What if the "new normal" was more mothers in leadership positions?

Jenna Vassallo
Nov 29, 2023
Person stands at a conference table addressing colleagues

Women make up 42% of the workforce, yet only 32% of senior leadership positions are held by women.

The representation of women gets even smaller when you look at the C-suite: As of this year, only 10% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women.

Unfortunately it doesn’t stop there. Looking at VC funding raised by female vs. male founders, the numbers are disproportionately smaller: women received roughly 2% of total funding as of 2020.

And while these numbers don’t account for how many of these women are parents, it’s anecdotally accurate to assume the subset of mothers within these numbers are much lower.

If data shows that mothers make great leaders, why are the numbers so low?

One key reason is gender bias.

Mothers are often perceived as being less committed to their careers after having children. This is known as the motherhood penalty, which puts women at a disadvantage financially and limits career advancement opportunities.

So what can we do to help normalize women and mothers in leadership positions instead of viewing parenthood as downfall?

Here are three things Parentaly CEO Allison Whalen and Tracy Young, founder of TigerEye, discussed in a recent episode of The False Tradeoff.

Be the change you want to see

We need more women to start and lead companies - even if women feel "it's not the right time.

Tracy founded and successfully sold her company, PlanGrid, right after the birth of her first child. She felt the itch to do it again after her second child was born during the pandemic.

While being stuck at home with her husband, who is also her co-founder, they started wondering if it was time to start again:

“The feminists in us really felt strongly that we can talk about diversity issues all day long, but the one thing that we can change is ourselves and us starting a company with a female CEO and a female founder,” Tracy said.

Sales is a great career for mothers - and is beneficial to companies

Women account for only 29% of sales reps and 26% of sales managers despite much research showing they outperform their male colleagues. There’s also the issue of women missing out on sales comp when they go on maternity leave.

The second startup Tracy founded, TigerEye, is a go-to-market platform. In a traditionally cut-throat, male-dominated culture, she’s found hope in the Gen Z and millennial professionals because they demand a better environment—one that is more diverse, has more perspective, and is smarter.

“I care about getting more women into sales because I think these are great jobs where they can not only contribute to our economy, but it's such a good job that they might be able to also take care of their family in a way other positions might not be able to,” Tracy said.

Universal child care would change the game

There’s a simple truism when you’re a parent: if you don’t have childcare figured out, you can’t work.

Because so many domestic duties end up falling on mothers and the US still lacks universal paid childcare, women remain the ones being forced to opt out of the workforce.

The problem is complicated, which means the solution must be multi-pronged. But by investing in today’s working mothers and the next generation of female leaders, Tracy thinks the world could become a better place:  

“I want to see a strong economy in the US,” Tracey said.” And the only way to see a strong economy is if 50% of the population is contributing. Because when we have a strong economy, it means people are doing well.”

Gender equity
Podcast recap
Work discussion

Want to hear more from two female leaders working hard to support other professionals like them in the workforce?

Listen to the full episode of The False Tradeoff!