Wisdom//

5 Powerful Lessons from CEO Moms

Insights from women who run companies and families.

JP Yim/Getty Images  for Girlboss Rally NYC 2018
JP Yim/Getty Images for Girlboss Rally NYC 2018

If you want good advice, ask your mom. If you want specific tactics for managing numerous aspects of professional and family life while attempting to have some semblance of a social life and maintaining your mental well-being, ask a mom who also happens to be a CEO.

These women are true bosses in every sense of the word, and have so many amazing insights to offer based on their experience. With Mother’s Day quickly approaching, we thought it would be a good time to highlight some of the best lessons we’ve learned from CEO moms.

And to be clear: CEO dads should be held to the same standards as CEO moms. This whole idea of bringing your whole self to the office and then home isn’t — or at least shouldn’t — be specific to women. Thanks to high-profile fathers like Prince Harry and Reddit’s Alexis Ohanian who have spoken publicly about their decisions to take paternity leave, we’re making some progress, but still have a long way to go. We’ll highlight some of that CEO dad wisdom closer to Father’s Day, but for now, let’s focus on these insightful lessons from CEO moms:

Use your time wisely

This is important advice regardless of whether or not you have kids. Our time is a finite resource, and Jennifer Hyman, co-founder and chief executive officer of Rent the Runway, said becoming a mother in 2017 made her more efficient. “I think that I’m cognizant not only for my own time but of everyone’s time of ‘how can I make this point in a more succinct manner?'” Hyman told CNN in 2018. “‘Maybe this meeting doesn’t have to be an hour. Maybe it could be a half hour and we could accomplish everything that we need to accomplish’ because I know that spending time at home is extremely important.”

Draw on your personal experience in your professional life

In a 2014 op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki argued that paid maternity leave is good for business. Part of that, she wrote, is because new mothers come back to the workforce from maternity leave with new insights. “I know from experience that being a mother gave me a broader sense of purpose, more compassion and a better ability to prioritize and get things done efficiently,” she wrote. “It also helped me understand the specific needs and concerns of mothers, who make most household spending decisions and control more than $2 trillion of purchasing power in the U.S.”

Understand that everyone operates differently

When it comes to work habits, management styles, and communication, one size does not fit all when it comes to colleagues and family members. This is something that Nancy Green, president and CEO of Athleta had understood before, but became even more apparent after becoming a mother. “I saw this really very clearly with four children, that not everything works the same way with each child, and acknowledging that every person, whether it’s your child or people that you work with, everybody’s very different and they respond to development differently,” Green told CNN. “I think you learn … how to give feedback and motivate and how to nurture and develop a person’s potential.”

Don’t forget about self-care

After finishing law school and getting started in her career as an attorney, Sheila Lirio Marcelo unexpectedly got pregnant. Her experience juggling new motherhood, her career, and being a caregiver for sick relatives resulted in her creating Care.com, an online platform where people can find care providers as well as housekeepers and tutors. As the CEO, Marcelo oversees the world’s largest online family care platform — as well as her own family — and recognizes the importance of caring for ourselves as well as others. “As women, as caregivers, we prioritize everyone else and put ourselves at the bottom of the list,” she said in a 2016 interview. “To grow in leadership… focus on yourself, understand yourself, take time for yourself. It will make you a better leader.”

Remember what’s most important in life

As the mother of two daughters, our Thrive Global founder and CEO Arianna Huffington has years of experience running a family and different companies. In her book Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder, she wrote about how her children are a reminder of what’s important. “There are certainly challenges in juggling family and career, and there are many badly needed institutional reforms that would make it less challenging,” she wrote. “But for me, having children was the best possible antidote to my workaholic ‘always on’ tendencies. It gave me perspective and the ability to be more detached from the inevitable ups and downs of work life. Of course, you don’t need to have children to have a healthy sense of priorities, but for me, they did make it easier. Just knowing I was going to see my daughters at the end of the day put my whole workday in a different light.”

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