If someone had said to me a couple of years ago I would put my head up above the parapet and start a movement to revolutionize the workplace for mothers and mother-to-be, I would have laughed. Then I would've curled up on my couch with the next series of 24 and forgotten all about it.
My career has taken an unorthodox path. I have evolved from being a corporate sales exec to complementary therapist; clinic owner to maternity coach and now, female champion.
I have shared my thoughts privately but to put them out publicly, provoke comment, invite support and galvanize action has slightly happened by accident.
Three long years after being part of a personal tragedy, I believe we live the lives we are meant to. Listening to the collective frustrations of hundreds of new mothers inspired me to speak up and challenge the current corporate culture that affects us all.
I have spent over 14 years with more than 2000 (it may well be more) smart, successful high-potential, talented women as they've transitioned from single self to mother.
Some women acknowledge pregnancy as a catalyst for change and their new lifestyle, a source of inspiration But those working in the corporate world can find it tough to find the balance. They let go of their career and start a new chapter that sees them as a primary parent and homemaker with mixed levels of personal and professional fulfillment.
A recent study from Fawcett revealed that that 46% of people think when a woman has a baby she becomes less committed to her job, while only 11% think Dads-to-be will be affected. 29% of people think Dads become more committed.
This cultural bias is deeply ingrained. I meet many women who are adamant they will continue with their career post baby but the reality is different. During their pregnancy and return to work they are met with so many judgments from mother-in-laws, friends, colleagues, bosses and even partners that their desire to be a good wife, mother and employee overwhelms them and they leave.
"How can you expect to get ahead when you only work 3 days a week" is the tip of the iceberg.
Bumps and the Boardroom has 3 very clear Aims.
1. To realise the pregnancy advantage for business.
2. To create a culture that respects feminine values.
3. To share visibly transparent policies and support honest communication.
1. Realising the Pregnancy Advantage
In reality what this means is understanding and accepting that mothers DO go through a profound experience during pregnancy and birth. And this experience is incredibly valuable to business. There are plenty of other ways we can achieve personal growth but this is a biggie. Let's stop knocking it and start learning from it.
2. Creating a culture that respects feminine values
Creating a culture that respects feminine values is challenging. If you are part of a business that values competition, thrives on the fear of loss to drive its workforce forward and has goals without soul at the heart of its mission statement, you may accept this as normal. It's Not.
As an individual you can put forward solutions for change but if these are falling on deaf ears you may have to move on. Lord Davies, champion of gender equality and more women on boards echoed this at a recent talk as did Sharon White Chief Executive of Ofcom.
There are many workplaces that are warm, caring with a focus above and beyond profit. Take your talent where it is appreciated.
3. Sharing visibly transparent policies and supporting honest communication
Finally, sharing maternity and paternity policies that you don't need a law degree to decipher or that are so deeply buried on the intranet that you've given birth before you've got to grips with them is key. A strong policy will underpin any cultural change (yes, Childcare and Family Trust I hear you) and having open, honest and respectful 2-way communication with human resources, line managers, teams and the individual are an absolute must.
Having clarity on what will make your heart sing rather than asking for what you believe may be agreeable but isn't long-term sustainable for you or your family is pointless. Ensuring we all take responsibility for our personal and professional happiness is vital to a thriving economy. That may mean confronting conversations with your husband or thinking more carefully about who you chose as your next boyfriend.
I know that many corporates and businesses want to embrace the above 3 aims. Those who do will be held up as examples to show others who are less ready for change a smarter way forward.
It all sounds great in theory. But to make all of this happen, takes a collective voice not a lone soul.
I believe mothers are multi-talented and we need their wisdom and warmth in business. At all levels - including the top.
How about you?