I had a dream…When I was young, I had great ambitions to work in marketing. I decided I would work on glitzy New York fashion magazines and travel the world. I didn’t want to be a designer, as many of my friends did, but instead I wanted to be an advertising creative, writing slogans and casting models for Chanel adverts. I stuck with my ideas and later after a stint of work experience for a Manchester ad agency I decided a career in marketing was for me. I was a Yorkshire lass and all this came as a bit of a shock to my bemused careers teacher who thought I’d be a better English teacher.
However, I had supportive parents that never discouraged me and they worked hard to fund my university days where I studied Marketing. I qualified and also gained my Chartered Marketing professional qualifications. It turned out I had a good head for strategy and business. I developed my career and aged 32 headed up the marketing and business development department of a leading UK organisation. Okay I admit, it was hardly New York glamour but I thoroughly enjoyed my role and was pretty good at it too, with sales and profits growing each year.
I then had my first child and things changed dramatically. I had new requirements and found it hard to fit in both family and organisation needs. I think my company did the best they knew to accommodate my need for flexibility but neither of us really knew how to make it work properly. I was allowed to return part time initially but the workload wasn’t distributed anywhere else and I ended up returning full time when my daughter was just a baby.
In reality I was working in exactly the same way I had done before. I was putting in extraordinary hours and did a lot of travelling – (well I was a senior manager and that’s what senior managers are expected to do aren’t they?). I was told by my male colleague “that’s it, you have baby brain now – you’ll never be same again” and from that moment I felt I always had something extra to prove. I loved my job and really thrived on the daily challenges and successes but my work –life balance was always a struggle. This went on for 4 years until I became pregnant with my second child and redundancy was on the table, I opted for voluntary redundancy.
Stay at Home Mum
I stayed at home with my young son and did the school run with my 6 year old daughter. Time away from work gave me thinking space. I set myself up as a freelancer offering marketing services that lend themselves more easily to flexible hours and locations. It’s a shame to think that the only way I can get back to work in a senior position is to be self- employed.
Back to Work Mum
I’m not alone. I stand in the playground with other mums. There’s an ex-solicitor and an ex-senior manager that are struggling to find senior roles in companies that offer the flexibility or indeed even understand working parents requirements.
Women’s Business Council
So, it’s not surprising that I welcome the government’s launch of the Women’s Business Council. It’s an informal advisory body set up to examine ways of maximising women’s contribution to economic growth. Chaired by Ruby McGregor-Smith CBE, CEO at MITIE, the council is made up of 9 members that will assess priorities in challenging the barriers that women face in playing a full part in business and the workplace. I read with great interest the council’s first evidence paper and could relate to most of it first-hand. I believe there is so much work to be done with companies and recruiting managers to update their attitudes and radically redefine ‘flexible working’. It’s 2012 – women are having babies and the same women want to work, surely the two can co-exist a lot more easily to suit all parties involved? I wish the Council every success and will be looking forward to the outcomes of their work.
If you are interested in the work of the equalities office you can subscribe to their women’s engagement newsletter herePosted in Blog Tagged advice for women in business, business support for women, equality for women, Female business leaders, women in business |