Liz O’Donnell, founder of Hello Ladies, recently wrote a book, Mogul, Mom & Maid, in which she conducted in-depth interviews with over 100 working women across the U.S. These conversations verified that for today’s mothers, opting out of the workforce is simply not an option. She needs to work in order to provide food and shelter, and she is often the breadwinner of the family. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says close to 40% of working wives now out-earn their spouse – an increase of 50% in the last 50 years.
But juggling work and family is hard.
“Women are caught up in male-dominated workplaces, outdated schedules in the school system and traditional social norms in the home. Schools need to change ... last-minute notices don’t work for today’s moms. And why should moms suffer penalty clauses when she has to choose between work versus the school play. They are overcompensating to prove having kids isn't affecting their career, adding stress to them and their households,” said Liz. “And they often have to choose family over coveted leadership positions.”
As I read Liz’s insightful book, I couldn’t help but think there are opportunities for brands hidden in the
conversations and observations the author illuminates.
1: Lower Our Standards
The media often portray mothers like the June Cleavers of yesterday, but many women are saying, not only in Liz’s book, but also on blogs and forums, that it’s okay to lower your standards and not be perfect. Women like reality as evidenced by the success of the Dove campaign. It’s why we connect to real stories from our peers because, like our lives, these stories have not been sanitized and carefully art-directed. It’s okay to embrace imperfections and portray moms as simply being human.
2: “She is Your Co-worker, Not Your Wife”
This insight from the book shows a major shift in thinking in America. Studies are showing there are more and more stay-at-home dads, with the number recently doubling to 154,000, according to the latest U.S. Census report.
There are more men doing the grocery shopping and many other duties once left to mom. But women should, and need, to actively seek help from their spouses to manage their lives. Neither man nor woman can really have it all so parenting is evolving to job sharing. This brings an opportunity for brands to showcase mothers and fathers as partners, to talk to both parents and to connect to both sides of the household.
3: Shift Focus from “Mom” Issues to Parenting and Preparing the Next Generation
It’s time for marketers to stop thinking about moms’ issues, and start focusing on parenting issues. Work identities don’t shift for the man, but they do for women the minute their pregnant bodies begin to show. And with that change comes her thinking about the next generation – her daughter. We’re preparing the next generation for changing gender roles and teaching our daughters to be the boss, not just in the kitchen or as the assistant. Here again lies an opportunity for a different portrayal of mom.
4: A Greater Focus on Entrepreneurship
There are 8.3 million women-owned businesses worth $1.3 trillion and employing 7.7 million people, according to the American Express “State of Women-Owned Business” report. Today’s moms are creating their own corporate track because it comes with built-in flexibility. There are so many successful mom-trepreneurs out there whose stories would make for great partnerships with a brand. They are real moms, not celebrity moms, who are not only bringing home the bacon, but also raising children.
5: Social Media Adds to the Working Mom’s Guilt
A poll back in 2011 about social media usage showed that 40% thought moms were “posers,” 85% were annoyed and 32% bothered by moms “bragging about their perfect lives.” Lifestyle bloggers and their beautiful proliferation of recipes and the glorification of home life make the working mom feel guilty, because as stated above, life simply isn’t that perfect.
At the end of the day, there is no one-size-fits-all way of portraying today’s mom. America is changing. Not as quickly as we would like but little changes are happening. More moms are telecommuting. Progressive companies are noticing the importance of not losing valuable working moms as employees and are offering innovative perks like housecleaning. Some companies are changing maternity leave to parenting leave and offering back-up childcare.
She may be harried, hassled and frazzled, but portraying mom that way is not the way to connect with her. For all of us in marketing, we can help expedite these changes by not portraying today’s working mom in the stereotypical fashion. And, by understanding what truly resonates with women balancing family and careers today, brands have a unique opportunity to win the hearts and minds of today’s new mom, not the June Cleavers of years past.