Motherhood: Benefit or Burden to Business
International Study Seminar on “Women and Work”, Pontifical Council for the Laity, Rome, Italy (2015)
9 Pages Posted: 20 Jan 2016
Date Written: 2016
This essay is a contribution to an International Study Seminar on the topic of “Women and Work”, convened by the Pontifical Council for the Laity in Rome, Italy, on December 4-5, 2015, to be published with the complete proceedings of the conference.
In recent decades, the Catholic Church has come to share the widespread social consensus about the urgent need for the insights of the feminine genius in all sectors of society – in the home as well as the halls of government, schools and universities, and businesses. However, an argument for women in the workplace does not, in itself, furnish a compelling business case for mothers in the workplace. Is there something unique about the gifts, talents, and perspectives of women who are mothers, or something unique about what women who are mothers add to the dynamic of men and women working together?
This essay argues that persuasive arguments for accommodating mothers in workplace are crucial for two reasons: First, to ensure that employers who want to achieve gender balance do not follow the lead of companies such as Facebook and Apple, offering incentives for women to remain childless during their most productive years as ‘ideal workers’ rather than accommodating parenting. Second, to ensure the continued presence in workplaces and national and international governing bodies of people with personal stakes in advocating for policies to enable parents to balance their work and their caregiving responsibilities, and in reminding their nations and the world of the reality that the overwhelming proportion of the world’s poverty population is composed of women and children – across the globe, in countries of all stages of development.
The essay offers four arguments for the value of mother in the workplace: (1) businesses want women workers, and most women workers want to be mothers; (2) businesses benefit long term from the caregiving work of mothers, and should thus shoulder some of its cost; (3) accommodating motherhood is not, in fact, as much of a burden on businesses as is commonly thought; and (4) mothers offer some unique and valuable skills to the workplace.
Keywords: feminist theory, working mothers, maternity policies, work life balance, ideal male worker, restructuring workplace, Catholic intellectual tradition, Catholic social thought
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