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Mothers still don’t hold the top jobs in the U.S. It’s time for change.

In the U.S., just 1/10 of the most powerful leaders are women with children. Yet 8/10 top jobs are held by fathers.

Mothers still don’t hold the top jobs in the U.S. It’s time for  change.

Have you ever wondered how many of our most powerful leaders are also mothers?


If the answer is no, don’t feel bad because you are not alone. When I asked myself that question about two years ago I immediately googled it to see what kind of information was out there. There was nothing. Looking back, I’m not surprised by that. The world has been having a very intense and important conversation about the number of women relative to men in leadership roles, but have we been missing something?

I created the Motherhood+Public Power Index (through JustActions.org) to find out. I wanted to build a tool that measured, over time and across countries, just how many of the top jobs in government, business, academia and civil society are actually held by women who are also mothers. I was also curious about the proportion of top jobs held by fathers and those held by leaders without children, especially women without children.

The 2016 results are even more shocking than I expected them to be.

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Here’s what I learned:

1. Mothers don’t hold the top jobs in the U.S.

In the United States, just 1 out of every 10 of the most powerful leaders are women with children. In stark contrast, 8 out of every 10 top jobs are held by fathers. Put another way, 16 of the top 160 jobs are held by mothers but 131 are held by fathers. The remaining 13 are held by leaders without children, of which 5 are women.

2. This is a global issue

Is this just a U.S. problem? No. I also took a look at the other global superpower, China, and discovered the situation was even worse. Mothers hold just 4% of the most powerful positions in China but fathers hold a massive 90% of the top jobs. Leaders without children are extremely rare in China.

3. Mother CEOs are lacking

Interestingly, of the four sectors measured by the Motherhood+Public Power Index, universities and governments perform best in promoting mothers into the top jobs. There are 8 mothers running the top 40 universities and 5 mothers in the most powerful government roles. In contrast, the business and philanthropic sectors record the lowest representation of mothers. There are only 2 mothers among the top 40 CEOs and only 1 mother among the top 40 American philanthropists. Appalling.

The conclusion could not be clearer. Mothers are dramatically underrepresented in the halls of power in the United States, while fathers are dramatically overrepresented.

Why does it matter?

1. Quality of leadership matters

The U.S. needs its very best talent at the helm to tackle a raft of economic and social challenges, not just at home but also in the rest of world especially now that we have an ambitious new set of Global Goals to achieve by 2030, including ending poverty, the epidemic of HIV and gender inequality, among others.

2. Mothers can transform the workplace

But there is another reason, which is much more personal to the 70 million U.S. women who are currently in the labor force and the millions more who want to be getting paid for their work. With more mothers in power shaping government, company, and university policies we can accelerate the transformation of our workplaces that is so desperately needed to trigger the next wave of productivity gains.

Greater workplace flexibility will not only broaden the talent pool by attracting more women into the workforce but it will also blur the barriers between work and home unleashing efficiencies that will enable all of us to be more productive. With more mothers in power, expect to see the next wave of innovations—from artificial intelligence to driverless cars to virtual reality—transforming our homes, workplaces, schools and cities so that all of us can move more seamlessly between work, home and school and lead more fulfilling and productive lives.

What can we do?

We need to demand of our employers and our governments the “deep flexibility” that Anne-Marie Slaughter, Claudia Goldin and Heather Boushey outline so powerfully. It begins with paid parental leave and then moves further into paid caring leave throughout the lifecycle for all workers who need to take time to care for a family member, for whatever reason.

It requires a blending of “work,” “home” and ”school” that technology now makes entirely possible and a revolution in the way we think about the “ideal worker.”

Integrated workplaces, schools and homes and a new conception of what an effective worker is are what will ultimately enable women with children to continue to rise to the top of their workplaces and sit in the seats of power.


The Motherhood+Public Power Index is in support of the UN Global Goals and the UN Secretary-General’s Every Woman, Every Child movement. The Index uses the latest source data from the US Senate and Congress, the Whitehouse, the National Governors Association, the Forbes Global 2000, Forbes America’s Top Colleges, Forbes America’s 50 Top Givers.

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These new arrivals from the Motherly Shop are *so* good you need them all

Noodle and Boo, Mushie and Plan Toys—everything you need, mama.

Motherhood is hard work—finding great products and brands to make the journey easier doesn't have to be. Each week, we stock the Motherly Shop with brilliant new products we know you'll need and love from brands and makers that really care.

So, what's new this week?

Noodle and Boo: Holistic baby skin care

Through working with chemists who specialize in natural and holistic skin care, Noodle and Boo has developed exclusive formulas that nourish, replenish and protect especially delicate, eczema-prone and sensitive skin—including laundry detergent. Their signature, obsession-worthy scent—which is subtly sweet, pure and fresh—is the closest thing to bottling up "baby smell" we've ever found.

Mushie: Kids' dinnerware that actually looks great

We're totally crushing on Mushie's minimalist dinnerware for kids. Their innovative baby and toddler products leverage Swedish design to marry both form and function while putting safety front and center. Everything is created in soft, muted colors from BPA-free materials.

Plan Toys: Open-ended toys that last

Corralling and cleaning up the toys becomes less stressful when you bring home fewer, better, more beautiful ones. Plan Toys checks all the boxes. Made from re-purposed rubber wood, they're better for the planet as well.

Not sure where to start? Here's what we're adding to our cart:

Mushie silicone baby bib

Mushie silicone baby bib

There's no going back to cloth bibs after falling in love with this Swedish design. The pocket catches whatever misses their mouths and the BPA-free silicone is waterproof and easy to wipe down between uses.

$13

Mushie kids' square dinnerware plate set

Mushie kids' square dinnerware plate set

We're totally crushing on the soft muted colors that flow with our table aesthetics and the thoughtful high-sided design that helps babies and toddler who are learning to feed themselves.

$15

Noodle and Boo nursery essentials kit

Noodle and Boo nursery essentials kit

Stocked with everything a new mama needs to care for her little one's delicate skin, Noodle and Boo's nursery essentials gift set is the perfect way to create a holistic and natural skin care routine from day one.

$45

Plan Toys doctor set 

Plan Toys doctor set

Ideal for quiet time and imaginative role play, we love the gorgeous planet-friendly doctor kit from Plan Toys. The rubber wood stethoscope, blood pressure cuff, thermometer, syringe and reflex hammer pack up neat and tidy into the red cotton case should they need to dash off on a rescue mission.

$30

Noodle and Boo instant hand sanitizer

Noodle and Boo instant hand sanitizer

Since we're buying and using hand sanitizer by the truckload these days, we're thrilled Noodle and Boo has made one we can feel good about using on little ones who cram their hands in their mouths 24/7. Not only does it kill 99.9% of germs, but it also leaves hands moisturized as well.

$10

Plan Toys natural wooden blocks set

Plan Toys natural wooden blocks set

A toy box isn't complete without a set of blocks—and this set is one of our new favorites. The sustainable, re-purposed wood is eco-friendly, comes at a relatively affordable price point and are certain to last well beyond multiple kids, hand-me-downs and even generations.

$30

Noodle and Boo family fun pack cleansing set

Noodle and Boo family fun pack cleansing set

Because their products were developed for delicate and eczema-prone skin, Noodle and Boo's full line of skin care has become a favorite among those with sensitive skin of all ages. This set is the perfect way to pamper the entire family.

$48

Mushie kids' round dinnerware bowl set

Mushie kids' round dinnerware bowl set

No need to sacrifice safety or design with the sustainable dinnerware from Mushie. Their minimalist, functional dishes are perfect for serving up meals and snacks to your tablemates who might hurl it to the floor at any point. They're made in Denmark from BPA-free polypropylene plastic mamas can feel good about and dishwasher and microwave-safe as well.

$14

Plan Toys geo stacking blocks

Plan Toys geo stacking blocks

The best engaging, open-ended toys are the ones that are left out and available, inviting little (and big!) ones to play. These beautiful gem-like blocks make for addicting coffee table play for the entire family.

$30

Plan Toys wooden green dollhouse

Plan Toys wooden green dollhouse

Energy-efficient design isn't just for grown-up real estate. This green dollhouse includes a wind turbine, a solar cell panel, electric inverter, recycling bins, a rain barrel, a biofacade and a blind that can adjust the amount of sunlight and air circulation along with minimalist furniture we'd totally love to have in our own houses.

$250

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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