Supporting Women in Work

I was recently watching the news and getting excited about the up and coming Wimbledon Games (yes, a big tennis fan!). Conversation turned to Serena Williams, who is returning after taking sometime out after having her baby – congratulations Serena! It was discussing what seeding Serena would be given and that she might have to start at the bottom of the ranking list as she has been on maternity leave. It got me thinking, is this something that most women experience when returning from maternity leave – feeling like they have to work their way up again to demonstrate their skills and ability? Little different if you choose to ‘step down’ or side step, but what if you do want to return and do a job you enjoyed and a company you were loyal to.

I liked Serena’s quote stating “combining a mum and a professional tennis player presents its challenges but motherhood has changed the way I look at things”.

It’s so true, all of a sudden you return to a job, a different person in many ways as you now have to think constantly for two and life isn’t as simple as it was before. Doesn’t mean you are not still good at your job!

I do remember the first day I returned to work after having my son three years ago and wiping my self down with baby wipes as there were shoe marks down my trousers, as I had carried him into nursery! I’m sure we have all been there!!!

I have met a lot of working Mum’s on my recent work on professional studies and I always admire how so many women are developing themselves professionally, keeping up a job with lots of responsibilities and looking after children when they are not working. It’s interesting to see how many are focused on co-parenting responsibilities these days. Certainly happens in my household! We have had some honest conversations during these chats about engagement and how loyal they are to their job. Engagement and motivation to succeed certainly stems from the company’s culture of supporting both return to work and flexibility whilst doing the job. Strong supportive cultures seem to welcome the fact people are balancing lots of plates and look at ways to support this, as they appreciate they don’t want to lose their good people.

Do we still think its possible to be good at both? It saddens me when I hear of people leaving organisation due to this lack of support, feeling overwhelmed and watching their confidence decrease – these were once strong professionals.

Having recently had my second baby, this is a subject close to me. We approached my ‘maternity leave’ in a different way with my husband taking up the new policy around Shared Parental Leave (SPL). He had several months off as I continued to work from home supporting my Enhance & Aspire clients. SPL still felt like such a new subject when we talked to people about this. We experienced such differences of opinions! All I can say, is my husband and daughter have a very special bond and he has since returned back to work in the same role balancing a life of a full time job and two children! (Plus a wife that works away!!) Let’s hope in the future, the uptake has increased, and we can then be discussing how our cultures can support both men and women returning from leave after having children.

Are company’s talking about this subject and looking at ways of supporting working families? I say families and I do hope that SPL will become part of our future.

Please do promote your SPL policy and look at how you can support your loyal employees who want to be able to juggle both work and family successfully!

I will certainly keep you updated on my journey!

Through enhancing your people and processes, you can reach what you aspire your business to be!

What children can teach us

I have recently come back from a lovely relaxing week in Spain (for the half term break). Whilst I was there I had a lot of time to think about things and watch how confident my 4 year old daughter has become. She was happily running off during the evening to join in the games at the kids club and was happily chatting to everyone – some of them were even brought over and introduced to us!

Then I had a bit of a ‘moment’ whilst me and my husband were watching her on the bouncy castle. She was merrily bouncing away and making even more friends and her smile was getting wider and wider. She would occasionally glance over at us, just to check we were still watching her (but not that often as she was lost in the moment of play). We watched her playing and talking to all the other children on there. Then when she’d bounced enough she came over to us hand-in-hand with another little girl. She wanted to introduce her to us, they were both smiling, but it soon became obvious that the new friend didn’t speak English. Yet, nothing stopped them playing games together – they needed one common language, the language of play. They could fully interact and have fun together without the need for shared words.

This was such a lovely moment both for us as parents, but also a powerful one for me as a professional – when did we stop learning how to interact with each other? When did we start to question the best way to communicate with someone we didn’t know? When did we start to give up if it was too hard?

My husband actually looked at me and said ‘why can’t life be as simple as having fun on a bouncy castle’. I totally agreed with him as well – why isn’t it this simple? Or is it this simple yet we over complicate it?

I have realised I have a lot to learn from my daughter, and I need to make the time to listen and observe her so I can continue to learn from her. She can teach us about how to make a better and more fun world for ourselves (as can many other children), we just need to recognise this.

When we think about culture at work, we often start trying to map things out and diversity and inclusion becomes a key factor to consider and document. Now whilst I agree that this is very important, wouldn’t a true culture reflect this anyway? My daughter didn’t reach out to find someone that didn’t speak English so she could actively include them in her new friendship group – in fact the opposite happened…they were playing a similar game in the same space, so they joined up together to share in the fun. Isn’t that just what a real culture at work should be – joining together to help each other (and not for the reward but for the smiles)?

Let’s all go out and create our own ‘bouncy castle culture’ – let’s all bounce, have fun, meet new people, collaborate and enjoy!