I could have been part of the 43%
I’ve never been one to create vision boards and five-year plans, but I’m inherently ambitious. In fact, I spent my twenties focused on one thing: building my career and living my best life in New York City. Fast-forward to my early thirties. I got married, bought a condo in Jersey City, and, you guessed it, had a baby. Two years later, we bought a house in the suburbs and had our second.
Today, I’m admittedly still not doing vision boards, but I remain goal-oriented. I strive to be both the best employee I can be in my role at ThirtyThree and the best mother I can be to my children, Lucy and Thomas. It’s a constant balancing act, but I’m learning that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. And, I don’t have to be fully defined by either of my titles.
When I took my first maternity leave, I was confident that I would be back to work at the same capacity in no time at all. What I didn’t consider was just how challenging that would prove to be. I was convinced that no one else could care for my daughter the way I could. Being away from her five days a week didn’t feel natural, and I wasn’t ready.
This uncertainty led to a very difficult and honest conversation with my boss, Nicole – a defining moment for my future. I was worried that I might have to walk away from it all, and rightfully so; McKinsey reports that “43% of highly qualified women opt out or off-ramp on their way back to work post-baby.” Everything that I had worked so hard to build professionally throughout all those years could come down to a choice. Would it be motherhood or my career?
But, instead of walking away from ThirtyThree, I walked away with options and an overwhelming feeling of support. Nicole was adamant that we could find a solution that worked for both my needs and the needs of the business; as a strong, female leader, she wanted to empower people to achieve both their personal and professional ambitions at work. Here, we’re encouraged that we can, in fact, have it all. For a few months, I served as a contractor and then ultimately came back to working four days a week. This flexibility allowed me to meet my professional objectives while also relieving some of my mom guilt.
I can’t help but think how easily I could have been part of that 43%. All too often, employers let good people go because they aren’t willing to bend, even a little. And, in these situations, a little bit can go a long way. Wearing both hats of employee and mom have required me to be more efficient in my day to day role. We’ve all heard the phrase, “if you want to get something done, ask a busy person.” Well, truth.
This isn’t to say things are perfect all the time. The guilt, both about leaving my kids to go to work and about leaving the office on time to read them a bedtime story, never goes away. But, at the end of the day, I am supported by my manager, colleagues, and family. I am encouraged to be the best version of myself. And, I have never been left behind because of two maternity leaves or a flex schedule.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for many women in the workplace. Harvard Business Review reports that “the longer new mothers are away from paid work, the less likely they are to be promoted, move into management, or receive a pay raise once their leave is over. They are also at a greater risk of being fired or demoted.” Following my second maternity leave, I was offered a promotion to Head of Client Services, a new hat I wear proudly. I’m passionate about the work we’re doing and excited to have the opportunity to play a leading role in our agency, manage a growing team, and serve as a consultative partner to our clients.
International Women’s Day is March 8. This year’s theme, Balance for Better, supports creating a gender-balanced world to drive a better working world. On International Women’s Day and every day, I encourage employers to consider how they can better support their people, both inside and outside of work. Of course, this isn’t just about working mothers – we all need balance. Through discussion and awareness, we can #RewritetheStory together.
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