Mothers as sensitive warriors

At the moment, mothers are facing an impossible choice between children and work. They are paying the price for a society that still doesn’t support them, balancing resistance and sacrificial spirit. More than ever, they are asked to take a step back. They’re using their caring and resilient nature to use their motherhood to support the future: their children.

Sensitive warriors is a phrase coined by Federica Giardini. It’s the name we gave to our latest Life Ready Conference. It was a follow up to our recent conference with CEO fathers.

CEO mothers perhaps fight against a double stigma. Are they too much of a CEO at home and too much of a mother at work? Turns out, that’s not the case. They told a positive story, with over 500 participants commenting and thanking them for having opened their eyes in a positive way.

But let’s begin with the data. Our survey of over 1,500 Life Based Value webinar participants has shown that 63% of people need to be reassured about their future and 44.5% want to be involved more in finding solutions. People want managers to collaborate (26%), be knowledgable (26%), respectful (17%) and empathetic (13.5%), and as lockdown measures are lifted, people expect their managers to share more (70%) and listen (68%), but also take risks (60%).

Nearly all participants (89.8%) believe that in times of emergency it’s possible and necessary to use “generative” power: a power that knows how to map out the future, planting ideas and projects that survive.

So what does motherhood have to do with it? A lot, even if psychoanalyst Erikson explains that: “Simply having a child doesn’t guarantee that the parent will develop a sense of generativity. The prerequisites for its development include faith in the future, faith in humanity and the ability to care for others. Instead of raising children, you can work to create a better world for other people’s children at the same time”. Here are 5 generative power takeaways that emerged from the conference:

We’re finding a new purpose

Livia Cevolini, CEO at Energica Spa, manufacturer of high performance electric motorcycles, and mother to her two year old daughter: motherhood gave me a new purpose, as she now focuses on green energy as “I want to make sure that she lives in a better world”. She feels energized by this new personal dimension. She also feels it has helped her to better understand others and their talents.

We’re seeing our whole selves

Isabella Fumagalli, CEO at BNP Paribas Cardif, by becoming mother to two children she has “geared up”, feeling responsible for creating a better world for her children. From her conversations with them, from hearing their “authentic questions” she has learned the importance of a sense of truth. In this phase of lockdown, Isabella sees that her colleagues are much more than professionals too. Every person has multiple dimensions that offer new perspectives on their work. Each experience brings them closer to the company.

We’re constantly learning

Roberta La Selva is CEO at Ogilvy Italia. Motherhood taught her how to balance everything with a light-heartedness that having lots of “playgrounds” gives you. She’s rethinking priorities and learning while she teaches. She’s honing her empathy and mental agility as she constantly adapts to new situations. “Such as speaking at conferences from my balcony, as all the other rooms are occupied!”.

We’re doing it together

Elena Riva, co-owner and Presidente of Panino Giusto SpA, has three children with their father, and who is also her business partner. She underlines that this “togetherness ” is important. She likens the company to a fourth child that wouldn’t have been possibile if she’d done it alone. With her three children – and 450 employees in her company – she has discovered the importance of diversity in having a multiplying effect. As a leader and mother, it’s important to recognise both your children’s and employees’ independence. She defines herself as a “custodian”: a very patient custodian, that plants, insists and perseveres with trust, knowing that the harvest is coming.

We’re building resilience

Susanna Zucchelli, General director of Heratech, didn’t tell us how many children she has. However, she was clear that motherhood has strengthened her leadership within her company. She is responsible for the Engineering Department, Remote Control structures and Labs as well as service and process management. Her leadership focuses on maternal and “wraparound” behaviours, that release “bio-resilience” that’s particularly useful during this phase. Having children has given her a long term vision, and the ability to ask for help when she needs it. “And if they don’t want to help you, you make them!” she said, with the practical air of someone who manages challenges on a daily basis.

Here’s to all the sensitive warriors: all the women who work and care for others at the same time. If they can find synergy and balance between these two areas, and leave behind their mum-guilt, they become a force for change. And as the New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinta Ardern said, they also reveal kindness and ability to stay together.

This blog post was written by Riccarda Zezza and was originally published on Alley Oop Blog for Il Sole 24 Ore. To read the original article in Italian, please click here.