Liz Elting: CEO Moms Should Set an Example


Liz Elting: CEO Moms Should Set an Example

The Wall Street Journal - May 8, 2013

GUEST MENTOR Liz Elting, co-founder and co-CEO of TransPerfect: Why do talented, high-achieving women give up on careers they’ve worked hard to build once they have children? Often, they believe they will not be “good enough” mothers if they are also devoted to work. They vacillate between the desire to be the best at their jobs and the desire to be accessible to their children whenever they’re needed. Many women – even those who graduate from top business schools – choose not to pursue C-level positions because they believe that getting married and having children means they must give up their dreams of top-level business management.

Conversely, many companies assume that working mothers who are pursuing the fast-track in their careers are more likely to take time off or have limited availability due to child-rearing responsibilities.

Running a company means long hours and last-minute travel, especially in the early days. It’s important to have a real passion for your business and a willingness to make sacrifices — to make the business your top priority for a period of time. You have to be fully committed. Knowing what is required to lead, women who want to rise to this level ask themselves: Where does being a mom fit into that mindset?

Being a CEO doesn’t mean you can’t be a good mom. If you want to have a family and run a business, you can — and a growing number of us do. It’s certainly not without its challenges, but there are successful women who are making it work. When I had both my sons, I was working from home the weeks they were born. At that time, that kind of decision wasn’t always championed. But today, many female leaders are celebrated for it.

That’s an encouraging sign for professional women who aspire to top-level positions. In fact, having my sons made me even more determined to keep my leadership role. If more women were exposed to positive examples CEOs who are also moms, they’d be more inclined to continue their career paths while enjoying motherhood.

One way to start is for women who are at the top now to provide an environment that enables other women to flourish. This is how it began for my company. When we first founded the business, we were recent business school grads in our 20s with few other responsibilities. None of us had kids, so the business became our babies. However, as time went on and the company grew, that atmosphere evolved into one that is more family-friendly.

Once I had children, I began to realize how difficult it can be for women to not only remain in the workplace, but to advance – especially after they become mothers. When women are in positions of leadership, they can encourage and inspire other women to stay passionate about their work, to hone their skills and to reach their full potential. At my company, we’ve worked hard to encourage women to stay on through motherhood.

We want to make sure neither men nor women have to make the choice between work and family. For example, our senior management meeting last year was held in Florida because we thought it was a good place for the team to bring their families.

At this point, I’m definitely in a place where my work/life balance is manageable. It’s all about timing, as well as depending on your support system of family members at home and management team members at work. I spent the last 20 years building a smart, strong, capable team of executives, and the result is that the company’s operations are well-spread across the management team. This long-term planning means that I now have time to be with my family, as well as attend networking, social and cultural events, which I didn’t have time for earlier in the lifecycle of the business.

Close Button

Family of Companies

Close Button

Select Your Language

The Americas Europe Africa & Middle East Asia Pacific