Being a working mother is no easy feat; it's a continuous balancing act. Yet, being a working mother in corporate IT presents a unique set of challenges and advantages.
So, why is it demanding to be a working mother in IT, and what hurdles must women overcome when pursuing a career in this field?
1. A Male-Dominated Environment
The IT sector remains predominantly male, which presents various challenges, particularly for mothers. Picture yourself constantly surrounded by male colleagues, who, even if they have children, do not share the same level of personal responsibilities and childcare pressures as women.
For instance, it's typically not men who get called from school when a child falls ill, or worry about household tasks like grocery shopping and ensuring kids eat their vegetables. It's not to say that men don't face their own challenges and problems, but when women statistically carry out about the twice amount of household-related chores, they often experience more stress and find it challenging to focus on their work.
On top of this, there's the issue of double standards that mothers and fathers face. If a woman consistently leaves work early to pick up her child, she might receive negative comments and be perceived as less committed. Conversely, if a man does the same, he's often admired for being a devoted father.
2. Feeling Out of Place
For many women, working in this predominantly male environment can be intimidating, leading to feelings of not fitting in and doubting their abilities compared to their male colleagues. There's a known disparity in how men and women perceive their skills and values and how they communicate. In brief, men tend to overestimate their knowledge and experience, while women tend to underestimate themselves.
Picture yourself as one of the few women in such an environment, wrestling with low confidence and constantly interrupted by confident male colleagues who readily voice their opinions in meetings, even when their ideas lack coherence. This can significantly dent a woman's confidence, making her feel unsupported and hindering her ability to unlock her full potential. In turn, this can affect her visibility for promotions and other career opportunities.
It's in everyone's interest to change this culture and raise awareness among both men and women. Additionally, to be more visible, women can greatly benefit from specialized support, such as coaching.
3. Constant Change
The IT industry is known for its perpetual transformation. If you're enthusiastic about acquiring new skills and keeping up with evolving technologies, there are plenty of opportunities for advancement.
However, working mothers often face limitations in terms of time and energy to invest in self-development, even if they want to, as they also want to keep the evenings free, take care of their private responsibilities and spend quality time with the kids and their spouse. It requires great organisation skills and mindset work to create enough space for development, without feeling guilty about it or getting overwhelmed - again another area where coaching can be extremely useful.
4. Stress in the IT Sector
IT is one of the more stressful industries due to its fast pace, consistently heavy workload, and the pressure to innovate, adapt to new technologies, and maintain competitiveness. Furthermore, political changes and reorganizations can lead to abrupt decisions that render your current role or project irrelevant overnight. If you're already grappling with focus and feeling undervalued at work, these political changes can hit even harder, especially when you tie your professional worth to tangible outcomes and perceive these changes as personal failures.
Despite all the above, corporate IT can still be an excellent environment for women to thrive while balancing their roles as mothers. The industry often offers numerous job opportunities, and even if you have a non-IT background, you can learn a new profession and find a job relatively quickly, even as a junior. The industry now commonly operates on a hybrid model, providing flexibility that allows you to attend to family needs, such as dropping off your kids or scheduling medical appointments. Part-time work is also frequently available, and these accommodations are not just welcomed but often essential for working mothers to remain in the workforce.
Still, working as a man or as a mum in IT might be such a different experience as if you were working for a different employer.
If you're a woman in IT and relate to any of the challenges mentioned above, remember that you're not alone. These feelings are shared by many working mothers.
Join our Facebook group here to become part of our community, where you can share experiences and find support from like-minded women, you are more than welcome!