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Career Fridays: Mommy Profiling In The Workplace

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Dallas native Natalia Dean worked for a law firm for six years prior to having her daughter two years ago. Pre-baby, the bubbly 30-year-old was one of those associates who jumped at the chance to work late nights preparing paperwork for cases for the firm. But now, with a baby at home, she could no longer keep up with a grueling schedule and expressed her need to leave work promptly at 5pm to pick her daughter up from day care. "My boss's face said it all," says Dean, "This was not something they liked to hear from female associates. I got the sense that my commitment level was in question despite my best efforts to work remotely after my daughter was in bed." "Soon, I started feeling like there was a big red flag on me," she continues. "No one said anything out loud but from little remarks and the fact that I didn't receive a promotion I knew I deserved, I had the sense that I was no longer seen as a competitive player." Talk to most working moms with demanding careers and they'll know exactly what Dean is referring to. Mommy profiling: when employers discriminate against women who have, or plan to have children. Is it real or imagined? The statistics say it's real. According to a study published in the American Journal of Sociology, mothers are 79% likely to be hired than non-mothers with the same qualifications. Added to that working moms earn 73 cents to a man's dollar, while non-mothers earn 90 cents to a man's dollar according to women's advocacy group, Mom Rising. "No question, the workplace is more challenging for moms," says life coach and ESSENCE.com blogger Valorie Burton who tells the story of a client who had asked her company for permission to work from home after having kids. "Two months later it was, 'Oh, we've made some changes,'" recalls Burton. "Of course the company wouldn't say the [real] reason for firing her." If it's a question of changing perceptions in the workplace, what can mothers do to ensure that their commitment levels are not questioned by employers? Burton suggests letting your actions do the talking. "You get your work done, you're reliable, if something does come up you don't leave your co-workers high and dry," she says. "Every woman needs to really think in advance about what her professional identity in the workplace is going to be and take control of what people's perceptions are of her," adds executive coach and author Ann Daly PhD, author of "Do Over: How Women Are Reinventing Their Lives." Dr. Daly's strategies for working mothers looking to show their commitment to employers include first establishing what your real level of ambition is and asking yourself what you want and need from a job and what you can offer. "If you're clear that you really want to be CEO, for example, that will show to other people," she says. Also, negotiating career goals and expectations with your partner to make sure that "it doesn't become default for mommy to take care of everything. This will help support moms to become more ambitious with career goals." Dean has since left her previous job and has settled in with a smaller firm whose senior-level management includes women with children. "It's not perfect but my work/life balance feels more understood here."   Read More:
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