This is a guest blog by author Rae Taylor, one of EMI’s Civil Engineering Collective Content Contributors
It’s always been known that having kids can be detrimental to a woman’s career. There is more research that can be cited here that women pay a price for having a family, whether it be reduced promotional prospects or a complete loss of career.
Maybe this is why I’ve always been told not to talk about having or wanting kids. I’ve even been advised to not mention being married and of childbearing age. One charming man once told me he wasn’t going to teach me anything because I would get myself pregnant and then have to leave, so what was the point? Side note here: I taught him Excel, Word, and some other software, but I guess being months from retirement, which he talked about constantly, he wasn’t going to go get himself pregnant, so I was safe in the knowledge that my efforts wouldn’t be wasted.
In the interest of never talking about having kids, let’s talk about motherhood instead, and if that should be on resumes. I haven’t been thinking about this at all while applying for jobs. I’ve been thinking about selling myself in the best possible light to all possible employers. But then the BBC asked me if motherhood belongs on a resume. I said “Yes, it does!’’ But I said it in the way you do when what you mean it, “Someone else should do that and break that glass ceiling for all the mothers out there, but not me, because I actually want a job.”
During one of my LinkedIn update blasts (I know, I know, do it every day or week and not just now and then, be better at networking), I noticed the pronouns option. William Arruda, co-founder of CareerBlast, thinks “Building an authentic LinkedIn profile is essential. And for many of us, expressing our preferred pronouns is a part of that authenticity. Pronouns are important to our identity and how we want to be seen.”
This made me think more about the people who might add “parent” to their resumes. I think being a parent is part of many people’s identity, in the same way I add long-distance runner, mountain biker, and rock climber to my resume. I think it will give future employers an idea of who I am, what I stand for, and the fact that I will walk around the office talking constantly about needing to hydrate and may one day fall off my bike and need to take Monday off with a concussion. At the same time, I also think LinkedIn employs many smart people who have most likely thought long and hard about choosing not to add a toggle for “parent,” even if that would allow for a more authentic profile.
Why Would a Mother Choose to Add or Not Add Such a Thing to Her LinkedIn Profile or Resume?
On one hand, motherhood does provide skills that transfer to the workplace; time-management, organizational skills, listening and communication skills, DIY, and first aid. And that’s before we even get to the constant need to plan for every eventuality. I would also add resilience to the list, along with the ability to filter out non-essential background noise. All these skills could make for an excellent project manager, people manager, liaison — the list is endless.
On the other hand, there can be downsides to admitting such a thing, mostly because of other people’s opinions and biases. Biases that are so strong and well-known that I can list them off the top of my head, no background reading required, just based on my lived experiences. One of the biggest being that people believe women with kids won’t work as hard. It’s as simple as that. You find yourself in this trap of wanting a supportive workplace where you can thrive and yet knowing that admitting you have kids could cost you a job opportunity.
For example, a person I know, let’s say “a friend of mine,” was worried when interviewing for jobs while pregnant. Said friend of mine talked to another female friend about what to wear, and it was suggested that she “highlight” the bump, “You don’t want to work for a place that’s not supportive of you being a mother.” A really good point, but a rather privileged one. What if you really need a job because you are addicted to paying bills and eating food? Then maybe the lack of support isn’t such a big deal. It is, after all, what many women have had to go through. Yet, it’s also hard to think about hiding a pregnancy from a future employer. To me, it seems like starting off with a lie. Maybe because society has taught me to think that instead of identifying the valuable skills which this candidate has to offer.
Now Is the Time to Sell the Asset of Motherhood
With the U.S. now coming back from a pandemic yet remaining in a “she-cession,” some women find themselves with large gaps on their resumes, which may well lead to permanent career scarring. Maybe now is the time to sell the asset of motherhood and all its transferable skills while job hunting. Maybe now is the time to be brave and say, “Yes, I am a mother.” I am not ashamed of it, even when people have told me in a derogatory manner “You sound like a mum” without stopping to ask themselves what childish thing they were doing. After-all, I shouldn’t have to tell grown-ups on a construction site to tie their shoelaces, to drink some water, or to not do the thing they are about to do without thinking it through. Anyway, maybe now is the time for employers to recognize that motherhood offers a valuable skill set that makes for stronger job candidates.
In the interest of practicing what I preach, I am a long distance runner, mountain biker, rock climber, hiker, skier, and backpacker. I am also a Civil Engineer educated in the UK, currently studying for the Civil FE exam. I have a master’s in Technology Management and a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering and Material Science. I’ve done a huge array of jobs and I write a funny blog under a nom de plume. I’m not any one of these things — I’m all of them, and it’s the collection as a whole that makes me, ME. I’m also the mother of a 2-year-old girl who loves mountain biking, rock climbing, hiking, skiing, backpacking, and having me talk to her about engineering.
About the Author:
Rae Taylor is an engineer with extensive experience in advanced techniques for materials characterization. She received an award-winning Ph.D. in Materials Science, which focused on the analysis of microstructures using electron microscopy. Prior to her research in Materials Science, she worked in the clean and wastewater industry. Over her career, Rae has gained extensive experience in project management and lab management, including team building, process engineering, construction oversight, safety management, and quality assurance. She has over ten years of experience designing, developing, and testing experimental procedures. Rae is team-oriented and has extensive experience teaching and tutoring, both in the work environment and in the classroom. She has presented her work to a wide variety of audiences, ranging from academics and industrial specialists to the general public and holds a particular interest in the development of resilient whether it is in materials or infrastructure as a whole.
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To your success,
Anthony Fasano, PE, LEED AP
Engineering Management Institute
Author of Engineer Your Own Success