When I look back on my career, I feel very lucky for the fabulous experiences that I have had, especially twelve years at a professional services firm. In this role, I worked late, partied hard, travelled and worked all over the world and learnt an incredible amount BUT I was single, young and carefree. I was ‘master of my own domain’. Then I read Katherine Zaleski’s article I am sorry to all the mothers I used to work with and it made me think. Was I like this, in any way? And I discovered to my shame – I was……:
- I know I wondered to myself why a pregnant colleague used to need to take off so much time for Dr’s appointments
- I know I thought it was a bit of nuisance in HR, trying to hold open roles for maternity leave (as it was called then)
- I know I did not speak up loud enough when male colleagues said “no candidates that are likely to want to have babies in the next couple of years” for fear of being considered in that group
- I know I thought the mums racing home and missing out on Friday night drinks were missing out on an opportunity to grow their career (reality is they probably had more fun plus the benefit of no hangover)
- The reality is, and I am ashamed to say, I too had some of this attitude in me and I too am a woman. I should have been supporting women and not assisting in their discrimination. I should have spoken up.
I also wonder whether I would have been able to achieve what I did in that time in my career had I been a mother? I believe the answer is no. Not then, maybe now but still I am not sure. I went to Bangalore for 3 months in 2003, managing a team of 50 – with a baby? Forget it!
Fast forward 15 years and I had have had three kids in 3 years, left my corporate life and started my own business Employee Matters. I now actively seek and hire Mums and I believe that I have tapped into a ‘talent gold mine’. My team is filled with brilliant mums with exceptional experience who are seeking flexibility, so that they can still do great work and be a great mum. The work / life balance that many are seeking but few truly find.
So life and experience does teach you many lessons. I too, as others have said, celebrate International Women’s Day on the 8th March, now older and wiser however, my hope is that my daughters won’t need the event in 20 years because we will finally have achieved true equality.