me to learn in the Wall Street Journal that of the 12 female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, 11 are moms.
I'm even more surprised that it was a man who researched this info and wrote about it in his new book, The Last Male Bastion, which examines female chief executives. (I'm putting it on my reading list!)
While most of us convinced ourselves that motherhood was a career penalty, Douglas Branson , a University of Pittsburgh law professor, did the research and proved that being a mom doesn't always stall a career. Wow! That's extremely encouraging.
Here's what Branson found that these women CEOs have in common: They couldn't be at some key events when their kids were growing up. They have extensive support from their husbands. They compartmentalize work and home. They determine in advance not to have guilt.
In my years of interviewing women CEOs of companies of all sizes, I've seen the same commonalities.
Here's another big Branson discovery: These women CEOs drew on their experience as parents when climbing the ladder at work. They knew when to pick battles, how to mediate conflicts, and how to help others ease work family conflicts.
You can be sure these CEO successes came with heart wrenching trade-offs.
Over the weekend, I saw the new hit movie, Secretariat. I cringed during the hotel room scene. Penny Chenery (aka Penny Tweedy), one of the first female race horse owners to be a part of press conferences and horse racing history, lies in her bed and cries when her flight is cancelled after a race and she can't get home to see her daughter sing in a play. Those kinds of tradeoffs were new to women in the 1970s. Today, they are sacrifices moms and dads make regularly. However, I'm sure they are just as painful.
While most of these Fortune 500 CEOs are of the age that their children mostly are in their 20s, they still are a beacon of hope to the new moms out there. Having a great career and a family can be done. The mommy track just may be the new career track.