Motherhood and leadership — two roles that are often considered incompatible in today’s corporate world. Despite significant progress in gender equality, only 8.2% of S&P 500 companies are led by women, and the percentage is even smaller when considering those who are also mothers. The age-old myth that working moms are less committed to their roles continues to permeate workplace culture. Against this backdrop, we sat down with Christina-Anna, who is not only the VP of Operations at Runtastic but also a mother. She offers us a raw look at her journey in a part-time leadership role while parenting.
diverse career trajectory: from journalism to tech leadership
Christina-Anna Stenz's career path reflects a rich tapestry of roles, each weaving into her identity as a leader and a mother. Beginning in journalism, she developed a keen sense for communication and narrative, skills that later underpinned her success in the tech industry. Her move to Runtastic marked a significant transition, where she grew from an editor role to VP of Content, and eventually to VP of Operations. This progression was not just a professional leap but coincided with her stepping into motherhood. Christina-Anna herself reflects on this dual role, saying, "Quite a bit changed when my son was born in 2022. I returned part-time and led different projects, before taking on an interim leadership role as the VP of Operations." Her ability to navigate these dual roles with grace and determination offers a powerful example of modern leadership in the tech world.
the dilemma of part-time leadership and parenthood
It's an all-too-familiar tale for working mothers. They are subjected to societal pressure and perception that belies their value as employees. The moment Christina-Anna decided to work part-time, the reactions were polarized. From assumptions that she was not fully committed to her job to being judged for returning to work "too soon" after giving birth, she experienced the spectrum of societal norms that often label mothers as "less committed" to their work.
be the rolemodel
But not all is gloom. "The best thing was when another mom told me that I was a role model," Christina-Anna says. That moment alone gave her the strength and validation she needed to continue down her unique path. It was a beacon of what could be possible for mothers in the workplace.
leadership traits for part-time work
Navigating a part-time role requires a unique set of skills. "You need to be well organized and focus even more on prioritizing urgent tasks," shares Christina-Anna. The experience has reshaped her leadership style, making her more empathetic and attuned to the diverse needs of her team.
advice for more inclusive workplaces
Transforming workplaces into more inclusive environments starts with rethinking old-fashioned expectations around leadership. “The old-fashioned expectation of leaders having to work more than full-time needs to be thrown out”, Christina-Anna firmly states. She also emphasizes the need to respect the work-life boundaries of part-time employees. “One thing that frustrated me was people tend to forget about my working hours”, she notes, highlighting how emails and messages arrive during her off-hours and meetings are often scheduled without respecting her limited availability. This oversight doesn't merely add stress; it invades the family time that is crucial to these part-time workers.
'It is a constant learning curve and, of course, you have to stand up for yourself.' - Christina-Anna Stenz
Christina-Anna urges that change is not just the responsibility of organizational policies but also rests on individuals within the workplace. She calls on everyone, including male allies who often dominate leadership roles, to recognize and appreciate the unique value and perspectives that working mothers bring to the table.
Societal norms need to change to accommodate the evolving roles that mothers and parents take on. We need to challenge the dated perceptions that handicap the aspirations of working mothers.
It starts with each one of us. Are you willing to question your own biases? To make your workplace more inclusive? Then, let’s all be part of the solution.
Christina-Anna serves as the VP of Operations at Runtastic, a leading fitness and health tech company. Balancing her high-powered career with the responsibilities of motherhood, she has made the daring choice to navigate her leadership role on a part-time basis. With a unique perspective on what it takes to balance family life with career ambitions, Christina-Anna offers us invaluable insights into the challenges and rewards of part-time leadership.