Flexible Working

There was a time a few years back when I had an office full of mothers working for me. This wasn’t by design, it just kind of happened. Nonetheless, someone once asked me what the benefit of working mums was to my business. In short:

1. They’ve zero interest in office politics – they’ve more important things to do.
2. They don’t take or give any bullshit.
3. They’ve a level of efficiency even German engineers can only dream of . . . after all, Monkey Magic starts when it starts, and there’s no way a mother is ever going to miss a Monkey Magic session with her child!

I’d forgotten about this period of mum-filled office life, until one of those mums decided to go and use it as a shining example of how flexible working for working mums should be and wrote a fabulous article (and frankly – what article featuring me wouldn’t be fabulous . . . if only for my ego??) – so: Zoe, thanks lots.

Interested in flexible working? Zoe’s article, her article in full (reproduced with her permission):

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With little support for mothers in the workplace, it is little wonder that when women start having families their career and their finances suffer irrecoverable damage.

The only route for many mothers is to either set up their own business or take a break while they have their children and go back to a lower paid role.

The estimated 427,000 women currently on career breaks, 249,000 (three in five) are likely to come back into lower skilled, lower paid roles. Women Returners survey – November 2016.

I want to take you back to 2009, I was 29 and unexpectedly pregnant. My thoughts were:

“Oh my god, soon I am going to have a child to support – I need to sort out my financial life so I can feed and house my child”

The panic really set in – who on earth is going to give a job to a pregnant woman?

Plus even if I did get a job after my maternity, how on earth would I work in a 9-5 job and be the mother I wanted to be?

In the UK most employers expected to work obligatory overtime, coupled with the two hours commute to work and back, the normal amount of time away from your home is often 11 or 12 hours.

How on earth was I supposed to do this?  Yes there are nursery’s but I certainly didn’t want my child to be in one from 8-6. Plus if I went on this road of working from 9-5, what happened when my child started primary school? I wanted to be the person who picked her up from school and who took her in. Unless I could find an employer who would allow me to arrive to work at 10am and finish at 2.20pm which was unlikely.

I had little choice but to set up a small business that I could easily manage from home and so I started booking performers for events and parties. It was work that I could do at home and I could fit around my baby’s routine.

However I became isolated and although I had plenty of mummy groups and mum friends, I did not have any camaraderie at work and was alone for the majority of the time.

Starting something new in an industry I did not already have connections in was really tough.

I had a new baby and I was 100% breastfeeding, going out networking was impossible.   

When my baby was 5 months old my husband almost died from a rare heart condition.

3 weeks he spent in intensive care and when he returned home from the hospital he was so weak he really couldn’t do much.

Suddenly I wasn’t just the main carer for my baby I was also a carer for my husband.  I was the main bread winner, earning an income from my laptop at home. I used to answer the work phone in my living room praying my feeding baby wouldn’t cry or make a sound. It was a hugely stress-full time.

A year later I negotiated a long contract, highly paid job on the Olympics with the most mum friendly boss ever – Will Glendinning.  Will, truly understood the power of flexible working and the majority of the team who worked with Will on the Olympics were mums. Will, didn’t worry about what time or where the work was done, he gave his team trust and respect and in return gained a hardworking team who respected him greatly. I learnt a lot about management working with Will and Rachel (Dulai) in 2012, I also saw that flexible working worked well not just for the mums, but it worked well for the business.

Mums have a laser sharp vision to get to the route of the of the problem and deliver good quality work in a short amount of time. They know their time is precious and limited, so they do not waste time.

Shortly after finishing on the Olympics, I interviewed for a large well known agency. I had a good CV and good relevant experience, however during the interview I was asked how old my baby was and whether I intended on having more children.  I came out of that interview feeling deflated and questioning whether I should have hidden the fact I had a child. Unsurprisingly they did not call me to work for them. It’s really hard to prove discrimination, but this was almost certainly my experience of it.

There are many stories such as mine, mothers who were in good jobs but have suffered discrimination while pregnant or afterwards with the responsibilities that come with raising a young family. It is little wonder the statistics on gender equality in the workplace are so stark:

Hilly James reports in the Sunday Times (5th February 2017) :

“men and women enter professions in equal numbers, but women comprise of only 40% of middle managers, 20% at senior levels and less than half of that figure in CEO positions.”

Major banks such as UBS, LLoyds, Natwest have put in place major initiative and schemes to retain women in their own workforces as the numbers are so low.

When women get to the age of being considered for senior management and CEO positions, many are starting a family.

There is little choice, they can either put off having a family until they are much older, or they can choose starting a family when they want to, however choosing the latter is detrimental to one’s earning ability in the present and in the future.