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Diversifying the Emoticon Workforce - Meet Busy Day Mom

Heidi Erdmann-Sullivan on May 23, 2017 10:30 AM

She arrived last June - just about a month after Super Mom…

Skype’s Busy Day emoticon


And while her Super Mom predecessor simply shouted, “I can do it all!” she shouts, “This is what doing it all looks like.”  Well, kind of.

Since her debut, she’s been spinning in perpetual motion, transforming between her home and work roles – squeezing in a quick game of tennis along the way. Only to do it all over again with the same vigor.

Perhaps, if Skype wanted to make her even more realistic, they might include “spins” for: board meeting, school concert, sports carpools, care meeting for Grandma, multiple laundry loads, cooking dinner, followed by collapsing on the couch. And maybe add breastfeeding as an option alongside the bottle currently offered to the baby?*

Regardless of how many spins Skype gives her, SHE OFFICIALLY MADE THE MENU. And we appreciate her presence and the conversation it starts.  

So, how are we really doing in the workplace right now as women face the snowballing demands of the “average” Busy Day? What do the current stats tell us, and how can we better respond?   

Busy Day Phase 1 – “Feeding the Baby”: Child care and other home commitments
More moms than ever before are trying to do it all at work while continuing to do the majority at home.  While the average working mother spends 37 hours a week at work, she spends 80+ hours at home on chores, child care and housekeeping.  The emotional, physical and mental toll are significant.  

According to LeanIn.Org and McKinsey and Company’s Women in the Workplace 2016 Report, women are still doing more housework and child care than men – at every stage of their careers, including senior management – and there appears to be a strong link between the amount of work people do at home and their overall leadership ambition.

How we can do better:
While strides have been made in better supporting mothers in the workplace, organizations can do more by

  • Regularly evaluating and improving their paid leave policies. Consider giving more paid maternity AND paternity leave.
  • Institute more flexible work arrangements and work to erase any stigma at your organization
    about those who utilize them.
  • Increase PTO, and reward employees for using it.
  • Adopt a Whole-Family Care concept when evaluating the benefits you provide to your employees – one that addresses and coordinates all aspects of care-related needs (from child care, to backup care, to senior care) through a comprehensive, employer-sponsored program.
  • Promote a culture of healthy work-life integration where both male and female leaders - and immediate supervisors - lead by example in the time they spend tending to home and personal needs, including leisure time with their families.

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Busy Day Phase 2 – “The Tennis Match”: Health and Wellness

While getting to the tennis match is great in theory, many working moms would say it’s simply not the reality.  As much as working mothers want to take care of themselves and value their own health and wellbeing, it’s usually the first thing to go.  In fact, one in four moms state that they regularly cancel their own activities on a weekly basis.

The constant running, multitasking and lack of adequate care for themselves, results in working moms suffering from high rates of back pain, headaches, IBS, anxiety, carpal tunnel syndrome and nutrient depletion, among other ailments.

How we can do better:

  • Utilize the resources on SHRM’s website for evaluating your wellness programs against current benchmarks, as well as gathering ideas for improving your wellness and wellbeing programs.
  • Incorporate a “stealth” health and wellness strategy into common work activities.
  • Assess the basics when it comes to the physical health and wellness components of your building, i.e., is there a gym on-site or nearby, and are you incenting and enabling employees to use it during the workday? Are you offering the best healthy food options in your on-site facilities, food carts and meetings?
  • Extend wellness programs to an employee’s family members, including spouses, partners, children and seniors, recognizing that a healthy household makes an enormous impact on individual success.
  • Regularly measure the use of your wellness offerings. Keep what’s working, replace what isn’t – and ask your employees for their feedback and new ideas.
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Busy Day Phase 3 – “Multitasking at the Workplace”: Diversity and Leadership
Busy Day Mom seems to be managing her workload with a smile, but how is she faring in pay equity and career advancements against her male counterparts? Nearly half of working women say they’d like to one day be CEO, but only 6% of the current CEOs of the S&P 500 are women - and just 17% are in the pipeline to reach the C-Suite

The business case for a diverse workplace is clear: “Companies that harness both diversity in their workforce and leadership are 45 percent more likely than companies lacking diversity to have grown market share, and 70 percent more likely to have captured a new market in the last 12 months.”

How can we do better?

  • Meet the gender pay gap head on by instituting equal pay for equal work, and being transparent about it.
  • Listen – to both women and men. Gender diversity, inclusion and the advancement of women in leadership requires an ongoing dialogue and commitment from both sides.
  • Consider instituting a returnship program to help women who have taken a break from their careers to care for their families re-enter the workforce.
  • Balance mentoring and sponsoring. Without a doubt, women need more mentors – male and female. But don’t underestimate the power of sponsoring in the equation.
  • Define clear paths for the individual women at your organization to advance their careers and achieve the leadership roles they desire.

Skype’s Busy Day emoticon isn’t perfect and neither is our workplace. But, significant progress has been made and the conversation is getting louder – even with the help of one tiny emoticon’s voice.

We can’t wait to see who they’ll introduce us to next. 

*Author's Note: In celebration of World Emoji Day on July 17, 2017,  Apple unveiled its breastfeeding emoji, which will be available across Apple devices later this year.  In September 2016, Rachel Lee, a registered nurse and medical equipment trainer from the University College of London Hospital submitted a formal proposal to the Unicode Consortium, petitioning that a breastfeeding emoji be added to the Unicode Standard.  Additional calls for a breastfeeding emoji include a formal petition started on in May 2017 by Carlyn Lawatsch that directly addresses seven major technology companies including Apple, Samsung and Google. 

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Heidi Erdmann-Sullivan

As Director, Sales and Marketing at, Heidi is responsible for developing innovative, results-driven programs for Care@Work – a consumer-centered portfolio of family care for employers and their diverse workforce. Passionate about helping HR professionals improve the lives of their employees, Heidi follows and writes about the top trends and research impacting both employees and employers in the workplace, including the future of work, consumerism and HR, building employer brands, pay equity and paid leave policy, and company culture. Prior to joining, Heidi led marketing teams at a variety of technology companies including Constant Contact. She lives north of Boston with her husband Brian and their “daughter” Lexi – a 10 lb. Shih-Tzu therapy dog.