The modern working woman faces many challenges, especially when balancing career and motherhood. The barriers can feel insurmountable, but with the right strategies and mindset, women can overcome these obstacles and thrive both at work and home. Dr. Ellen Ford, an expert on gender equity in the workplace, on the Working Mumma podcast offers valuable insights and actionable tips to help women navigate this complex landscape.

The Barriers Women Face

Cultural Expectations and Gender Roles

Cultural norms and gender roles often dictate that women should be the primary caregivers, which can lead to feelings of guilt and inadequacy when they also pursue a career. This expectation can be a significant barrier, making it difficult for women to assert their professional aspirations without facing societal judgment.

Lack of Flexible Work Arrangements

Many workplaces still operate under outdated notions of productivity that emphasize hours worked over outcomes achieved. This can be particularly challenging for working mothers who need flexible schedules to balance their professional responsibilities with their family commitments.

Undervaluing Parental Leave

Taking parental leave can sometimes be perceived as a lack of commitment to one’s career. This misconception can hinder women’s career progression and lead to a lack of support from employers during and after their leave.

Confidence and Self-Worth

Women often struggle with self-doubt and undervaluing their contributions, especially when they juggle multiple roles. This lack of confidence can prevent them from advocating for themselves effectively in the workplace.

Workplace Structures and Policies

Existing workplace policies and structures are frequently not conducive to supporting working parents. This includes inadequate parental leave policies, lack of childcare support, and inflexible work hours.

Strategies for Overcoming Barriers

Advocating for Flexible Work Arrangements

Dr. Ellen Ford emphasizes the importance of framing conversations with employers around outputs rather than hours worked. “It’s about what you deliver, how you add value,” she advises. When negotiating flexible work arrangements, focus on the benefits to the organization and how you can meet or exceed expectations through a non-traditional schedule.

Valuing Parental Skills

Parental leave should be seen as a time to develop valuable skills rather than a career setback. Dr. Ford highlights that being a parent enhances skills like crisis management, emotional intelligence, and conflict resolution. Recognize these skills and articulate them to your employer as added value you bring to the workplace.

Building Confidence

Confidence can be built through continuous conversations and support networks. Dr. Ford suggests that validation from peers and mentors can bolster self-esteem. “When you have enough people getting around it, like, yeah, this is important. It actually, yeah, I am valuable as a working mom,” she notes. Engage in professional groups, listen to empowering podcasts, and seek out supportive communities.

Engaging in Continuous Learning

Dr. Ford recommends resources such as books and online courses tailored for working parents. These resources not only provide valuable knowledge but also reinforce the importance of professional growth alongside personal responsibilities. “Consume this information so you can change things for yourself,” she urges.

Advocating for Policy Changes

Systemic change requires advocacy at all levels of an organization. Dr. Ford encourages working parents to push for better policies that support work-life balance. “If we want something, we’re going to get it. And it’s also about what’s good for you and your family,” she asserts. Join forces with like-minded colleagues to advocate for comprehensive parental leave policies, on-site childcare, and flexible working hours.

Dr. Ellen Ford’s Top Tips for Working Mums

Focus on Outputs, Not Hours

Shift the conversation with your employer to what you can deliver rather than how many hours you work. Highlight your efficiency and the quality of your work.

Value Your Parental Leave

Recognize and communicate the skills you develop as a parent. Use these skills to demonstrate your value in the workplace.

Build and Rely on a Support Network

Engage with professional and personal support networks to build confidence and gain validation.

Engage in Continuous Learning

Invest in resources that help you grow professionally and personally. This can include books, online courses, and workshops.

Advocate for Systemic Change

Work with your peers to advocate for policies that support work-life balance. Push for changes that benefit all working parents.


Breaking down barriers for working women requires a multifaceted approach that includes personal strategies and systemic change. By focusing on outputs, valuing parental skills, building confidence, engaging in continuous learning, and advocating for better policies, women can overcome these challenges. Dr. Ellen Ford’s insights and advice provide a powerful framework for working mums striving to balance their professional and personal lives successfully.

As we move towards a more equitable workplace, it’s essential to recognize the unique contributions of working parents and to implement policies that support them. The future is promising, but it requires continuous effort and advocacy. Together, we can create a world where working women are valued and supported, both at work and at home.



Listen now on Apple Podcasts or Spotify

Connect with Dr. Ellen Ford on LinkedIn, her website or purchase her book #workschoolhours

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