Does Motherhood Squash Career Ambition? A New Survey Says No

May 12, 2017

About half of women say it's harder to advance their career after becoming a mother. But that's not stopping the women surveyed by the professional services firm Accenture from pursuing their career goals.

According to Accenture, mothers who return to work after having a child are just as likely to aspire to a senior leadership position as their female colleagues without children (70% and 67%). In addition, working moms are 2.5 times more likely to change jobs for a promotion or for higher pay than those without children. The findings comes from the firm's Getting to Equal 2017 report, which surveyed more than 28,000 women and men in 29 countries. The specific findings on motherhood and ambition reflect responses from 250 working women in the U.S. — 140 of whom are mothers, and 110 who are childless.

The survey also found that 53% of U.S. mothers say they would like to start a business within a next year, compared to just 35% of those without children who say the same. After becoming mothers, many women traded pay for more flexible hours, according to the survey. More than a quarter returned to a job with a more flexible work day after having a baby, but 55% of them took a pay cut in order to get that flexibility.

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It's not uncommon for working moms to face a "flexibility stigma" in the workplace. But that lack of flextime could have a serious impact on career goals. According to the Harvard Business Review, women working at companies without flexible work options were “more likely to downsize their aspirations.”

"Working moms often face tradeoffs in their careers — ambition shouldn't be one of them," says Ellyn Shook, the chief leadership and human resources officer at Accenture. "It's important that corporations build a reputation as a company that helps women advance and grow their careers."

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