In this guest post, Jessica Miles, Country Manager ANZ at Integral Ad Science has shared her experience of working while being a new mum, and it’s a cracker.
No one can prepare you for the whirlwind of motherhood. As a first-time mum, I found myself stepping into the unknown. I relished in the beauty and excitement of being a new mum but also wondered how I could ever return to normality on such broken sleep!
During my many days and nights on mat leave, changing diapers, consoling a crying baby, and trying to find a new rhythm to my life I reflected on my job, my career, and my industry, reassessing my priorities. How could I balance my career and being a mum in the ever-changing landscape brought on by COVID? For IWD 2022, #breakthebias I wanted to share my top two reflections:
Work From Home – The new era of workplace flexibility
We have emerged from two years of lockdown and a forced, global work-from-home experiment. Whilst lockdown and the pandemic have had a host of negative impacts on families, it has brought about a new era of workplace flexibility and caretaking.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australians value the additional time they spend with family and friends which is a direct result of working from home. To further support this, research from the Productivity Commission found that “productivity will remain the same or improve under more widespread working from home”.
When I reflect on my experience of returning to work, the silver lining to COVID is that our industry has proven it can be extremely efficient in supporting hybrid office/ home working environments. Returning to work in this current environment has enabled me to return in a full-time capacity, drive career growth, continue to forge connections with my team and colleagues within media, and balance this with being a happy and satisfied mum.
This would have been extremely difficult to achieve pre-COVID. The Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) recommends that businesses should consider flexibility over and above hybrid working arrangements. Flexibility can involve offering movable start and finish times to accommodate other commitments, or offering compressed working weeks. It’s important that we champion this type of flexibility but also keep in mind some unavoidable biases that can creep back in when supporting this kind of working model such as:
Proximity bias: The WGEA details the concept of ‘proximity bias’. We all have different needs and obligations that will determine how frequently we choose to be in the office. Those who choose to work more flexibly than others must continue to be afforded the same opportunities for collaboration and career progression. As leaders, we need to be aware that effort and success are not measured by how many days someone attends the office but rather their personal progress to their business goals as well as their dedication and contribution to the business.
Beliefs bias: Lockdowns and vaccinations proved divisive and continue to be a source of awkwardness at best, anxiety driving at worst. It’s easy to fall victim to ‘herd mentality especially when your herd is the dominant one. As we return to the office, supporting hybrid and flexible workplaces it’s important to accommodate those with differing views and demonstrate true flexibility by embracing diversity. Diversity is the key to progress and diversity spans not only gender but also beliefs.
Women leaders and their shared experiences
A lack of female representation in leadership can mean culture, direction and policies ignore the issues women are facing and can prevent women from even getting to board level in the first place. There’s a name for this problem and it’s called “the broken rung.” The only way to fix it is for businesses to treat diversity and inclusion as a top priority.
Research shows that recruiting and advancing women is not just the right thing to do, but is actually better for business. Companies that have more women in leadership roles are 25% more likely to financially outperform their competitors.
This IWD we are breaking the bias and fighting for more diverse, inclusive and fair working environments. My challenge to both myself and all of you is to keep this conversation alive. Ensure your own organization is reporting on its gender pay gap and demand policies to overcome it. Campaign for better parental leave policies and inclusion training. Every company that changes sets the standard for others to follow. We all have a voice and now is the time to use it.
An approachable leader may not only see improved retention of talented employees but also better enable each employee to reach their full potential. Motherhood has taught me not to fear the unknown but instead embrace the journey of learning on the go! Enjoy the fulfilling feeling of “figuring it out” and use that energy and motivation to tackle the next challenge!