Today was wonderful, inspiring and bloody fantastic – mums and dads marching and singing for equality, marching for better maternity and paternity rights, marching for better communication about childcare and parent rights.
Today’s march in Newcastle was loud and passionate and I am so proud to be part of it, proud to know the women who organised it and proud to know a whole lot of the parents who marched and took part today.
The speakers were equally passionate about wanting change. My friend Liz spoke and her words resonated with so many people…
“So, naturally, because I am a woman, when I got asked to speak
today I immediately thought “no, not me, I can’t do that. What
qualifies me to address anyone with my story?”
It’s not that my story is that special, it’s not that important. But
the more I thought about it the more I realised that there is
something rare about my story and being asked to tell it is a
real privilege in itself and something I gladly do.
The reality is I am a minority. Even with all the privileges I have
which have enabled me to have a successful career I still am
one of a small number of women in senior leadership positions-
and pertinent for today a mother with 2 small children in a
I’ve worked for some great companies, and would say that until
I had children saw no gender discrimination at all in my
workplaces. As a graduate I set off at the same rate as my male
counterparts, had the pick of jobs I wanted, I’d been brought
up to aim high, I could be anything I wanted.
The companies I worked for knew that talent comes in all
forms, a diverse array of individuals. These companies invested
in me as an employee and supported me as a parent.
And they knew what many companies know- that there is well
documented evidence that proves a balanced workforce from
board level to shop floor produces better results. This isn’t just
common sense, it’s good business sense.
So today I feel a bit sad, no, make that angry and it is quite
frankly unacceptable that as we move into 2018 – 100 years
since women won the right to vote, that more than three
quarters of mothers suffer discrimination at work. That
employers and managers think it’s acceptable to make
assumptions about our motivation, commitment and focus just
because we decide to have kids.
Do they not know that if you can juggle the demands of a
family your CV takes a real boost. Need an expert negotiator,
arbitrator, manager and multitasker? Ask a mother.
Need someone who know the difference between urgent and
important? Ask a mother.
Nothing forces you to focus at work and get the job done than
the need to get away to make that nursery pick up by 6. When
they are present they are really present. Motherhood is the
ultimate efficiency bootcamp.
So what made a difference to me? Company culture is
important but as an enabler. Ultimately my drive and ambition
were best supported by 2 key factors.
The first was my first female boss. She challenged me, she
supported me and she championed me. She spoke to me
honestly about needing to get a grip of my childcare. Showed
me how to prioritise. She never judged me, or patronised me.
She treated me like an adult. She cried with me when I
miscarried and gave me time when I dealt with my husband’s
depression. She shaped who I am.
We couldn’t be more different yet today I hear her voice when I
speak to my team at work. She showed me what was possible
and that’s what I want to do to other working mums today.
The second, is my husband Steve, my teammate my partner my
rock. The man who didn’t question that he should go down to a
3 day working week when our eldest daughter was born 8 years
ago. Who now does the school run every day even though it’s
such a chore, day in day out.
But for me to work away, go to events and pursue a career that
fulfils me I couldn’t do everything. We cannot do everything.
We may be able to have it all but that shouldn’t mean doing it
all. We have found our own rhythm and it goes out of balance
from time to time but our goals are the same. Being there for
our girls, providing for them materially and emotionally.
Your partner has to prove they know what partnership really
means. Whether that’s supporting you to be the breadwinner
or being the man that asks for flexible working or six months
So for all the working mummies out there like me who leave for
work before the kids wake up, and who sometimes don’t get to
put them to bed either. Who juggle the to do lists, buy the
birthday presents and cook the dinners. Who are sick of
hearing themselves say “put on your shoes”. Who can deliver a
presentation on 4 hours sleep. Who pump breastmilk in hotels,
offices and toilets or wipe a child’s snot off their suit before a
big meeting. Whose real job never gives you a break, or
Mums who like work because of the challenge, the opportunity,
the variety. Not to mention hot cups of tea, solo trips to the loo
and not having a small person climbing on you during the day.
Keep up the good work.
Our economy and our future generations depend on you.
And if your employers don’t respect you, they don’t deserve
you. Keep marching on.”
So let’s keep the momentum going, let us keep campaigning for changing and, as Annie said in her speech today – we need to start including dads in conversations about childcare and flexible working – these need to be parent issues, not just mum/women’s issues!