Saturday, December 28, 2013

Opting Out

An interview of a global CEO on  mother- daughter conversation inspired me to write this piece today.

The work place in most organisations and the mindsets force women to opt out.
Either of motherhood.
Or of her career.

This pressure is dialled up with our own feelings of guilt and coping with societal pressures as well.
Makes us connect the financial status at home with her choice.
Once the income is enough for a decent life, some of us throw in our business cards and call it quits.
To keep ourselves happy, we start dabbling in our hobbies and feel good that we are still "working".

In the process, we have lost out on half our workforce- of investment in education that would lead to great productivity at work,  balanced decisions in professions, fantastic managerial abilities that comes from within rather than business schools.

Opting out of motherhood is a societal disaster and we have seen this in some nations.

We see a book, an ad, some interviews about how some women, who braved all odds and decided not to opt out and feel inspired.
And then go back to what we are most comfortable doing.

Every time I take a session in a business school and see half the room filed with young girls, I am optimistic.
And then I attend a senior management conference and see the sprinkling and realise just how many simply dropped out.

Of course it calls for some change in work places.
I have written about this in my earlier blogs.

But again and again, I know that the change has to come from within.
Those demons need to be squashed.

We cannot opt out.
We are mothers and we are part of the nation's workforce.
We do both jobs brilliantly.
Both lead to a nation of productivity and excellence.
And maybe, a happier, balanced world.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Welcome back the Gutsy Mums

Oct  24th, 2005. Life made me a proud mum.
Exactly ninety days later, I was beaming and back in office. And working the regular hours. Which, as we all know, can be quite irregular.
Very proud of the fact that my journey to motherhood did not stand in the way of my work.
Learnt later, much to my chagrin, that  I had became a role model for quite a few young girls.
Today I realise that I was pushing myself over the brink just to prove to myself and others that I was still as capable and as efficient as before and that nothing had changed.
I was not fighting rules. I was battling perceptions - mostly in my mind.
Fact is, motherhood is not always such an exalted proposition in the challenging industry.
It has in fact become an interruption to many potential careers. For every mum out here, there are at least two who have opted out.
Lots of "why's" play on my mind.
Why is it that most interviews invariably have pointed questions around ability to balance work and home, husband and in laws?
Why do we have quite a few extra and pointed questions to new mothers in interviews? Can the baby be left alone? What about travel? What about help?
Why have some the best women I have worked with faded out of the ad world?
Many demons. Some in the mind. Some external.
And the fallout.
It's lonely at the top.
Women drop out in droves along the way.
The numbers are there for all to see.
In my view, at the root of this lies some perceptions we have created around work style and work life in advertising.
That advertising is about long hours and constant slog overs
That late nights are a norm and not an exception
That the advertising "culture" is not mom-friendly
We almost make it apologetic for a family oriented person.
We tend to forget that we are not in the business of firefighting and socialising alone, we are about creativity.
About  brilliance in thinking and execution.
And that it is performance that is the final yardstick.
And that mothers are equally great performers.
And that it takes a lot of guts, confidence and passion to pursue a challenging and dynamic profession like advertising, while balancing life at home.

Life can be made a little easier.
Flexi hours, working out of home options, creche facilities, job sharing are some of the ways of retaining good talent, and keeping the productivity flowing.
But, honestly speaking, it is not about policies. It is about perceptions.
We need to create a sense of comfort in the fact that roles in life are equally important.
And that, being a mom is a natural progression and not an interupption.
Having a baby does not mean losing a year of career growth.
It's time we appreciate that creating a layout for the brand and a child's art class with equal gusto is quite an act.
It's time we  welcome back the gutsy moms.