The number of women in the workplace today (full-time or part-time) has risen considerably since the 1970s. In 2010, 72 million women (58.6%) were in the labor force, both employed and unemployed (Bureau of Labor Statistics, Women in the Labor Force, 2010). Mothers make up a significant portion of that number. Statistics for 2012 show that 70.5% of mothers with children under the age of 18 participate in the labor force (Bureau of Labor Statistics, Working mothers in 2012). With so many mothers in the workforce, it’s to be expected that many are Catholic. Whether they work part-time or full-time, in retail, in an office, or in any number of work environments, Catholic women in the workplace live out their vocations as women and mothers in diverse ways while at work.
Our Catholic faith is part of who we are and thus not something we can leave behind when we head off to work. This may seem contrary to the business culture around us, especially in the public sphere, but it is totally doable. At the end of this post, I have provided a list of resources on how all Catholics can live their faith in the workplace. Check those out for additional information.
This post will focus specifically on women and mothers in the workplace. As a Catholic woman and mother I sometimes struggle with how to live out my faith in the workplace. It is challenging in a secular, public work environment and I imagine I’m not the only one who struggles with this. How do we evangelize those around us when religion is a taboo topic? It’s my opinion that we can evangelize others through our actions and be true witnesses of our faith by how we treat others, how we present ourselves, and how we care for our fellow co-workers. Actions speak louder than words.
Below are five suggestions on how we as Catholic women can be witnesses of the faith and evangelize to others in the workplace. but first there are two points that can apply to all Catholic men and women.
First, always remember to pray. Prayer is the most important aspect of our faith and not something to be set aside during work hours. Ten minutes at lunch, a quick prayer when you sit down at your desk or on your way to a meeting, an afternoon break to say the Divine Mercy Chaplet, any of these things and more can easily be incorporated into your day regardless of the type of work you are doing.
Second, don’t overdo it. By that I mean, be careful how you are witnessing to those around you. In the workplace you are surrounded by people of all faiths and no faith. Don’t be so forward with your faith that you turn someone off to it. It is important that we each evaluate the environment we are in and take an approach that works well in that environment and for us. You want someone to be attracted to how you live your life and treat those around you so that they come to you rather than run from you.
And now, five suggestions for Catholic women in the workplace:
Keep a Tidy Work Space
I know! This sounds like a strange suggestion, but stay with me. I once worked with a woman who had the neatest desk I’ve ever seen. She was also a strong Christian woman and one day I finally put the two together. She had such a focus and always completed tasks in a timely manner and almost always had such a good attitude about her work. I really think the tidy work space contributed to her ability to stay focused on her work and assisted her in keeping a good attitude. She had nothing to distraction her and it led to peace of mind. Women can be great multi-taskers, but often what we think of as multi-tasking is really distractions that cause us to constantly change our focus, which is not as productive as we like to tell ourselves. If we can create an environment in which we can keep our focus on the task at hand, we can approach those tasks with a positive attitude. As a Catholic we should look to our work as a positive good.
Be a Mother, It’s Who You Are
God calls women to some form of motherhood. How that motherhood manifests itself varies for each of us. Whether you have children at home or not, we can all bring our motherhood into the workplace. Show compassion for the people you work with: your supervisor, your peers, those you supervise. Show them that you care about them and that you can take a few minutes to listen if they need to talk about something. As mothers we do this sort of thing automatically with our kids. You can do the same in the workplace. Eventually people start to know that you are a caring and compassionate person who will take five minutes to listen and offer consolation when needed.
Keep a Servant’s Attitude
Christ has called us to be good and faithful servants. Be a servant in everything you do. Keep that positive attitude toward your work, stay on task, and be willing to go above and beyond. Be a servant also to those who work for you. As a supervisor, I view it as part of my responsibilities to help my staff be successful in their jobs. I try to do anything I can to serve them to that end. I believe women have a strong inclination to a servants heart. Bring that with you into the workplace.
This one can be so hard. Office gossip is part of the culture almost everywhere. Don’t participate. If at all possible walk away when the conversation around the office coffee pot heads in this direction. Be okay with others recognizing that you are the one who will not stand for tearing others down. You might just have an effect on the office culture as a whole, or at least your little corner of it.
Don’t Be Afraid to Show Your Feminine Side
Bringing our femininity into the workplace is a good thing. Women can still be competitive and strong leaders in the workforce while also being true to their God-given nature. I’ve already mentioned being compassionate to others, add to that being generous with your time and being sensitive to the needs of others. These are our gifts from God and we can use them in the workplace to be witnesses to the beauty of womanhood and our Catholic faith.
For more helpful resources on bringing your faith life into the workplace, check out these articles and other resources:
“Six Practical Ideas for Integrating our Catholic Faith with Work” by Randy Hain (Integrated Catholic Life)
“Faith in your workplace” by Randy Hain (Catholic News Agency)
“Show Catholic Courage in the Workplace” by Randy Hain (National Catholic Register)
“What every Catholic needs to know about witnessing your faith at work” by Eric Sammons (Our Sunday Visitor)
The Working Catholic Mom by Mary Wallace (who also just started a summer series of posts on saints for working moms)