Archives for category: Maternity

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It has struck me recently as absurd the way in which women tell their employees that they are pregnant.  “I’m so sorry” seems to be a common offering.  Both absurd and somehow understandable when you consider the cultural backdrop in the workplace against which the conversation happens.  And yet I think there’s another conversation that needs tackling so that workplaces can become more inclusive – the ‘I’m trying to get pregnant (and I’m finding it really tough)’ one.

The workplace culture currently seems a long way away from this. In a culture that is increasingly competitive and demanding increased resilience, hours and commitment from its people, a focus on something that will one day temporarily take them away from the workplace seems problematic.

Add to this the fact that infertility is a deeply personal subject with huge potential for shame. Our wider culture, if not the culture in the workplace, prizes fertility as part of our gender identity. Not particularly helpful for a man that has been told he has a low sperm count or a woman who has been told they aren’t ovulating regularly. Add to that, talking about sperm, periods, ovulation and so on is just a bit uncomfortable, even with your closest friends sometimes. Of course people might not want to be open about it. It’s a shame storm waiting to happen.

However I’ve come to realize that we are losing out by not talking about this. By keeping silent we lose that opportunity to connect and realise our common humanity.  As soon as one person opens up about a miscarriage, others share their experience.  Suffering quietly means that you lose the opportunity for your peers to connect and support you through a truly testing time.  You create a further stress on top of a pretty stressful situation – trying to keep the appointments and your hurt quiet.  Your bosses continue to hurl work your way and wonder why you’re not too emotionally resilient these days – not realising you’re still coming to terms with the news that it’s unlikely you’ll ever conceive naturally.

And I’m beginning to sense that, through keeping quiet, we are missing the chance to build the kind of workplace that I think many of us would like to see. One in which we encourage people to bring their whole selves in to the workplace. The pressure of keeping your homosexuality to yourself has been well documented in the brilliant book ‘The Glass Closet’. What about the pressure of keeping your biggest disappointments quiet, and instead pretending that everything is just dandy?  Could we create a workplace in which we show empathy and compassion for the struggles in our wider lives? Is it possible to create a workplace in which having children is seen as essential for the human race to continue – and so is welcomed and supported?

I am fully aware that the workplace is not ready for this conversation at the moment. It would be great if more women shared their stories, and yet my call is for a cultural shift led from the top. One of the most memorable moments in my career was hearing a founding partner of one of the top creative agencies talk candidly about her fertility struggle in front of 100 industry women. My call is for leaders to humanize the workplace, to role model having the difficult conversations and to bring in empathy. Let’s create a workplace in which everyone can bring their whole selves in to the workplace and be valued for it.

The Daring Way for female leaders talks about being brave, learning empathy and your purpose in the workplace : http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-daring-waytm-for-female-leaders-tickets-16016355350?aff=ebsavedevents

Twitter campaign Feb 2015 3

Towards the end of 2014 I started working with companies to help them with the diversity and inclusivity agenda.  This has been a big shift for me. My work supporting women through workplace challenges is super rewarding and really helps the individual women. And yet… I worried it sent the message that it’s the women that need fixing.

This isn’t the case.

Sustainable change needs to come from the top in organisations.  My own recent research and also voices in the media point to a huge motherhood penalty for women.

From a recent Guardian article;

“It was assumed my priorities lay elsewhere”

“Before I had a baby I would really have questioned whether such sexism even existed”

“My previous responsibilities were removed”

http://www.theguardian.com/money/us-money-blog/2015/jan/06/mommy-track-maternity-leave-careers

Companies need to rethink how they approach maternity and the introduction of new paternity laws in April provide an ideal timeframe.  I actually wonder whether it will be when men seize the opportunity to take extended paternity leave in significant numbers that change will start to happen.

And at the end of the day, this isn’t just about getting more women to the top of organisations.  This is about creating a workplace in which every body can bring their whole self in to the workplace and be valued for it.  Just focusing on gender is not a particularly inclusive way of approaching the issues. Instead I am getting a stronger handle on what gets in the way of everyone showing up and being truly seen in the workplace.

My hunch is that a more diverse boardroom, which embraces our differences, will lead to a more creative and innovative environment.  My work therefore focuses on helping individuals show up and be seen; whilst also advising companies of structural and cultural changes they can make.

What to expect from me in 2015:

One of my resolutions for the year ahead is to get my voice heard.  Expect to see articles from me championing the importance of diversity and inclusivity. I will continue to reach out to women encouraging them to stand up and be counted in the workplace.  Alongside this I will be giving strategic advice and offering training to organisations in how to create a more inclusive and diverse workplace.  My newsletters will encompass both angles and will appeal to anyone with an interest in inclusivity in its broadest sense.

I will be running The Daring Way™ workshops, based on the research of Dr. Brené Brown throughout the year to support everyone in living brave and being truly seen.

I will continue to coach and provide support for women in stepping in to their bravest and most authentic selves.

LOOK OUT FOR:

The Daring Way™ for leaders:  retreat in Brighton, March 26
Taking place at the boutique hotel – Artist Residence – in Brighton, this two day leadership event offers you the chance to step in to daring, authentic and vulnerable leadership. Learn how to create the support you need as a leader, how to build authentic and trusting relationships with colleagues, how to build resilience to the (inner and external) critic and how to continue to dare greatly as a leader. If you’re keen to take more risks, stand out as an innovative leader, build stronger relationships and access your creativity – this retreat is for you! Find out more here

The Back to Work MOT
Supporting women in returning to work with confidence and style, this is my new partnership with Sally from Queen Bee Styling. Find out more here

My guest blog for Driven Woman
in which I talk about Daring Greatly in 2015 click here to read