“Breadwinner Moms” and #HITChicks

You’ve got to wonder at the title of a new Pew Research Center survey, so aptly called “Breadwinner Moms.” It’s catchy, for sure, but at the same time carries with it a hint of guilt that so many of us working moms are all too familiar with.

The survey found that “40% of all households with children under the age of 18 include mothers who are either the sole or primary source of income for the family.” That’s up 29% in the last 53 years, which isn’t all that surprising since, as the survey found, women now make up 47% of the labor force. I hope that we’re all fairly familiar with the historical and cultural forces behind these increased percentages.

Though not surprising to me, as the majority of my female contemporaries work and have children, I do wonder what portion of women in healthcare IT – or #HITchicks, as I like to call them on Twitter – are a part of this growing group. I’d safely bet that at least 50% of the women I work with have children at home. Ladies, do you see similar statistics play out at your organizations?

While this number seems to be increasing, I think it is also causing the “mommy guilt” so many of us feel at one time or another to ease a bit. At least we have other moms to commiserate with once we get to the office. I think parents today are fortunate that many in the corporate world have embraced telecommuting and working from home. (Though with young children at home this summer, I find myself more productive working in the office. My four-year old just can’t wrap her head around the need to not bother me when my home office door is closed.)

I wonder if this survey, and the general topic of women in the workplace, will be brought up at the “Women as Leaders” session at the upcoming HFMA ANI conference in Orlando. This will be my third time attending, and I find that I enjoy it just as much as I do HIMSS.

The session description reads, “Join a lively and inspiring conversation with the women on HFMA’s Board of Directors about how women can thrive as leaders in a highly demanding environment. Although women have long held leadership positions in health care, barriers to these roles continue to exist. Learn how the women on HFMA’s Board of Directors have achieved a seat at the leadership table and made their voices heard.”

They’ll “identify core skills women need for leadership success, such as self-confidence, team management, and negotiation; help women new to leadership roles excel and embrace the challenges they face; and share success stories for managing careers, families and communities.”

It’s the “families” part I’m most interested in hearing about. Though I love my career so much that I don’t see myself ever totally give it up, I’ve realized the term has to be fluid – changing in shape and definition to meet the needs of my family, which at the end of the day trumps career – and being the breadwinner – every time.

About the author

Jennifer Dennard

Jennifer Dennard

As Social Marketing Director at Billian, Jennifer Dennard is responsible for the continuing development and implementation of the company's social media strategies for Billian's HealthDATA and Porter Research. She is a regular contributor to a number of healthcare blogs and currently manages social marketing channels for the Health IT Leadership Summit and Technology Association of Georgia’s Health Society. You can find her on Twitter @JennDennard.


  • Enjoyed this piece, Jen – and I can totally relate! I attended a “Women in Leadership” conference in NY a few years ago, and although I found the content exhilarating, I came away a bit depressed at the unrealistic portrayals of the choices facing the average mother in corporate America. I mean, not EVERY company is going to have “off-ramp” concepts like Cisco, where they allow for family planning (and even sabbaticals) by helping employees take (and return from) years off the job.

    It’s honestly frustrating that so few people openly acknowledge the reality that we still occupy a male-centric paradigm in the workforce, even if the ratio of men:women is approaching 1:1. We’re underrepresented in executive leadership positions. We’re paid $.80 on the dollar in comparison to our male counterparts. And we are our own worst enemy. Some of the most vocal misogynists I’ve had to manage in my career have been other women. I’ve also witnessed the high school “Mean Girls” clique phenomenon perpetuated across groups of adult co-workers. It’s unfortunate. But it is what it is.

    I’m a breadwinner mom, and I know that I have to overcome gender bias each and every day. The world will continue to grow and evolve, and I just have to continue working smarter, harder, and more effectively until it catches up. 🙂

  • Great piece, Jen. I’m sort of a breadwinner mom – in that I work as much as my husband does and bring home at least as much as he does, if not more. The difference in our world is that I own an ad agency, so I make the rules. That doesn’t mean I don’t scramble to meet client demands like my counterparts in the corporate world do, I just do them differently. And control them. Sort of, instead of being controlled by corporate America and a paycheck. The challenges for women are great. Our jobs are so multifaceted: they include our career responsibilities, the home, our kids, the dog and often, for many, aging parents are tossed into the equation.

    Loved what Mandi said above and really, her ending says it all. We all have to continue to overcome gender bias on a daily basis, separately and together. That’s why writing about topics like this, taking a stand on a regular basis for women’s rights and equality matters (even at the risk of being labeled a “feminist” (gasp), and teaching our daughters to do the same is really important.

    As an aside, I read an article the other day about all the rights women didn’t have in 1970 – it was astonishing. I was 10 in 1970 and actually remember some of them. I didn’t link it here but I imagine if you Google it, you’ll find it.

    I believe that one of the biggest dangers we face today is the danger that comes from women themselves. Today’s generation of women, working women and otherwise, often have no idea what the world was like not so very long ago. They don’t understand that the right to make $.80 on a dollar to what a man makes was a hard-fought battle, and we’re still not “winning.” They don’t think about these issues. They don’t care about these issues. They think these issues don’t affect them.

    Mandi’s point above about women often being our own worst enemies, whether it’s mysogny, “mean girl-itis” or flat out apathy, is sadly quite true.

    I think your larger point is this: you’ll be interested to see what part of the conversation at the conference above is dedicated to the “family” part of the equation. I doubt it will be much, but I can’t wait for your followup blog post about what your experience was.

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