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For more than two decades, my co-founder and I have built an education company focused on mentorship, transparency, and ethical guidance, and we are committed to cultivating a culture where working moms of all ages and stages of life can thrive. Before I founded this college admissions company, Highest level admissions, my professional network in educational television, publishing and as a parenting expert included women who inspired me personally and professionally as mentors and colleagues. I knew I wanted to use my position as an owner to empower working parents and create a culture that reflected this, even though we worked virtually. Today I am proud to lead a team made up mostly of working moms.
Like many in business, I have watched the mass exodus of working women shape conversations about corresponding policies and leadership retention. According to McKinsey, 10.5% of women in leadership positions are leaving their jobs – an alarming trend and the highest rate in the past five years. The Private Membership Network for Women Executives, Chief, recently launched a campaign, #MakeWorkWork, to amplify how companies support women leaders. In an interview with Forbes, their CEO, Carolyn Childers, notes that “…more than 90% of women say they would stay with a company if they just invested in it.”
So how do we invest in women, particularly those who also balance caring responsibilities? Here are some lessons I’ve learned along the way — as a founder, mother, grandmother, and leader of working moms — to connect and support teams while delivering high-quality products and expertise.
Related: I am a traveling mompreneur. Here’s why ditching sales calls and using DMs was best for my sales
1. The importance of flexible working
Post-pandemic, traditional 9 to 5 jobs are dwindling, and for good reason. By prioritizing work-life balance and flexibility to accommodate parenting responsibilities, team members can be better valued and respected as full-fledged human beings. Our team sets its own hours and works everywhere. Mothers with very young children may choose to take on a lighter client load for a season, such as waiting for their youngest to start kindergarten or for the baby to sleep through the night.
Working moms are exceptional entrepreneurs, but to make them successful, it’s important to prioritize independence and control over work environments, hours, and future. The skilled and experienced members of our team have this kind of freedom and thrive.
2. Supportive mentors and colleagues
A team is more productive when members are encouraged and motivated to reach out and share expertise. Regardless of gender or parental status, everyone who contributes to the company’s mission should feel seen and valued. By leveraging the experiences of fellow team members, we fill in the gaps and lift ourselves up, driving engagement with customers.
Our philosophy as college counselors is to provide one-on-one mentoring to students and families. At the same time, team members guide each other through informal Zoom lunch introductions, sharing resources, concerns, and case studies about Slack, as well as sharing more formal expertise when it comes to deliverable assessments.
Related: How female entrepreneurs can find female mentors
3. Embrace asynchronous collaboration tools
Dropbox is an obvious asset to any remote business. We value the ability to learn from each other and prioritize transparency for more effective collaboration, which is why each counselor’s student directories and files are available to the team. This way we can brainstorm together, request peer review and share resources. We also rely on Slack for daily feedback, quick questions and encouragement, and to foster a sense of community and collegiality when we’re not physically in the same place.
4. Lead by example
When my co-founder and I started Top Tier Admissions, our kids were young. We had each other’s backs and cycled weekdays to accommodate work/life rhythms. I was up early and handled the 5am international calls while Michele was a night owl and went to work after her kids were asleep. Now, as a grandmother, I see my daughters navigate the same precarious balance that comes with work and home commitments.
Related: Lessons learned from a midlife venture to business ownership