In honor of mothers and mother figures this Mother’s Day, we surveyed 400 Chief members to learn if their mothers played a role in shaping their career. While 70% of the executives polled said their mothers were influential, they all shared different reasons for why. According to the survey, the key to raising successful daughters was either a mother’s ambition for her own career (whether fulfilled or not), or ambition for her daughter’s through the form of consistent encouragement.

The end result was a powerful woman executive. We share our findings and a few stories of how today’s corporate leaders were inspired by their mothers.

42% of Chief executives say their mother worked, with only 16% of them in leadership positions.

  • "She was the ONLY working mom in the neighborhood and proudly loved her job. Never once felt guilty for not being at the bake sale."
  • "My father’s family believed strongly in gender roles and that woman should not work and didn’t need to be educated. My mother taught me to value education and by being a working Latin woman, she normalized having a career and a family."
  • "My mother became a veterinarian while raising four children and that was very much frowned upon by her peers. She was a pioneer as a woman in STEM and she withstood a lot of criticism for having a career at a time when women with children did not do that."

24% of executive women say that their mom was a stay-at-home mom either by choice or by circumstance.

  • "My mother gave up her career to raise my sister and me. I always felt that while she loved being a mother, she regretted having to make this choice. For as long as I can remember, I was determined to work and be a mom."
  • "I knew that I wanted to lead organizations. My mother was the BOSS of everything, although she may not have held the title. Women were not permitted to lead in that way in the 70s. However, she made sure to teach me that I could do anything!"
  • "She was superwoman. She did everything, from raising my sister and I and always showing up for us, to managing all household finances and investments as a stay-at-home mom."

96% of Chief members who are mothers say that being a mom is a visible part of their professional identity.

With more women breaking the glass ceiling and entering leadership positions, being a mother is far more common at the executive level, and these women are making their parental status more visible in the workplace than ever before. That doesn't mean it's without challenges. Women cited everything from having to be concerned when they told a superior they were pregnant (51%) to being judged for leaving work early for their children (66%).

Our survey results show that choosing to be a mother and choosing to work is still a paradoxical decision, but with more executive women choosing both, there’s a greater precedent for other women who can see through example that they too may not have to choose one over the other.

  • "My mother was a nurse and I learned the power and importance of empathy, work ethic, and self-sacrifice in balancing a career and raising children. You can have it all, just not all at the same time."
  • "My mother made me believe I could do anything I set my mind to, and has always modeled that one could be a career woman and mother (I don't have to choose, though it sure can be hard)."
  • "My mother helped me realize I did not want to be a stay-at-home mom. I wanted to be present for my family but also have an identity that was not completely dependent on them for self-worth."