When having my first baby, I recall arguing with my boss at the time who was certain I would need longer maternity leave than I proposed doubting my ability to balance both. I remember doubting myself and thinking am I wrong to, as the expression goes, ‘want to have my cake, and eat it too?’ I acquiesced, however once I experienced parenting and formed my own opinions, that was the last time I took maternity leave, and despite going on to have four children I never again paused my career in technology and data. The unconscious bias though still exists today, particularly women’s roles and balancing as working mothers, based on our past paradigms and expectations.
A working mother’s career is not for everyone; however, it should be up to each of us to decide and for those in leadership to support finding ways to make this possible and indeed, encouraging new ways of working that enable women to best balance both. In today’s remote working environment this should be easier than ever before, and I’ve always maintained I would rather have someone part-time that is a superstar than some one less capable but available full time. Today we have many flexi working mothers at Data Insight and Valocity and I am tremendously proud of our people first culture that also allows Dads to take the time they need too, whether for kids’ sports, working from home to support their families or splitting hours for children’s pickups to make up hours in the evening.
It was at a Global Women’s Day event a few years ago (when we still did big events), where I shared my story about founding and growing two global companies that deliver innovation with technology and data to make our world better, serving on several boards and mentoring students to give back, and being a proud mother to my four beautiful children. The first question from the audience after my speech was a lady who said, “your poor children at home while you gallivant around the world to grow your business, don’t you feel guilty?” This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is, ‘Break the Bias’ and I highly doubt that same question would have ever been asked had I been a male entrepreneur and founder with a passion to change the world.
I can ‘gallivant’ around the world to be all that I can be and follow my dreams, undeniably with the natural portion of guilt any working mother feels, but also with the confidence that my children are loved, incredibly proud, and in the fantastic care of my amazing husband, business partner, and biggest supporter – their dad. Removing the bias is only possible through amazing men that support and empower their partners through realizing that family is a team sport and I’m so grateful for those setting new examples to inspire our sons and daughters with new paradigms and expectations of what that means.
Today there still exists a huge discrepancy in the number of female entrepreneurs, let alone in technology and we have a way to go to close the gap. To be successful in life, whether family, career or entrepreneurship, it takes commitment and effort, and no one is suggesting any special treatment or favors as a woman, only the equal opportunity.
So, this International Women’s Day, may we break the many biases that still exist to support and enable everyone to be all that they can be. Whether male or female, to recognize that freedom and human rights is being able to choose and to create a more equal future for our children to have a day where we no longer need to have a special ‘women’s day’.
The stark reminder of this has never been more poignant with all the mothers and wives having to choose to leave loved ones behind to fight in Ukraine, a reminder of just how far we must go, but that change starts with each of us. Be the change you wish to see.