Women in the Workplace 2022, the largest study on the state of women in corporate America, reveals that “43% of women leaders are burnt out.” The report blames these numbers on the fact that women are “overworked at home.”
The study also reveals how women in entry-level roles are twice as likely to take on the majority of family caregiving and housework, but in leadership roles, that gap almost doubles. Aja Bradley-Kemp, Marlo Richardson, and Chardé Hollins are three entrepreneurs and mothers who can provide a glimpse into the challenge female founders face when juggling career and family.
How successful female founders balance career and family
Marlo Richardson is the CEO and founder of Braymar Wines and a financial training organization called Business Bullish. As a restaurant owner, she manages Stage 21 Sports & Entertainment Lounge; as president of Marlo Productions, she produces theatrical films; and as a podcast host, she mentors other’s interested in investing and business. She is also the mother of a teenage daughter and an energetic three-year-old.
Richardson admits that her most significant challenge is a lack of time. “Juggling quality family time, business responsibilities, schoolwork, and sporting events can be difficult,” she says. “I find balance by including my kids in my business and teaching them what I do. My oldest understands my work and the time it requires because she’s involved in the process. She doesn’t compete or complain; she’s helpful and understanding because she knows why I do it, and she benefits from the work.”
Aja Bradley-Kemp is the marketer and experiential event designer who founded Conversate Collective, an agency helping brands develop lasting relationships with their audience through the power of shared experiences. She has over two decades of experience growing consumer, lifestyle, and tech brands such as Expedia, MAC Cosmetics, Sunglass Hut, and Reebok. She is also the mother of an eleven-year-old son and an eight-year-old daughter.
Bradley-Kemp agrees that balance is the biggest obstacle female founders face, which is why she intentionally sets boundaries and carves out time for her children. “Your business can feel like another child,” she explains. “I make sure to block out time for my kids when I’m at my best rather than showing up for them when I’m running on fumes. I don’t know if it’s possible to achieve complete balance, but I have to try. Raising good human beings is far more important than any job, so I put in the work.”
Chardé Hollins is a licensed clinical social worker and founder of Relevant Connections. Her consulting firm creates safe spaces for organizations to evaluate their DEI practices, cultural awareness, and access to behavioral health services. She has spent the last decade working in suicide prevention, trauma treatment, and advocacy for court-involved youth. Today, she is also a new mom raising two children — a four-year-old girl and a one-year-old boy.
Hollins says the struggle she finds most daunting is a nagging feeling of inadequacy, often finding herself questioning whether her career wins align or clash with her family wins. “I find peace in knowing that I am intentional about the time and energy I give to my family,” she shares. “There will never be enough hours in a day or years in a lifetime to express my love for my children. Time isn’t a fair measurement, but I can measure impact, laughter, hugs, and memories. This focus enables me to win in the things that matter most.”
Where kids and careers collide
Richardson makes a conscious effort to include her kids in her business. She hopes to gift them with a solid work ethic and an appreciation for the value of money.
“My 13-year-old daughter helps with inventory,” remarks Richardson. “She developed a lasting interest in photography after helping with product shots and promotional videos. We talk about business all the time, and she is coming to understand that she is her business. I want her to be cognizant of the image she presents and the presence that she has. My 3-year-old hasn’t developed the same concept of my business yet, but she is old enough to recognize that when I say mommy is working, that playtime has to wait a second.”
Bradley-Kemp says her kids are free to listen in on meetings and conference calls. She also allows them to join in on projects and attend events where appropriate, and constantly asks them to share their ideas and opinions.
“Honesty is key,” Bradley-Kemp says. “I want my kids to see the power of a growth mindset and positive speech. By participating in my business, they learn the value of hard work. Most importantly, they are learning that plenty of enjoyable career paths are open to them.”
Hollins encourages moms to include even toddlers in the aspects of work they can understand. When she has an exciting career win, she lets her children see her passion, and she isn’t shy about asking for a hug after a rough day at work.
“This level of communication humanizes you as ‘mom the superhero,'” Hollins explains. “Your kids become invested in your career journey just as you are in their education/life journey.”
Hollins is intentional about explaining her work in ways her kids can understand. As she designs a presentation, she lets her oldest daughter help choose the pictures. “I take the opportunity to talk about the learning lesson behind the picture and slide,” Hollins says. “She is learning about my work and about general mental health education. More than anything else, I want my kids to see how kindness and competence impact my professional and personal life.
The benefits of being a mother and founder with work/life balance
As more and more female founders share their stories, their examples can become the norm. “At times, my capabilities have been underestimated in an industry dominated by white men,” admits Bradley-Kemp. “Those moments inspire me to teach my children the importance of treating all people with fairness.”
Richardson believes splitting responsibilities between work and family is worth the added hassle and hustle. “It is a blessing and a privilege to have something so special to pass on to my daughters,” she says. “I may not be able to leave them a job, but these valuable lessons will stay with them forever.”
While combining motherhood and entrepreneurship is not an easy road to travel, Bradley-Kemp agrees that it can be extremely rewarding. “If you have a business idea and you’re passionate about something, don’t let being a mother stop you. Make a plan, get your support system in place, and shoot for the moon!”