Let’s do away with the misconception that women raising children on their own are less qualified– they are, in fact more capable by necessity.
Janet was 24 when she finished her second tour of duty in the U.S. Army, where she was posted in Frankfurt, Germany. She specialized in computer science and was hoping to continue her education after her service when she met Adam, a fellow serviceman. They became great friends and their relationship quickly accelerated after they both completed their military time. Within a year, Janet got pregnant with her little boy, Owen, and while both Adam and Janet had plans to get graduate degrees, the economy took a nosedive when they arrived back in California.
Adam got a job at a moving company and within the financial struggle, their relationship fell apart. Owen was not even two years old. Adam was accepted into a CPA program but it required him to relocate, so Janet moved into her own place, supported by a Section 8 housing subsidy. The money she received from her service was barely enough to cover her expenses. After Owen went to sleep each night, she would stay up late researching online programs, local resources, and possible solutions to her childcare problem.
By the time that Owen was three and a half, Janet got accepted into a reputable IT program, completed an introductory coding certificate, and was learning how to design websites. Her classes were dominated by men but she did meet other women in her position in her neighborhood, and one night when they got the kids together, this small group of women realized they had unwittingly assembled a team of programmers, designers, coders, and management to form their own company.
For the next year, these women traded off with childcare, pooled their resources for babysitters so they could have meetings, and gave each other moral support with their work and studies. Janet and her friends created a site where local parents could meet, do trades, borrow and lend, and plan group trips. They received acumen from their local press and businesses were suddenly lining up to advertise on their site.
Janet’s story is not uncommon in this vastly changing economy where single mothers are currently estimated at 9.9 million. Compare that number to 1970,when it was 3.4 million . According to Pew Research Center, in 2013, moms makeup to 40% of the breadwinners in American households and 63% of them are single .
That is not to say that going at it alone is always a success story. Women who got a college education before marrying and having children out earn women who didn’t if they divorced or never married in the first place .
Despite the fact that stigma around single motherhood is a powerful influence in the job market, these women have a unique set of skills that make them excellent candidates for management.
What are some of the immediate experiential qualities that single moms bring to the table?
Problem Solving. When you are a single mom and you get a flat tireand the school calls because your toddler is sick and you are on adeadline at work, you don’t have the luxury of a personal assistant ortime to panic: you assess the situation and take action. By proxy,these women are excellent at the strategic gymnastics it takes to
navigate the unexpected.
Time Management. Again, procrastination is not an option when you are self-sufficient. Women in this situation are reasonable about their time constraints, learn early how to prioritize, and distill tasks down to the most time-effective processes.
Budgeting. And boy, do they know how to stay accountable andstretch a dollar. That means looking at spending over the long term
and fastidiously tracking it.
Creativity. The Internet has done worlds of good for moms who carefor young ones during the day but have a product to sell or an articleto write at night. Mothering inspires idea improvement, innovation,and collaboration. For women on their own, creativity isn’t afrivolous dream, it’s a life skill they put to use on a daily basis.
Because women are making such powerful strides in the last 30 years, and they are out performing their peers in arenas like new businesses, job creation, and employee satisfaction, it is crucial that we demystify the outdated notion that single women are a fringe minority. They represent a significant portion of the population contributing to the economy, and we do them and ourselves a disservice by overlooking them when we hire for management positions.