Hire a Mom! How 10 Years At Home Made Me A Better Leader At Google | Martha Ivester | TEDxNashville





Thank You KC six years ago

I went to back to work full time after

spending ten years as a stay-at-home mom

now I didn't go straight to Google

I actually reinterred the workforce in

entirely new industry music at the age

of 44 and I was terrified I was worried

that I would not be able to keep up with

all those hip 20-somethings or be able

to ramp quickly enough to be relevant in

my first day I was introduced to the

entire Nashville office as the first

working mom that they had on their team

holy crap the first working mom in 2012

now this company Creative Artists Agency

or CAA is really fantastic

it is the world's leading entertainment

agency and it represents clients like

Nicole Kidman David Beckham and Katy


and they were wonderful to me fast

forward three years and I get a call

from Google Fiber they want me to run

their Nashville office as city manager

big job big impact so I left a company I

love to take on a new challenge on my

last day at CAA

I went into the conference room and

there was the entire female staff music

agents executives assistants interns

they had all gathered together to

present me with a thank-you gift it was

a framed collection of thank-you notes

these were really detailed notes and

they mentioned specific ways that I had

impacted them they said that I had

helped change the culture of the

Nashville office and changed their

perceptions of working moms I helped

show them a path that they did not think

was sustainable that of a working mom in

the music industry

let me read you a highlight one of my

favorite pieces of advice from you is

never to apologize when you haven't done

anything wrong as women we are taught

never to offend never to challenge women

like you show us that we have the right

to command a room and to advocate for

our skills and talents so the

entertainment industry and particularly

music can be pretty tough for a woman

and is it any wonder when there is such

a scarcity of female executive

leadership that fewer than 17% of the

billboard music industry power 100 are

women so is any wonder that the future

looked bleak for these women at CAA I

had challenged their assumptions though

about that time that I took off to stay

at home and prove to them that it was

valuable time in the workplace so today

I'm gonna challenge your assumptions of

what the value of that time at home is

really worth I'm gonna demonstrate to

you the time at home to take care of

your kids is not only good for Children

and Families

it's great for business so I didn't

always think this back when I started my

career I shared a lot of the same

assumptions that many people do about

moms who take time off to stay at home

with their kids that they're not as

motivated that they won't be able to

keep up or they're not as ambitious and

for all those moms I worked with I'm

sorry ladies I hate to tell you I never

thought any of those things about the

men that I worked with who became dads

so I've been pretty fortunate in my life

I've done a lot of really cool things I

launched Windows 95 in Hong Kong

I ran Nikes global Olympic campaign for

the Sydney Olympic Games and I took

Michael Jordan to Japan and then I

decided to take time off to stay at home

with my kids

now let me tell you everyday that I

stayed home with my children I realized

I was fortunate I recognized that many

women do not have the opportunity to

take a few weeks off let alone years so

no matter how many times they played

Candyland or changed a diaper or soothe

the tantrum

I was extremely thankful it wasn't easy

for us to get pregnant so when I did I

made a conscious decision to step off my

career trajectory and stay home I knew

there was an opportunity cost and that I

would take a wage hit and that getting

back would be hard but for my husband

and I we knew that we could take make

the numbers work and that time off was a

gift so fast-forward 10 years and my

youngest is in preschool and I finally

have time to look up and take a breath

and redefine who I was and I realized

that despite the fact that I was doing

the thing that had the most meaning to

me raising my family I realized I missed

work and I wanted to go back and I

wanted to be a role model for my

daughters I wanted to show them that the

world was their oyster and that they

could have any career that they wanted

and to show them that you could balance

work and family and you know I wasn't

alone in that eighty percent of us will

become moms by the time that we are

forty seventy-one percent of American

moms work outside the home and

increasingly they are the breadwinners

in their family yet even with this many

women still elect time to take time off

to stay at home raising their kids in

fact one third of working moms take an

average of three years off to raise

their family now I'm sure if money we're

not into the equation that number would

be a lot higher but I'll come back to

that later I found that my time at home

gave me the skills that made me more

valuable in the workplace so I'm gonna

tell you a couple stories here we are

it's 2008 and I had just moved to

Nashville with an 8 week old baby a 4

year old

a 5 year old and a dog

and my husband starts committing to

Baltimore five days a week

so every day I get up I nurse the baby I

let the dog out I get the kids I'd get

them dressed and get them fed I get them

in the van

and we head off to school so here we are

we are pulling out of the drop-off area

of my son's school when the baby starts

screaming all of a sudden she projectile

vomits all over the back of the minivan

so I grabbed the box of baby wipes I

throw it to the four-year-old I teach

her how to give the baby a little bit of

a wipe down I coach her on how to calm

the baby I roll down the windows and we

keep going because God forbid we would

be late to kindergarten I drop her off

and pull over at the side of the road I

find an old t-shirt in the back of the

van change the baby and head home to

disinfect the car be resourceful

communicate empower here's another day

we're riding along in the mom mobile and

I hear a little voice in the back of the

van that says mom what's a nerd and I

pause and despite wanting to find out

which little chump called my kid a nerd

I realize this is a teachable moment so

I say to my beloved you know I have a

great story about a nerd one of the most

famous nerds in the world is a guy

called Bill Gates and I was lucky enough

to work with him and this nerd started a

company called Microsoft and today this

nerd uses his billions of dollars to do

really important things in the world

like find cures for malaria and provide

access to education so I think nerds are

really awesome empathize share a vision

inspire now you know these stories are

normal for any parent but for a

stay-at-home mom

they are 24/7 your job so let's jump

ahead it's 2012 and Here I am working in

music and it's the first day and I'm the

first working mom and I've been home for

ten years and I realize I have an

opportunity to

change assumptions about my relevance

and about my ambition and I realize I

can have an impact on the women of CAA

and demonstrate a path for them who up

until that point thought that they would

have to drop out of music if they wanted

to start a family so once I got over

that shock of being the first mom I

became really intentional I started

putting things on my calendar like leave

early for kids concept and I was

refusing meetings that conflicted with

school drop-off when my kids got sick I

worked from home and my work didn't stop

you know what I discovered that the

skills that I had perfected in my time

at home things like resourcefulness and

relationship building and communication

those were the things that made me a

better employee manager and leader and

then three years later remember that

call I got from Google

turns out they were even more effective

and more valuable than I realized so one

of the great things that Google does is

hire people in fact I have heard they

say it is easier to die from choking on

a biscuit than it is to get hired at

Google but the work doesn't stop there

Google also invests deeply in its

employees and finding ways to make them

more productive

hence the massages the great health care

and the free lunch Google also loves

data they study everything including how

often certain people eat together and

what qualities lead to managerial

success so today I'm going to share two

google studies with you

one of them are on the behaviors of

great managers and the second is

characteristics of effective teams in

2012 Google set out to study the

behaviors that lead to managerial

success at Google which is

a pretty successful company with a lot

of really smart software engineers they

narrowed it down to eight key behaviors

and they guide all their management

training and development around them

the interesting thing is that most of

the morton most important behaviors of

effective managers at Google are soft

skills like empathy communication

empowerment and concern for well being

the best managers at Google are first

and foremost great coaches who invest

time and energy and their employees

career development in addition to

setting strategy and focusing on results

they develop a climate where they

showcase empathy empathy and concern for

their employees careers and well-being

so do these words look familiar to you

empathy communication empowerment

well-being think about those 10 years in

that minivan so the second study I'm

going to share with you today I love

this one it's called project Aristotle

and it studies the characteristics of

the most effective teams so I think most

people know teamwork is pretty important

for business success so in 2016 Google

set out to discover how to build the

most effective team their assumption was

that if you carefully curate the

smartest people and put them together in

a room that you are gonna have the best

outcomes but you know what they were

surprised some of Google's most

effective teams were comprised of

employees who were friends outside of


others barely saw each other outside of

the conference room some teams preferred

a very strong manager and others liked a

less hierarchical structure most

confounding of all teams with almost

exactly the same makeups had radically

different levels of effectiveness so

here's what Google found out they

narrowed it down to five characteristics


highly effective teams and psychological

safety was first and foremost the most

important psychological safety describes

the climate in which employees feel a

sense of trust and mutual respect and

feel free to take risks without feeling

embarrassed employees on effective teams

are less likely to leave Google they are

more likely to harness the power of

diverse ideas from their teammates and

they bring in more revenue these other

four structure and clarity dependability

meaning and impact all feed off

psychological safety so what does this

mean for the stay-at-home mom or the

woman considering whether to take time

off to stay at home with her kids or the

hiring manager looking at her resume

what does a stay-at-home mom do every

day if not create a climate of

psychological safety provide structure

and clarity for her children help them

interpret the world around them and find

meaning impact in it and finding ways to

make a difference the skills that drive

the most effective managers and the most

effective teams at Google are skills

that stay-at-home moms work on every

single day for 10 years I woke up and I

said to myself how do I ensure that the

work that I do today has the most impact

on my making my kids the best humans

that they can be how do I encourage the

right behaviors and empower them to feel

confident to take risks and make smart

decisions in life the truth is though

when you take time off to stay at home

you take a wage hit this is called the

mommy penalties so most people know that

women are paid like 82 cents on the

dollar compared to their male

counterparts which you may not realize

that when you take time off to stay at

home you take away that you do not

recover from a recent study from the

University of Massachusetts

Peg's this at 4% per child this same

study discovered that when men become

fathers their wage is actually increased

by at least 6% the University of

Massachusetts study found that employers

value fathers more highly and hold

mothers to harsher performance standards

now remember 71% of moms work outside

the home and one-third of those working

moms will take time off for an average

of three years and this is at the time

when their wages have the greatest

opportunity to increase there is a huge

opportunity cost to taking yourself out

of the workforce during prime time the

age 35 to 44 is when wages show the

greatest lifetime gains and this is the

period when motherhood is on full-on

mode for many getting back in can be an

uphill battle ninety percent of women

who leave the workforce to stay home

with their kids plan to go back to work

yet fewer than half of them find

meaningful full-time employment the

truth is that when you take time off to

stay at home people assume your business

skills die that it's time off but for me

I discovered that those skills made me

more valuable in the workplace and

Google's research supports this in the

last three years I helped open Google

fiber's office in Nashville I rallied

public support to pass landmark

telecommunications legislation I welcome

two new CEOs and I deployed a new-build

technology this was a lot of work it was

disruptive and it was hard on my team

and I could not have done it without the

lessons that I learned from my kids who

taught me about compassion who taught me

how to motivate in the face of adversity

and how to stand up to a bully I've been

lucky to do a lot of great things in my

life but this here is one of the best

I was invited to stand in front of the

entire student body of my son's all-boys

school I'm giving a speech on how to

build the Internet and you know I looked

out over those faces those 12 to 18 year

old slumped in their seats my son no

doubt cringing and I thought to myself I

am the type of leader that they need to

see more of and I realize it's those

opportunities the ones where we have the

chance to recalibrate what the next

generation of men thinks of as normal

those are the opportunities that will

make the biggest difference for the next

generation of women

it starts there with our boys when I

went back to work I did it in part to be

a role model for my daughters I realized

it was just as important to do that for

my son

I'd like to imagine a world one day

where my daughters take time off to do

the most important job on the planet and

they are celebrated and rewarded for

making that decision they highlight

those skills on their resume and in a

job interview because the truth is we

could all use a few more moms on our

team thank you