Women & Work/Life Balance
Women in SEP2 was an initiative started in 2022 as suggested by one of our people whose goal was to bring together the women who work at our organisation. This focus group serves as a place to create relationships on a multi-disciplinary level across different teams, and to share ideas about how to address the growing skills gaps in the industry promoting diversity in all areas.
This week, Women in SEP2 will ponder the point of Work/Life Balance. It’s got me thinking about perceptions of women in the workplace trying to ‘do it all’ for their family and for themselves, trying not just to maintain a career, but forge a successful one.
I reflect upon my early career and my early twenties, where life in sales meant not just long hours working supremely hard, but equally long hours socialising and then decompressing from the hustle of the day.
I distinctly remember the whole office jovially waving off a 30 something single mother of two at 2:45pm shouting ‘enjoy your afternoon, part timer!’ and ‘think of us slaving away until 8pm won’t you!’
Yes, quite shameful in retrospect… Frankly it wasn’t until I had children myself that I realised;
That woman had left herself a mere 15 minutes to hotfoot it to her car and speed off to the playground, collect her children whom she would whizz home, get a snack, get them changed into their dance outfit or some other after school activity attire, taxi them to the venue, perhaps nip to the supermarket and whizz around at top speed before returning to collect from said activity, shoot off home to prepare a nutritious meal, get them bathed, read their book, kiss them goodnight… Over yet? Nope! Off downstairs to tidy from dinner, prepare the packed lunches, iron the uniform and maybe, just maybe grab five minutes to herself before collapsing into bed. Let’s not even start on her morning routine!
Cue ‘rinse and repeat’.
Meanwhile I’d be sitting in a trendy bar with a glass of Pinot Grigio, celebrating my closed deals with my other carefree colleagues, and would return home to a tidy apartment with only myself to get ready for the following day.
This particular woman took it like a champ, she would laugh with us and exclaim jovially ‘you guys have no idea!’, we were all in fact great friends and this is a particular friendship I maintain to this day. BUT we were all very focused on the length of time she was at the office, not the extraordinary quality and volume of her work during those hours.
Over the years we often reflected on the ignorance of life for working Mums, and she eventually got her own back when one by one we joined the realms of working mother/parenthood and exclaimed ‘ok, NOW we get it!’
Yes, the world has moved on… A bit. And these days, I’m responsible for HR at SEP2, and we don’t want the women or parents of SEP2 to experience that frustration and invalidation that used to be so normalised.
Whilst family friendly policies and shared parental leave make this less of a ‘women’s’ issue for some, these social changes take time to filter through, and many women still take the lion share of parental responsibilities whilst trying not just to work, but flourish in their careers. In the same way we educate our People about all diversity and representation, we’ll be eradicating any stigma around flexible working and will be truly recognising the superhuman power of working parents and the superhuman multitasking, organisation, and reasoning abilities they bring to the workplace.