THE BLOG

Women Must Return to Work After Maternity Leave More Confident

15/07/2014 12:23 BST | Updated 13/09/2014 10:59 BST

It's time to challenge women for their habit of apologising needlessly, especially the female use of 'sorry' as punctuation, something which does us no favours.

'Sorry' isn't the only culprit here, I feel the same way about women who return to the workplace after the birth of their child and feel the need to say that they 'only' work four days a week or they 'only' work until 4pm as they have to pick up their children from the nursery. The insidious use of 'only' implies an entirely unwarranted apology. Provided they've been on fire for the hours they've agreed with their employer, there is no need for any apology, and doing so only weakens a woman's position in the workplace.

However, herein lies the rub. My two children are now twelve and nine years old but I remember only too well how emotionally unprepared I was for a return to work eight months after they were born.

I was sleep deprived, lacking in confidence due to the time I'd spent away from the industry, unsure of who I was as a mother, racked with guilt for being at work and away from the home and unsure of how I fitted back into the workplace environment.

I, along with so many ambitious and hard working women like me, began my maternity leave a punchy, lively and together person, only to return to work a frazzled shell of my former self.

When that happens, you're not doing anyone any favours, least of all yourself. It's all too easy to blame a glass ceiling lowered over the working mother preventing her from progressing. This may have been the case twelve years ago but in today's workplace, women are responsible for their own achievements, both in the office and at home.

It's up to women to return to work, ready to reignite the fires of ambition and to stay engaged. If you're not ready to separate home life from work life following a maternity stint, then you're probably not ready to return to work. But when you are ready to return to work, ensure that you don't feel guilty about your decision. You have nothing to feel guilt for.

When I collected my Woman of the Year award at the Everywoman in Technology Awards 2014 recently, I said that I wanted my daughter to grow up knowing she can do anything she wants and for my son to grow up and see everyone he meets in work as equal. For that to happen, more women need to start proving that they can be the person they were before they had a child and no matter how many working hours you've negotiated as part of your return, you can be on fire and set an example to other women in similar positions.

I also thanked my husband during my acceptance speech because I firmly believe that women should marry well. By that I mean, marry someone who is going to uphold their side of the partnership. My husband and I need to support each other in order to raise our children together. I may occupy the role of principal earner currently but who knows what the future holds.

Employers need to understand the contribution hard working mothers and fathers make in working hours and be more flexible when they need to support their spouses and look after sick children for example.

I have three pregnant women currently in my team and should they decide to return to work, I will make sure they have as much support as they need. But in return, I will ask of them for the same level of drive, ambition and hard work as they give me now. I won't label them as 'only' women and as a company, we'll set them targets to rebuild their confidence.

Technology is a sector that's crying out for more women at board level and owner level. Confidence is the key. Have confidence in your partner, maintain confidence in your ability to succeed, and return to work confident that you are doing the best for you and your family.