I had a brilliant night last night at the Ivy Club where I shared a platform with three spectacular women. The topic was an age old debate about whether women can have a successful career and a family. Crazy right. How can we still be having this debate in 2017.
But it was fascinating to hear the experiences of Viv, Claudette, Julia, and the audience members. The themes that were discussed were on the whole nothing new.
- Employers pre-judging pregnant women and mothers and making future career decisions based on their ‘commitment’
- Lack of flexibility
- Being evaluated on presenteeism rather than outcomes and impact
- Women not being kind to each other and offering a hand up
- The stigma of being defined as a ‘mummy’
But despite all this, what was clear was the progress that has been made over the past 40 years. The experience of Claudette, who’s eldest is 44, is incredibly different to mine with a 15 month old. And this should be celebrated. The progress made should be applauded, but there should be no let up in demanding that businesses and society recognise the importance of women in the workplace and the impact working mums can have.
Julia and Viv both work for themselves. They’ve opted out of the traditional workplace and made a huge success of their careers and home life. This is increasingly an option more and more women are taking as it allows them to define their working patterns and be masters of their own destiny.
My own experience has been nothing but positive. Why? Because I work for an incredibly progressive business. Because my husband is a real partner and shares the childcare responsibilities equally. Because I place value on what I achieve and the impact I have. Because I try to always be present when I’m at work, at home, or at play.
It’s not always easy. But it’s worth it. I love work, I love being a mummy, and I do my best to live every moment of my life.
As a senior business leader, my commitment is to do whatever I can to ensure that women (and men for that matter) have the tools and the confidence to blend careers and lives. No one in 2017 should have to choose between having a successful career and a fulfilled life.