A big no-no question during a job interview is: "Do you have children?" or "How old are your kids?"
These are screening questions with the hidden idea of screening someone out.
If I was responsible for interviewing and asked a potential hire that question, it might be construed as potential discrimination based on if a candidate is a parent or not.
If I was a job interviewee and was asked that question, I would immediately answer that having children or not is not a factor in my ability to fulfill the requirements of the job.
However, women — especially minority women — are under-represented in leadership positions (C-level, executive, or board of director positions).
Because women are typically the ones responsible for much of the child care!
I feel that many of the methods that make an office or workspace "green" are also very conducive to supporting mothers. For example:
- Offering flextime, the opportunity to work from home, or jobsharing eases some of the stress and energy cost of commuting for working mothers.
- Reducing hazardous waste and toxic chemicals and replacing with more wholesome substances (vinegar and baking soda are excellent cleansing agents) means better health and less incidence of toxicity for mothers and pregnant and nursing women.
- Redoing an office space with natural furnishings such as bamboo, reclaimed wood, and recycled glass tiles means less off-gassing and less "sick building syndrome," so mothers focus better and more efficiently on their work.
- Breastfeeding is "green" in that the only required components are bottles to collect expressed milk (glass bottles are a good alternative to plastic), a way to store the milk so it stays fresh, and a breast pump, so a business that is committed to reducing solid waste can consider breastfeeding support as a green alternative.
- Providing locally-sourced or organic foods as snacks, meals and beverages promotes overall health and wellness and reduces the energy consumption involved in getting the food from farm to table
I'm sure you can think of more!
While we're on topic, I'm also happy to share my own experiences dealing with this issue. I like to consider myself to be green (my company is green-certified and we do our part to reduce, reuse, recycle). I use cloth diapers (a service with my first child and we wash our own for the second child), and I breastfed my first till he was (wait for it) 3 years old. I am nursing my second child as well. We do cosleeping and attachment parenting methods like paying attention to your baby and nursing on demand. If you haven't heard about it, I am also doing "IPT" or "trickle treat" which is taking your little infant to the toilet — which is what they do in cultures without diapers. We also feed our children organic food and totally get rid of any sugar that ends in "itol" (sorbitol, mannitol) and we've eliminated high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, and foods that are highly processed.
The typical experience of a new mother in the workplace is disconcerting to say the least: if you're a nursing mom, you know about:
Bringing your Medela pump-in-style to work and using it three times daily
Having to leave on time at the stroke of 5 to get back in time to pick up from childcare or the nanny
Not being able to travel overnight for work (at least not very easily)
Having to discreetly leave and pump in the bathroom if there's no lactation center
Having to always be looking for an electrical outlet to pump
Having to always have bottles on chilled ice or in the refrigerator…
Ladies…. can I get an amen?
Most of us who are "green mothers" are doing our best to protect the environment, work at fulfilling jobs and support our families as best as we can. Breastfeeding, as well as supporting other methods that support children and mothers, is just one of the ways we can all do our part.
Here are some resources for creating a green and mothering-friendly workplace:
9 Steps to Greening your Business
San Francisco Gender Equality Principles Initiative
Has a checklist on creating a gender-equitable workplace
This is an example of a mothering-friendly consulting firm that hires on a contract basis, matching talented staff to projects on a temporary basis. If you're in the Bay area, you can sign up and be called on a contract basis.
Monica S. Flores of is committed to educating, empowering, and connecting women in business — she believes in the triple bottom line of people, planet, and profits. She is available for consulting on web development, green business practices, and women in business.