The last time, I entered the stunning reception area of M&C Saatchi was nearly twenty years ago. I was being interviewed for my first position in advertising and was shaking like a leaf. The interview went well but I didn’t get the job and soon after landed my dream role at DDB London as an account manager.
Advertising has to be one of the most fun industries for a twenty something in London. We had large expense accounts, weekly client entertainment was the norm, which involved meetings (long lunches) in some of the best restaurants across London and team building trips to Rome and Paris (dreamy). We also worked very hard, often when pitching for new business working through the night and then delivering the pitch the following morning. I thrived off the pace at which we worked. Occasionally, I would look around the agency and wonder where all the women went as they got older; there were very few over the age of forty, whereas the mix of men and women in their twenties when I started was equal, perhaps even female heavy.
My account director had three children, I remember her being pregnant, working up until the day she gave birth and then being back at her desk within a couple of months. She was stressed, always racing in and racing out, and managing phone calls from childcare, the balance was not right and she was constantly feeling guilty about letting her children down. I had a feeling, that when my time came to have children, this industry was not going to work for me.
Fast forward ten years from my last job in an ad agency, I live outside of London, have three young children and retrained last year with Digital Mums. You can read all about how I got into Digital Mums in the article I wrote here on the blog. Digital Mums has changed my life.
This morning, I dropped the kids at school, went for a swim in the sea and was at my desk (in my bedroom) by 10am. At lunchtime, I’m going to pop out for a bike ride and get a nice coffee from my local coffee shop (interact with some humans; an important thing to do when you work remotely), then I’ll do some more work before school pick up.
According to a new report from Digital Mums, and the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr), almost 7 in 10 (68%) UK stay-at-home mums (SAHMs) living with children aged 18 and under would go back to work in some capacity if flexible working around childcare was an option, while over a third (37%) of working mums living with children would work additional hours.
Currently, 2.6 million mothers are out of the UK labour force, with Northern Ireland showing the highest share of non-working mums at 32%. By tapping into this current lost talent, businesses embracing flexible work could benefit from a total of 66 million hours more work a week – the equivalent of 1.76 million additional full-time workers – providing the UK economy with a £62.5 billion boost to output each year.
Can you even get your head around how crazy those figures are?
On Wednesday night, I walked back into M&C Saatchi for the second time in my life, this time as a Digital Mum. My confidence has come back, As a freelance social media manager, I have worked for clients from First News children’s newspaper (live tweeting from parliament during Brexit), The Institute of IT, running an e-safety campaign to teachers on Twitter, a local forest school, a children’s’ bedding company; and they were all during my first six months of graduating from the course.
In total over the last eight months, I have had to leave my home office four times for work, twice to tweet live from events and launches, once to meet up for yearly planning meeting and another time to have a thank you lunch from a client after a great launch. Not bad for a career that I love.
Speakers on the panel on Wednesday discussed their thoughts on flexible working for women.
Kathryn Tyler, co-founder and co-CEO, Digital Mums, said: “In 2016, women shouldn’t have to choose between a rewarding career and motherhood. While for some mums staying at home is a choice, our report shows that for a larger number their hands are tied because of a lack of flexible work options. Shockingly, for those who do find flexible work, it comes at a cost – compromised skills and experience.
“In today’s highly connected world, there’s simply no need for businesses to stick to an archaic 9-5 desk policy. We need a societal shift to embrace flexible working as the ‘norm’ and not the exception. This will not only help mums find rewarding careers that fit their skills and family life; it will help businesses tap into an amazing talent pool and, ultimately, increase output for the economy.”
Kate Thornton, runs the fantastic company TB Seen. She gets her team together on a Monday and Thursday morning, the rest of the time staff can be flexible with their work. She trusts them to work and as a result, it gets done. Kate recalled telling some schoolgate mums about the Digital Mums course. “They pop their heads up like meercats, they can’t believe that there could be a career for them that is so flexible.”
Mother Pukka made a very good point about flexible working, “this is not some crazy revolution, its evolution.” And Holly Tucker, one of the co-founders of Not On The High Street said that “when you run a business you need to lead by example. People won’t leave to pick up their kids, until you do.” Holly has set up a new company, supporting small businesses and I am hoping to write more about this soon.
Do you work in a job that is flexible around your family? Or do you have a mad dash in the morning just to get to your desk, only to clock watch and pray that school don’t call about an ill child because your employer will look down on you?
My three boys, will grow up seeing both their parents working flexibly. Mr P came home early from work, to enable me to attend the event in London. Tomorrow, I am working in London, and he will pick up the childcare that I am unable to do. We support each other and are lucky to both have jobs that allow us to be flexible. By supporting #workthatworks we are helping our children in the future to have lives that are more balanced.
Head over to the Digital Mums website to find out more about their #workthatworks manifesto. There are companies out there starting to listen, and with more people backing this campaign, finding work that works will get easier. The more people who know about this the better, so please do share this article.
Thanks for reading.