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Lindsay Pattison

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Working Mums: An Asset to Our Business

Posted: 17/05/2013 00:00

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Over the course of my career, I've had the pleasure of hiring, working alongside, learning from and mentoring an amazing group of people: working mothers.

This tenacious group not only attack their careers with gusto, but then head home to raise and take moral responsibility for the future generation. I take my hat off to them - and I value the unique skillset working mums bring to the table. Anybody who has observed a woman wrestle a toddler and shopping into a buggy whilst cradling a newborn in a sling and taking a call on her mobile will testify to the exemplary multi-tasking capabilities of mums. Negotiation and communication skills are par for the course, and networking nouse is not just a bonus...it is a survival skill. Just look at Mumsnet, attracting some 850,000 users who powwow on everything from politics to cooking tips. In fact, I'd love a Maxus Mumsnet group to become our own recruiting army within this powerful network of high achievers.

Being super-organised is another essential part of the package. Coordinating school drop-offs and pick-ups and after-school activities around the working day means that working mums have to focus and plan their time precisely.

Some might argue that such an impressive juggling act is bound to impact on productivity. Surely the sheer number of balls up in the air means that attention must wander from meeting agendas to tomorrow's packed lunches or missing sports kits?

I disagree. Working mums need to run a tight ship, and this is reflected in their work; they don't cut corners or look for quick answers. Every minute has to count and the media industry has its fair share of successful part-time poster girls as inspiration. The Harvard Business Review claims that 'motherhood is not a liability, but an advanced management program'- I agree! And take Nicola Mendelsohn, former president of the IPA, executive chairman at Karmarama and newly-appointed EMEA chief of Facebook. And all this achieved on a four-day week so she can also tend to her family.

The mothers that I work with at Maxus are there because they want to be, having made an active decision to use their brains and build their careers. Often, they are the most dedicated and focused amongst us.

Actively supporting and recruiting this highly talented, yet often under-recognised group, is very high on our people agenda. Ask any working mum what they really want from their employer and the conversation will turn to flexibility - and not the on-paper flex often over-optimistically promised in job ads.

For us at Maxus, flexibility is about listening attentively to employees so we can deliver tailored working patterns. This means taking a unique approach to each individual, which considers both the agency's and their short-term and long-term needs.

As an example, of the multiple applicants who applied for a senior management role recently, the successful candidate is a mother of two who works one day a week from home, built around her youngest child's nursery hours.

No two families are the same, and of course childcare responsibilities are not the preserve of women alone. All of our flexible working policies and support systems extend to fathers, as well as carers. In fact, we currently have a number of fathers who work from home when needed.

But I view this less as an issue of working mothers or working fathers as one of people. Our priority is to hire talented, passionate people and, naturally, many of them also happen to be parents. What a waste of talent it would be if we didn't do everything in our power to make it work.

 

Follow Lindsay Pattison on Twitter: www.twitter.com/lindsaymaxus

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