herCAREER: Why does being a mother often make women better at work?
Zineb Lahlou: Motherhood teaches valuable skills that are key to success in the work environment. We prioritize, manage crises multiple times a day, organise, juggle tasks, adapt, empathise, and influence. We learn about medicine, education, psychology, and nutrition. We read, we try new things, we explore, we’re the nurse, the clown, the cook, the teacher, the best friend, the cleaner, the psychiatrist, and we develop a polyvalent personality.
We are pillars of strength no matter how hard things get. When faced with obstacles, we figure it out and fix the problem. We strive to do more, to do better, and learn to organise ourselves and manage our time in the most effective way, all of which are fundamental traits to have in the workplace.
As mothers, we have to expand, grow, and exceed ourselves. We develop resilience, courage, and patience – all cornerstones of leadership. We are masters of negotiation, problem-solving, time management, and prioritization.
herCAREER: Which experiences you made as a mother proved particularly valuable in your professional life?
Zineb Lahlou: When I became a mother, I was quickly thrown into brand new challenges. I thought my role was to teach, nurture, and protect others, but what I learned in the process and what I learned from my children is magnificent.
Motherhood challenged my boundaries. It made me cross thresholds of patience, empathy, understanding, and sacrifice. It truly expanded my being. I learned to be comfortable with uncomfortable situations and I was able to give more because of who I had become.
I developed resilience, persistence, influence, and authority, all valuable skills in life and also in the workplace. I had to be the best version of myself to be there for my children and to be a role model in all aspects of life. I’ve had to lead by example.
“Done properly, parenting is a heroic act”. Juggling between my professional and personal lives, managing complex projects at work and managing house chores, school pick-ups, homework, parents meetings, dentist appointments, shopping, cooking, ironing, tidying up, and extracurricular activities, while trying to keep a level of quality performing each of these tasks is a colossal, somewhat debilitating mission. Developing coping mechanisms when things don’t go as planned and learning to adapt, prioritize, and cross the thresholds of my comfort zone are all part of my journey as a mom. I had to expand what I was comfortable being uncomfortable with.
herCAREER: How could we empower moms to pursue their careers?
Zineb Lahlou: Companies and businesses should offer a safe, flexible, and empathetic workplace that offers equal opportunities for working moms to continue to grow and reach their full potential. Moms should have the opportunity to discuss career prospects and explore options for a smooth transition back to work before they leave on maternity leave. They should envision a roadmap for their career progress with their line manager. It provides a goal, something to work towards and the reassurance that their skills, experience, and capabilities will continue to be recognised and fostered towards their highest potential.
As mothers, we become so absorbed in our new responsibility that very often, we forget our professional self, our strengths, and competences. We’re out of touch (especially in fields where the technology and competition is moving fast). It can make our return to the workforce challenging. Companies should offer the opportunity for moms to stay in the loop throughout maternity leave with options for “keep in touch” days, training, classes…etc., to meet their needs, keep the gears engaged, emphasize their relevance, and smooth their transition back to the workforce.
There is a misconception that mothers cannot take on higher roles or progress their careers because they are less available, which results in mothers having to resort to downshifting their careers or leaving the workplace completely. The company should define realistic objectives/expectations, and performance should be measured by the quality of the performed tasks and their delivery rather than by availability. A career progress path should be considered and made part of their regular performance review.
Businesses should normalize motherhood and its responsibilities, and children always come first. If I have to run because I had a call from school that I need to pick up my child, it shouldn’t be perceived as a lack of commitment. This shift in workplace culture could increase productivity and devotion and bring back capable minds to the enterprises.
Mothers should be made aware of the strength, skill set, competence, and capabilities acquired through motherhood, which can increase their self-confidence and conviction in what they have to offer. Motherhood should be recognised as a valuable and impactful experience by companies and professionals across all industries. Motherhood belongs in our Curriculum Vitae. It should be emphasised and reflected in our description on professional platforms.
herCAREER: Would you act as a sparring partner? If yes, we ask you to name the topics for which you would be available as a sparring partner in keywords.
- Discrimination at work
- Working moms
- Working abroad
herCAREER: Are there any topics on which you personally would like to have a sparring partner and continue a professional and personal exchange? Then name keywords for your topics.
- Speech anxiety
herCAREER: Would you also be a mentor the herCAREER community? Can you describe what kind of a woman you would like to have as a mentee?
Zineb Lahlou: I would love to be able to mentor young women who come from different countries, women who are starting their career journey and are looking for advice and also moms returning to work after maternity leave.