Government Launches Women’s Business Council

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.

Working Mum

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.

Women's Business Council Members will explore ways to unlock women's potential as leaders and entrepreneurs

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.

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