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EDITORIAL: Mothers, our economy's future

By: The Gazette editorial board
May 14, 2017 Updated: May 14, 2017 at 4:59 pm
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Christine Payne, mother of Spencer, 2, (left) and Lucy, 3 months, checks her e-mail from her home laptop. On maternity leave until December, she will return to her job part-time as a project manager for a communications company and will work from home. After giving birth to her oldest child, Payne returned to work full-time and outside the home. She said she looks forward to regaining a sense of organization and structure in her life, but at the same time will still have an influence on her children's lives. "I get the best of both worlds," she said. "I think work's going to give me some of my ego back."

For Mother's Day, consider hiring moms for the most important jobs.

"It's time, once and for all, to debunk two related myths about motherhood: When a woman becomes a mother she will be less effective at work. When a woman becomes a mother her career will inevitably suffer," wrote Amy Henderson, founding CEO of Trend Lab, on a LinkedIn blog that landed her on the talk show circuit last week.

Henderson cites research in the fields of neuroscience, evolutionary biology, game theory, primate patterns and leadership that shows how mothers consistently outperform their male peers as well as female peers who have not been mothers. She conducted interviews of 100 high-performing moms as part of her effort to determine why mothers excel in the workplace.

"These women - senior vice presidents at tech companies, CEO's, computer programmers, partners at law firms, nurses, doctors, and more - were performing better in their careers because they had kids, not in spite of them," Henderson wrote.

It should not be surprising. Parenting small children is a 24-hour, nonstop job. One cannot suspend parenting duties by calling in sick. The parenting role offers no personal days or paid vacation. Parents cannot simply fire their more difficult children and must find ways to contend with challenges more complicated than anything a workplace would tolerate or create.

Quite simply, no university, no drill sergeant and no boss can dish out challenges good parents confront the moment they take responsibility for young, vulnerable lives.

Henderson contends mothers have advantages in the workplace that exceed the experience of caring for children. She cites Dr. Ruth Feldman's research at Bar-Ilan University in Israel, which showed the brain releases oxytocin when a mother gives birth and nurses a child. Research at UCLA found people with higher levels of oxytocin respond better to workplace stress than those with lower levels of the hormone.

"Motivated to succeed in our careers and at home, moms want to accomplish more in less time," Henderson wrote. "Working with others makes this possible. In Feldman's lab, they found that oxytocin positively impacted the regions of the brain associated with emotional processing, social understanding, and cognitive empathy. In other words, showing up for our kids makes us more emotionally intelligent. And this allows us to work more effectively with others."

Henderson believes the nurturing, collaborative qualities enhanced by parenthood will become only more valuable as technology moves corporations away from hierarchical leadership models and toward "leadership which is collective, distributed, bottom-up, facilitative, and emergent."

In the words of former Twitter executive Janet Van Huysse, "The companies who will succeed in the 21st century will be the ones who encourage and foster the development of skills acquired in parenting."

If Henderson and Van Huysse are correct, high-performance moms, while providing a future workforce, will become increasingly important in the modern workplace.

Happy Mother's Day, from The Gazette and all others who benefit from moms.

The Gazette editorial board

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