ELFA - Equipment Leasing and Finance Association - Equipping Business for Success

Emerging Mothers: A Unique Perspective for the Equipment Leasing & Finance Industry

By Lexie Dressman, Senior Counsel, Huntington Asset Finance and Mom to Adaline, 5, and Wallace, 2, by Xiang Ji, Commercial Risk Senior Manager, Toyota Industries Commercial Finance and Mom to Xavier, 4, and Athena, 4 months, and by Emily Latham-Bolt, Head of Human Resources, US Wayne, DLL and Mom to Brynn, 21 months. This resource is part of the Career Development series developed by the ELFA Emerging Talent Advisory Council. Learn more at www.elfaonline.org/industry-topics/emerging-talent.

You may be reading this and wondering why this perspective matters.  It matters because we are in the midst of the Great Resignation and women are leading the charge – the gender gap is increasing.  It matters because one in three mothers have considered leaving the workforce or downshifting their careers because of COVID-19’s impact, especially on childcare. 

Mothers, and particularly mothers with young children, are far more likely to consider leaving the workforce entirely.

Women in the Workplace Chart

It matters because companies with a higher percentage of women in their workforce, especially at leadership levels, are more profitable.  It matters because a traditionally male-dominated industry will benefit more from gender diversity.  And it matters because our companies and our industry need and want to know how best to respond.

  • From 2015 to 2021, women's attendance at the ELFA Annual Convention grew from 14% to 21%.
  • From 2015 to 2021, women's participation as speakers/panelists at the Convention rose from 12% to 29%, as a result of an effort to solicit more women speakers.
  • From 2016 to 2022, women's membership on the ELFA Board of Directors grew from 15% to 24%.
  • From 2016 to 2022, women's membership on the 5 Business Council Steering Committee grew from 8% to 26% as a result of an effort to solicit more women members on the committees.

Despite increasing representation in the equipment leasing and finance industry, women, particularly new mothers, are still facing challenges in this traditionally male-dominated field including:

  • Negative perceptions due to stereotypes
  • A lack of strong female role models
  • For those in leadership positions, being the “Onlys” or “Double-Onlys” (for women of color)

ETAC asked 3 women who are growing their careers as young mothers to provide their perspectives and offer possible solutions to the industry:

Lexie Dressman

Lexie’s Perspective

“I was swimming without getting anywhere...  We call that initial period of the pandemic The Dark Days.”

When I first read the Women in the Workplace study in 2020, I felt seen.  I had just returned from maternity leave after the birth of my second child, a “Covid baby,” and I was so personally overwhelmed that I considered writing my first book, which I would entitle “Colic in the Time of Covid.”  I welcomed my return to work, even though it consisted of simply walking into a makeshift office off my kitchen and turning on my laptop.  It brought a semblance of control and normalcy to my life.  But I quickly remembered that, for a career mom (I prefer that terminology to working mother – all mothers work), there is no such thing as true work/life balance, especially in the midst of a global pandemic.  My husband and I alternated childcare and working, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, and we both worked during naps and after bedtime.  There was no balance -- I was exhausted and, without daycare, it felt like I was failing in all areas of my life.  Did you know that, since the pandemic, mothers that are part of a dual-career couple are twice as likely as fathers to spend five more hours a day on chores?  I was swimming without getting anywhere.  Eventually, my husband and I had to face some difficult decisions and, ultimately, we were lucky enough to secure a family rotation to provide childcare until daycare was an option again.  We call that initial period of the pandemic The Dark Days. 

What helped me survive The Dark Days?  Grace!  I am also fortunate enough to work for a company that provided essential flexibility when I needed it the most and also communicated often, and well, about the need to take care of ourselves and each other.  Also, my Manager and other leadership trusted that I could do my job and perform well, even remotely.  And they rewarded my work with a promotion.      

Xiang Ji

Xiang's Perspective

“As a mother of two, I’m consistently facing difficult decisions.”

I was promoted to a people manager when I was 6-months pregnant with my first child in 2017. It was very encouraging as the timing of the promotion made me believe I could still develop my career while having a family. My experience is consistent with the overall progress of women in workplace. Up until the pandemic, there had been some noticeable progress in female labor participation rates, and more women were holding management positions. However, the pandemic just reminded us that women are still the expected childcare providers within a household. Many families lost their childcare or schooltime during the pandemic, and I’ve been reading that women are leaving the workforce at a much higher rate than men due to the demands of childcare and housework since at least 2020. I’ve been very fortunate that my son’s daycare has been open this whole time, but it was very difficult to hear of female managers leaving the workforce to take care of their children.

Although flexible work and remote work are widely accepted and adopted by many companies, women, especially working mothers, still need to overcome the challenge of balancing work and life to stay in the workforce and develop their careers. As we are reaching an endemic, more trainings and industry events (such as ELFA events) are being held in person, which require travelling. Now, as a mother of two (I had my second child in December 2021), I’m consistently facing difficult decisions. I need to opt out of certain learning and networking opportunities that require travel due to family responsibilities. However, I’m very grateful that Toyota continues to provide me with development opportunities and accommodate my needs with flexible working hours and a hybrid work schedule.

Emily Latham-Bolt

Emily's Perspective

“It’s funny how timing never seems to work out right.”

In September of 2020, I was only a few weeks away from returning to work after maternity leave with my first child when I was presented with an amazing career opportunity. Not just any opportunity, it was the role I had been working towards, a role that I had been passed on previously, a role I really wanted. The timing did not feel right for me, and the idea of adjusting as a new mom, a new leader, in a new role, all while our entire organization was fully remote, felt impossible. It’s funny how timing never seems to work out right. Ultimately, having a support network both personally and professionally to take this risk while creating a safety net around me, made saying yes to the opportunity seem possible. Those first 90 days were not easy, but I survived. Over the past year I’ve learned work/life balance involves making choices and prioritizing, which I am empowered to do without feeling guilty. A quote from Adam Grant really resonated with me recently: “It’s impossible to please everyone. The question is whether you’re disappointing the right people. Part of setting healthy boundaries is deciding who you’re willing to let down -- and who has the right to make you feel guilty. Not everyone deserves power over your emotions.”

In summary, what can companies do to help emerging mothers stay and thrive in our industry?

  • Flexibility is key but remember to keep the gender playing field level
  • Offer diversity training to improve gender bias awareness
  • Speak up about discriminatory hiring or promotion practices
  • Encourage and stay positive
  • Offer mentorship and sponsorship programs
  • Recruit and develop female leaders to serve as role models
  • Encourage male leaders and employees to be active allies
Emerging Talent Advisory CouncilThis article is brought to you by ELFA’s Emerging Talent Advisory Council (ETAC), launched in 2014 to encourage industry employees get involved in the association early in their careers and to help members attract the best and brightest to the industry. ETAC holds emerging talent networking events and an annual ELFA EMERGENCE leadership development event. Get the most out of your ELFA membership and grow your career: Learn about ETAC and access additional career development resources on the Emerging Talent page.