Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Stair-gates On Your Career Ladder?

There is a brilliant article in Marie Claire this month on baby-proofing your career.  As a working mother myself I experience daily the challenge of juggling ‘being a mum’ and a PR professional. 

The article says that many women start to take their foot off the career pedal even when they are just thinking about getting pregnant.  They stop striving for promotion,  inevitably get frustrated and bored, and then have little desire to return to their job post baby.  In fact a recent survey on workingmums.co.uk showed that out of 300 mothers, 71% had taken a step back in their career or stayed at the same level after having a baby.  

Within the feature are small nuggets of sensible advice to avoid this:

• Keep your foot on the gas – you don’t know how long it will take you to conceive
• Get as much experience as possible in your 20s & 30s
• Have a long-term career plan
• Choose your partner carefully – domestic chores & childcare responsibilities should be shared equally

I would add that building a network of childcare support locally is really important.  If, like me you don’t employ a nanny or have family nearby then help from neighbours and friends become essential.  Your child’s nursery can also be an excellent pool of emergency childcare options.

Within the PR industry women dominate at entry level, but the number drops dramatically at board level – and we are better than most sectors!  I have experienced negativity towards part-time working within the PR industry and completely understand the challenges this can bring.  But actually, the workingmums.co.uk survey revealed that a desire for flexible working in full-time jobs is increasing amongst mums.

I am lucky because I work for a progressive company where the CEO and MD are working mothers.  At Cirkle we offer flexible working to men and women with or without children so we can promote good work/life balance.  And we have been rewarded with an increase in productivity and loyalty.
For many giving up work or changing jobs to suit being a parent is the best option for them and their family.  The problem comes when the choice is taken away and the decision not to return to a career is made due to logistical difficulties or working for an inflexible company, and not because it is what they really want. 

I’m passionate about this because I care about equality in the work place and see first-hand the PR talent that can be wasted because people just can’t make parenthood and a career work.  There are other factors, like affordable childcare.  But for me, flexibility for all (so that the dads can do their fair share) in the PR workplace would be a great step towards the bigger issue of inequality in our boardrooms.

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