The Honesty Blog of a Working Mum
Words by Mollie Chamberlain.
With work life balance quite literally hanging in the balance across the nation, it’s never been more paramount to start shifting the dynamic for working parents within businesses.
It has become far too easy and common for businesses to see ED&I as a tick box exercise that can be accomplished by making lacklustre, minor adjustments, often with little meaning behind them. By continuing down this path, we will not only continue to fail the underrepresented communities within the workplace, but we are setting back timelines for the future generations.
As a proud, part-time working mum myself, I could spend all day talking about not only the challenges faced, but the fears and worries I had about returning to work after spending the most incredible 15 months raising and nurturing my iron-willed daughter.
Anyone who knows me well enough, will know that I’m a fairly open book; what you see is what you get, and if I’m passionate about something, you can absolutely guarantee that I will make my voice heard.
It angers and upset me, far more than I could ever vocalise, the number of times throughout my career as a Recruitment Consultant I have had to fight for the rights of working mums. I’ve been faced with far too many situations in which hiring managers have suggested it would be far ‘easier’ to hire a full-time member of staff, or more ‘convenient’ to hire a male candidate over a female candidate as, God forbid, they may wish to take time out to raise a family. Thankfully, as times are changing, these occurrences are becoming few and far between, but it’s not good enough, and there is still so much work to do when it comes to supporting woman’s careers in the workplace.
I have been lucky enough to spend the morning with Genny, and Michelle, two other working mums that I am truly proud to work alongside, here at Sanderson Government & Defence. We’ve been talking openly and honestly about motherhood. The up’s, the downs, the in-betweens, and our transitions back into the workplace. We’ve been sharing stories, sharing strengths, and putting the world to rights, because let’s face it – the future generations deserve nothing more than to grow up believing they really can do anything they want regardless of their gender, race, sexuality, religion, or anything else for that matter.
So here goes, the honesty blog of three working mums at Sanderson G&D.
To kick-start things, I asked Michelle what her initial fears and concerns were, when she started looking for a new role as a working mum, and here’s what she had to say…
"My number one priority when looking for a new role was that it absolutely had to offer part time hours. My concerns and fears only increased when I saw how few jobs were advertised online as ‘part time’. I didn’t necessarily need a role that offered school hours, but I wanted to do 20/25 hours per week which from my experience was very difficult to find from a prospective employer. When I had initially returned to my previous role after maternity leave 8-years ago, I felt as though I was being pushed out of the business. None of the other consultants were working parents, and no one in the business worked part-time hours, so I was made to feel like an inconvenience.
"I was given the ultimatum of either working full time hours, or moving on from the business entirely, as I was told they could not ‘accommodate’ the hours I had requested. Given the fact that I was already working a 40-hour week which was 8-5.30, with little to no flexibility, it was impossible for me to commit to a full-time role. I had only just returned from maternity leave and was saddened by the fact that I would have such little time with my child during the week. With that in mind, I decided I needed to start the search for a new role, but there were certainly new worries, and concerns around whether I would be able to find a business who was willing to work around my childcare needs. Things have certainly changed in the last 8 years, and I’m pleased to see that my previous employer have now evolved and adapted to flexible working."
Next up, I spoke to Genny, who joined the business earlier this year to find out a little more about her recruitment experience with Sanderson G&D...
"After having my son, I also returned to my employer at the time, working three days a week which they were thankfully willing to consider at the time. After a little while in this role, I realised that I was up for a new challenge, and I was keen to find a new opportunity where I could expand on my previous experience. My husband had received a promotion while I was on maternity leave, which had lit a fire within me to drive my own career forward. I initially interviewed for a Sales role with another business. I had great feedback from my interview and was told they wanted me to progress to the final interview stage, at this point I said I wasn’t ready to do full time hours and would like to do three or four days. The response from said business, was that they wouldn’t be able to facilitate any flexibility around hours/days and that they needed a full-time member of staff. I then spent a lot of time explaining how I could make it work, and suggested an opportunity to prove this to them. It’s surprising in this day and age that a business who has branded themselves as innovative were so quick to say ‘no’ to the needs of a working mum.
"Thankfully the recruitment process with Sanderson was an entirely different experience. During my interview process with Nick, I was asked what I was looking for, what was important to me within a role, and what my aspirations and strengths were. From there, we worked together to build a role around all of those things, based on me working a three-day week. I feel really lucky to be able to continue my career development, whilst also being able to spend two days of the week with my son."
Michelle then talked us through how she juggles being a mum and working full time...
"For me, organisation is key, and I live by my diary. There is so much to remember when it comes to juggling work whilst being a mum. From school drop offs, work meetings, kids’ activities, school dress down days, PE kits, lunch boxes etc. I try to make my life easier by doing things like a weekly online food shop, and doing the house work in the evenings when the children are in bed. That combined with multiple reminder alerts on my phone makes things just that little bit easier.
"Sanderson has been really great at offering a flexible environment, whether that’s for children’s doctor/dentist appointments, sports days, or school plays. It’s very clear that family comes first, and that is echoed across the wider business. I’ve been lucky enough at Sanderson to work in a hybrid environment which has meant I often get to do school pickups/drop offs, but equally I love my time in the office, where I get to chat with my colleagues, and I am able to bounce ideas around and learn from the people around me."
When I reflect on my own personal experience of looking for a new role after having my daughter, there were so many important factors, from flexibility, social aspects, the core beliefs of the business and the team I would surround myself with. I can’t speak on behalf of all mums, but I felt that during my maternity leave, I had lost a little bit of my identity and felt that my career would forever be on the backburner, which is something I really struggled with. Working in an environment where there is so much opportunity for variety, and where I feel I get to make a genuine difference has made me feel like my old self once more. From business events, networking opportunities, CSR meet-ups, ED&I training, Woman in Tech campaigns and so much more.
When my daughter is older, I want her to be able to advocate for herself, to feel that her voice will, and should always be heard. I want to set the example for her, that she, at no point should feel that she should ‘stay quiet’ or hide in the shadows in times where positive change is needed. I hope this article helps to give hope to any new mums looking to return to work, and I hope this will remind businesses out there, who are struggling to shift the dynamic, that people really are your biggest asset.