Working All the Time (What a way to make a living)

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The statement I’m about to make is not backed by any facts or statistics – rather a simple, “in my experience” observation. My qualifications on making this statement are as such – I’m currently a working momma of twin boys and have previously been a working childless person. Additionally, I am now two months shy of 42 – so I’ve been every age leading up to that number (more brilliance headed your way, keep reading). Lastly, I’ve spent the past 12 years of my life as a Recruiter – 8 of those years as the owner of a search and staffing firm in Philadelphia. Oh, yeah – and I’m a woman (the momma part might have given that away).

In my opinion, the two groups that are discriminated against the most in terms of hiring practices, yet are not being championed for and/or protected in any tangible way are: women in their childbearing years or those of us who already have children at home and aging women who are deemed to be “past their prime”.

Disclosure: I recognize “the most” is perhaps an overstatement and I do not intend to discount anyone else’s struggle – sadly, discrimination comes in so many forms and against so many minority groups…no hate mail, please! I’m with you – and will always do my best to be a champion for all groups that experience discrimination.

Onto a quick story – when I was in my early twenties I tended bar at a local golf club – which had a massive dining room and terrace with outdoor seating. There was a very diverse group of bartenders and waitresses who worked there – at least diverse in terms of age. One day, we were so in the weeds, it felt like total chaos to keep up with the demand (actually that happened often, but this day has stuck with me). One of the 40-something waitresses made a comment I’ll never forget – “If the young kids got out of the way, the old moms could handle all of it.” The statement was so true – the “older” bartenders and waitresses always ran circles around the teenagers and twenty-somethings. In most cases, they had a stronger work ethic, were more reliable, and had more energy.  

This story translates so well to Corporate America. 

Hiring Managers, Executives and Business Owners – get it together and stop discounting moms and women of a certain age. Remember that old adage – “If you want to get something done, give it to a busy person.” It’s one of the most accurate quotes I’ve ever stumbled upon. Busy people get shit done. Moms get shit done. Women get shit done.

I reflect back on all of my former selves – and though I’m currently my oldest self (right!) and have twin boys who are nearly 5 years old (how the hell did that happen?) – I am the most productive, focused, and driven professional I have ever been. I get more done by lunchtime than I would get done in an entire day 10 years ago. I have no choice – and I value time a whole hell of a lot more than I ever did – mostly because I now recognize how quickly it slips away…

In comparison, this is what I was in my twenties -hungover and lazy. Unsure of who I was and what I could contribute. Without a fully formed voice or strong conviction. More interested in meeting my friends at happy hour by 5:30pm then staying at work to complete a project.

Do you know the secret about women over 50 (which as best I can tell, the number that starts to scare a lot of employers) and women who have children – we are magicians. We understand how to maximize all of the hours in a day, we know who we are, what we want and how to get it. We understand how to work together for a larger goal, we have learned from our mistakes, we have focus, drive, ambition and we know how to get shit done. We don’t waste our time or yours. Our work has become more meaningful. Our productivity through the roof.

So, what’s the concern? Do some working moms crave a little balance? Can we leave by 4 to catch our kids’ tennis match and then log in after bedtime to finish off whatever work might have come up after we left? Maybe some of us need that understanding, but don’t be assumptive, not all moms have the same priorities…and that’s OK, too! We all have different needs and desires in terms of career and family. Let’s be flexible and worry more about the content of the work being done – more about what you’ll gain by having an experienced woman on your team. Help us create productive and understanding environments – you stand to gain far more than you can imagine. We are loyal and fierce. We are resourceful and driven. Change your perception and we’ll change your world.

Mikal Harden