Do you need to babyproof your career?

The good news..

Why would you need to babyproof your career? Things are getting better for women in the workplace aren’t they? Well, yes! I’m writing this blog post on International Women’s Day which seems a particularly apt time to reflect on women’s career achievements  over the past century. Get the bunting out – there are certainly plenty of landmarks worth celebrating! Girls are now outperforming boys at all levels of education and women now make up 47% of the UK workforce (ONS). 26% of FTSE 100 board posts are currently occupied by women and there are impressive statistics showing that companies across all sectors with the most women at a senior level, consistently outperform those with no female board representation. The numbers don’t lie; women are great news for business and the rightful advance towards gender equality in the workplace is undoubtedly gathering momentum.

But hold onto those champagne corks for just one moment, it’s not all good news.

The bad news..

If you’ve been watching the gripping BBC thriller ‘The Replacement’ lately you might have had a few tentative thoughts about the problems of combining work and motherhood. Indeed, it’s this fundamental matter of biology that is continuing to put a brake on women’s upward mobility in the workplace. Despite making huge advances in education and career progression, the fact remains that having babies is derailing women’s opportunities at a crucial stage in their working lives. It was this very experience in my own life that led me to develop the Babyproof Your Career programme.

baby proof your career

Life stages v career phases – the motherhood career conflict

Although ‘The Replacement’ is a somewhat fantastical (if not downright scary) representation of the issues, the inconvenient truth is that the period of a woman’s life where she is most likely to have significant career opportunities (30s), coincides with the time that she is potentially feeling biologically ready to have a baby. So, during the same years when you are putting in the hours and taking on more responsibilities at work, you are very likely to find yourself in the position of having to do the same at home.

The ostrich syndrome

“If you’re progressing well in your career and are yet to seriously consider having children, it’s tempting to have a head in the sand approach to the facts of maternal discrimination in the workplace and the difficulties women face in combining careers and motherhood.”

I certainly did before I unexpectedly became pregnant 6 weeks in to my dream job at an international law firm. After all, who wants to worry about these complex issues before they really have to? Once you stumble into working motherhood and have to deal with the realities on an everyday basis, however, you become all too aware of the pitfalls.

Pregnant then screwed?

You may have heard of the brilliant website set up by Joeli Brearley which highlights cases of workplace discrimination, marginalisation, harassment and unfair dismissal amongst thousands of pregnant women and new mothers across the country. A recent report by the EHRC shockingly revealed that up to 11% of new mums lose their jobs every year in the UK, and that 12% reported being treated less favourably by a line-manager. 20% had experienced negative reactions from colleagues and managers.

Even without the added pressures of discriminatory practices being commonplace – the physical and emotional challenges of adapting to motherhood and balancing the demands of family and a stressful job are enough to derail many a successful career:

  • Overwhelm. Facing the pressure of having to meet the needs of a high intensity job and those of a young family can lead to exhaustion and burnout.
  • Guilt – perhaps caused by requiring long hours of childcare for young children, or feeling that you are not able to give your all to both demanding spheres of your life.
  • Loss of motivation. Your job can seem less important in your life, especially if you have been side-lined to less interesting work in your absence.
  • Career sabotage – through discriminatory practices in some workplaces as we’ve seen, or in some cases, through the action, or inaction, of an unsupportive partner.
  • Loss of confidence. You might feel you are not able to do your job as well as you’d like, or that you are not living up to the ideals of motherhood.

I go into more detail about these 5 pitfalls of working motherhood here.

Give up giving up

With all these obstacles to successfully balancing career and motherhood it might seem tempting to surrender. Just decide now that you are powerless to deal with  circumstances beyond your control; give up work altogether or settle for less than you deserve when the time comes. I, like countless other career women, gave in to the insurmountable pressures after the birth of my second son, and stepped away from the dream career I had fought so hard to win. It was inevitable that I would have feelings of failure; when presented with the myriad challenges of working motherhood I felt I had not risen to them adequately. As a perennial high achiever, this hurt.

But I also had an epiphany. It was not the fact that I was incapable of overcoming challenges that was key to my situation, but the fact that I had been unaware of what issues I would face, and of how to deal with them. I had not expected what was coming and had not taken steps to prepare myself. No-one would expect to win a university place or get a great job without researching and preparing extensively beforehand, and working motherhood was no different. I made (and realised) this mistake so you don’t have to. If you wish to combine a high-level career with raising a family, I’m here to show you how it can be done.

babyproof your career

Give up giving up. Success comes from understanding the challenges that will be coming your way, and preparing yourself to meet them confidently and consistently. YOU can choose what sort of family and working life you want, and YOU can make it happen. Forewarned is very definitely forearmed.

After retraining as a career coach, I developed the Babyproof Your Career  programme to teach women how to do exactly this. The programme is designed to prepare and train women to be successful working mothers before they have children, and provides useful strategies and resources for coping with the challenges that will arise. The programme takes a holistic approach, covering issues of:

Your enhanced knowledge, preparedness and attitude will be key to making the career/family balance work for you.

 Babyproof Your Career – the online course

If you would like to join the waiting list for the forthcoming Babyproof Your Career online course, please register your interest here and receive a free downloadable chapter from my Amazon bestselling book ‘Babyproof Your Career, The Secret To Balancing Work and Family So You Can Enjoy It All’.

Next time: test your BQ! Try our questionnaire and work out your Babyproof Quotient. How vulnerable is your career to the challenges that working motherhood will present, and what can you do to boost your BQ?

Don’t forget to share

If you have friends and colleagues who may be interested, please do share this blog and let me know your comments!