With Mother's Day fast approaching, it's once again time to show our appreciation for what moms do for us every day. And increasingly that admiration is extending beyond the family and into corporate America, as more and more employers see real value in getting mothers back on the job.
"Companies are actively looking for moms," says Bill Coleman, senior vice president of compensation at Salary.com, a management information provider. According to Salary.com’s most recent survey, over 95 percent of employers hire former stay-at-home moms, and over 80 percent actively recruit moms re-entering the workforce.
"There is much more understanding today of the choice people make to leave the workforce, whether it is to volunteer, work part-time or put more time into raising their children," says John Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, an outplacement consulting firm in Chicago. "The automatic discounting of that time away is disappearing."
With unemployment under 2 percent for those with college degrees, companies are forced to be more accepting of alternative career paths. "Many employers are experiencing worker shortages, which is why smart companies have been dipping into this overlooked group of people."
Still, many moms take themselves out of the running before they ever consider applying for a job by assuming their skills are not transferable or that the working world has passed them by, explains Coleman. They are very much misinformed.
Salary.com finds parents actually expand their skills, and therefore their attractiveness to employers, through child rearing. "They need to step back and realize they have the skills companies want," he adds.
Those home-honed skills include organization and project management, which become second nature — like getting multiple children awakened, fed, dressed and out the door on time each school day. There is also ample opportunity to practice patience and negotiation tactics with unreasonable ‘colleagues’ and keeping one’s charges on task — think homework. Opportunities to perfect conflict resolution are typically plentiful.
"Being a mom is so much harder than a paying job in the corporate world," says Tricia Himawan, a mom and Realtor in West Orange, N.J., and former financial analyst with Goldman Sachs. "It takes the art of multitasking to the [highest] degree." She has found, however that coupling her new mom skills with her old investment banking experience supercharged her re-entry when she decided to become a Realtor two years ago.
Rena Everton, human resources director for Ikano Communications Inc. in Salt Lake City tries to hires moms — with college degrees or not — to staff her company’s inbound call center whenever possible. "I don’t have to ask if they understand how to multitask," she says. "Our business is all about relating to people with problems and helping them, something moms, in particular, excel at."
For those who think their age will be a barrier, think again, says Coleman. "It may have been a stigma years ago when the work force in general was less educated and the work more physical, but no longer." Employers are looking for knowledge workers — knowledge being something that improves with time and can be employed at any age.
Employers are also beginning to realize that to lure moms back into the labor force formerly pie-in-the-sky job arrangements like flextime and job-sharing need to be on the table.
"There is a growing awareness among employers that many moms are not looking to resume climbing the corporate ladder. They want to continue being Mom, just a mom with a paying job, preferably nearby," says Coleman. That realization is also leading to greater acceptance of flexible hours, telecommuting and improved efforts to meet the needs of working mothers, he adds.
Employers are starting to get it, but what about Mom?
"There seems to be a correlation between how long they are out of the workforce and their confidence level — the longer the absence, the less confidence there is about returning," says Corrie Martin, the senior program manager for executive education at The Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. This is why Tuck developed a new program, ‘Back in Business: Invest in Your Return,’ to help its alumni and those of other MBA programs — or having equivalent work experience — to refresh their skills, replenish confidence levels and repackage their marketability before attempting to rejoin the "game."
But not all moms aspire to a full re-entry into the work-a-day world or even one requiring them to leave the house.
Recognizing how many would welcome working arrangements compatible with their day jobs as parents, Lesley Spencer Pyle, founder and director of HBWM, a professional association and online community for parents who work from home, recently introduced a new service: HireMyMom.com. The site allows those who want to work from home to market their skills to employers looking to outsource assignments to homebodies. Launched in time for Mother’s Day, the site has already made a number of matches.
While Mom is certain to feel the love this Sunday, with growing numbers of employers willing to hire her and show their appreciation each payday, she has the opportunity to make it a year-round celebration.