Boss Mother: ALEJANDRA GUZMAN
By AnaMaria Bech
Click aqui para español- >Boss Mother: Alejandra Guzmán
Economic Developer, VP of Real Estate and Capital Investments
Alejandra Guzman is an internationally recognized expert in economic and community development, social responsibility, and new business development. With leadership experience in both the public and private sectors, Alejandra creates and analyzes inter-sectoral initiatives that maximize the resources of non-government organizations (NGOs), government agencies, and private sector companies to solve international community and economic development challenges.
Tell me about your work, your schedule and some of your responsibilities.
My focus is on developing and executing real estate, policy, and partnership strategies to promote the development of communities that have been handicapped by disinvestment. This takes many different forms, from organizing networking and educational opportunities with the Real Estate community to designing key programs to support the industry. Most recently I have been working on developing a strategy that leverages the Federal Program Opportunity Zones.
How many children do you have?
Mother-to-be of a baby girl, Sophia G. Cooper, expected for July 12, 2020.
What is the best thing about being a mom?
There are several things that excite me about becoming a parent. I am looking forward to the joy of discovering a shared sense of purpose with my partner. Starting from pregnancy, it is really fascinating to see and feel how quickly a baby grows. Once Sophia is born, I’m going to cherish all her developmental milestones from discovering her own hands to walking and first words. This is going to be a life-changing experience that I’m going to treasure for the rest of my life.
Are there biases against mothers in the workplace in general? If so, how can they be tackled?
There are still a lot of biases that affect expecting mothers. Motherhood triggers false assumptions that women are less competent and less committed to their careers. This maternal bias is a major problem for women’s career advancement. Because of this, mothers and pregnant women are often given fewer opportunities and are submitted to higher standards. Mothers might not be considered for promotions, new hires, or big projects. A landmark study published in 2007 “Getting a Job: Is There a Motherhood Penalty?”, demonstrates that in an interview process, women who didn’t have children were two times more likely to be called for an interview as compared to similarly qualified mothers. The study also found that mothers were rated less competent and committed, and recommendations were made for lower starting salaries. The study also looked for this same discrimination towards fathers but did not find any evidence. This study can be found here.
It is an unfortunate reality that women, regardless if they are mothers or not, still face other biases and challenges in the work environment including obtaining equal pay, harassment, and career opportunities. Although to tackle these issues one must advocate for societal and policy change, I believe there are personal tactics that one can take to navigate through this harsh environment. I would advise first to invest in your professional development and understand what skills are needed for a career move. Finding an executive coach can be very helpful in addressing skill gaps and preparing you for salary negotiations. I also recommend that women find a sponsor. Someone who is an influential leader who advocates on your behalf and opens the door to new career opportunities, promotions, and great assignments. To find your sponsor, go above and beyond at your job and make yourself visible by taking on projects that provide exposure.
What would you tell a career woman who is conflicted about starting a family because of fear of jeopardizing her career?
I can’t deny that one of my fears about becoming a mother is how this could affect my career. I still have to discover a way to balance motherhood with professional life. Some of the things I considered that helped my choice to become a mother were, first, to count on a partner who is committed to raising a family and investing time into parenthood so that we can both continue to thrive in our careers. Secondly, having a network ready to step in to help, and lastly, knowing that we will figure things out as we go. There is no such thing as a perfect life, so I’m very intentional about being flexible and adaptable.
What can companies do to be more accommodating to working mothers?
Organizations must prioritize having women in decision-making roles. We can't expect to create a better environment for women without us being involved in the decision-making process. Companies should increase diversity and specify a target number of female candidates for each leadership position or have programs that encourage women to apply for leadership roles. A woman who has gone through pregnancy and parenting will understand the importance of lactating rooms, good health insurance, adequate and affordable day-care, paid family leave, and family flex time and will find ways to provide better accommodations to fit these needs.
What should the government do to create a better environment for working mothers?
Our country needs a system to support all working families through paid parental leave, affordable healthcare, and childcare to all our residents. There is no federal legislation to protect working families.
How have you handled the COVID-19 pandemic regarding work and family?
As my husband and I continue to work from home, we agreed to stick to a routine and designate working spaces for each one of us. We are treating our day just as we would at the office, minus the commute. We are taking care of our health by including daily exercise and healthy food. We have limited news consumption to once per day and made sure to curate the news outlets that we listen to. Most importantly, we stay in touch with our loved ones while practicing social distancing, as this time has made it clearer that family is our priority.
What is a lesson that you have learned through this challenging time?
I have learned that I’m more vulnerable and stronger than I realized. I could have never foreseen being pregnant during a global pandemic! In this context, my motherhood journey has already tested me in many ways. There are different protocols for doctors’ appointments. Hospitals have limited entrance to patients only, which has been disappointing during routine visits, especially during ultrasounds. Going to a hospital is also scary. Being a first-time mother comes with a lot of unknowns, but this crisis brings it to a whole different level. In all, we have found other ways to celebrate the arrival of this baby and keep the joy. My friends and family have organized a virtual baby shower! I’ve learned the importance of being flexible, adapting to uncertainty, and that even in the hardest of times, there is always something to be grateful about.