The U.S. Department of Commerce, in October 2010, released a report which found women-owned businesses are on the rise, in fact, women-owned businesses outnumber men-owned businesses 2 to 1. Bettina Hein, who is the founder of Pixability, a software company located in Cambridge, Massachusetts opines that choosing motherhood presents a host of complications for women who run businesses. Hein went on her own maternity leave 18 months ago when her daughter Louisa was born. She had written a comprehensive plan for her leave which she shared with her investors and board of directors. All that planning was thrown a curveball when her baby was born six weeks early.
“Even though I thought I was so macho and could do it all, I didn’t quite realize that it take weeks to feel on top of things physiologically,” states Hein. Before the birth, she had just closed a financing round but had not made child-care arrangements. She spent six weeks at home to recover and care for Louisa, but she was never totally out of contact with her team.
Yet Hein admits that not being fully available and making every decision had its benefits. “If I’ve only slept three or four hours at night, I let people know,” she also admits. “As a woman in technology, you’re used to charging into the unknown and being a fearless leader, but there are moments when you’re not capable of doing that because you’re a zombie. That’s when you learn to trust your team to make decisions. Now I’m happy to have people take stuff off my plate; there’s no power struggle there.”
Kristen McAlister is just beginning her journey. She purchased Cerius Interim Executive Solutions only eight months ago. Her company now works with more than 800 executives and she says, “I will still need to look at the finances every week, look at payroll, and be on the phone for conference calls.” Though she is able to work from home, her expanding business often requires her to travel, and she wonders how it will do without her. McAlister concludes, “I’ve wanted this child more than anything, but I also wanted my business more than anything. My biggest fear is that I’m going to have to choose between the two.”
These businesswomen are professionals balancing work with pregnancy much like peers would with vacation time or a medical leave of absence. Cynthia Good, who is CEO of Little Pink Book, says, “We’re living in a totally different era, where women who are very ambitious look at the idea that a woman wouldn’t be able to perform because she’s pregnant as crazy. Being the mother of a newborn is not going to limit her intellectual or leadership capacity in any way.”
Klein, Karen E. “When Moms Who Run Businesses Take Maternity Leave.” Benefits, Small Business. BloombergBusinessweek. 9/20/2012. (9/26/2012.)