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Catherine Deptford took a 14-year career break from her job as an investment banker in the City and after one year back has been named one of the top 50 Power Part-Timers by the Timewise Foundation.
Catherine was a fund manager when her daughter was born 16 years ago and went back to work after maternity leave. Two years later after she had her second child her husband left her. She had some savings and decided not to go back because she felt her children needed her.
It took two years to get over the split. In 2002 she and a friend decided to set up their own business, building on her experience and helping other single parents. Kate and Emily was set up based on the NCT model of getting a group of people together who are going through a similar situation. Initially it began with local groups and child psychologists giving advice on how to help children through divorce, but it soon turned out that parents just wanted a forum for talking about the issues that affected them and a kind of best friend who could give good advice. “It was something new because what was around was slightly victimising. We did not feel like victims. Emily had left her husband and I had been left. We did not think all men were horrible. Our focus was on putting the children first,” says Catherine.
The organisation took off as the media turned to the group for comments, including tv companies. Discovery Channel offered them a 15-part series. A website was launched to coincide with the series. A book followed.
In 2008 Catherine set up another organisation, Talking Company, which set up a series of local sell-out events, with speakers such as former Shadow Home Secretary Ann Widdicombe and investment fund manager Nicola Horlick, aimed at stimulating the brain. It then developed along corporate lines with events ranging from networking seminars to bring your teenager to work days.
Both organisations closed down last year after both Catherine and Emily returned to work. “Kate and Emily was about how to get on with your lives as co-parents. It was not about sitting around and complaining, but moving on to the next stage. We had both moved on. For us that was it,” says Catherine. The women also felt that they could not work, look after their families and run the organisation. They both needed to go back to work for financial reasons and after years of trying had not been able to find any ways of making money out of Kate and Emily. The government had been in touch through the Child Maintenance Service. Catherine and Emily gave them all their material. “It has served its purpose for us,” says Catherine.
“I loved working from home and it was a great way for us to keep our cvs alive and to keep learning, but it was hard to make money out of it and I needed to earn a proper salary,” she adds.
She didn’t initially think she would be able to get back into investment banking, but once she started looking she saw job opportunities. “If I were to get passionate about anything now,” says Catherine, “it would be about the number of 40 and 50 plus women who think their experience is worthless when it isn’t. That is just a question of confidence. Your cv is what it is. I had 14 years of solid experience working for big firms, a good degree and postgraduate investment analysis exams. I was quite surprised at how much interest there was when I first started looking. I had to take a three-week refresher courses and two exams to update my qualifications once I got my post which raised my confidence levels, but the practicalities of doing the job all came back to me once I took up the reins again. I know what I am doing. Not much changes in 10 years. And you bring lots of things to the workplace that you do not value, but employers do, like maturity and a reduced bandwidth for nonsense. If you also made something of your career break then all power to you.”
Catherine found her current job as investment manager at fund consultancy Thompson Taraz after going on the Workingmums.co.uk site and seeing jobs for Capability Jane, a flexible work consultancy for senior professional women. She got the Thompson Taraz role through Capability Jane and was impressed by its proactive approach to flexible working, something which was very different from her previous experience 14 years previously. “The perception back then was that clients would not understand part time work and that they would need you all the time, which is rubbish,” she says. Almost half Thompson Taraz’s staff are part time and flexible, including the marketing manager and compliance officer. This flexibility means they can get really experienced staff like Catherine for roles which don’t need to be full time. Catherine works three days a week and is “reasonably flexible” with the other two. “I feel very lucky to be able to work part time and I want to give a bit more,” she says.
She increased her days to four a week last year just before she took six weeks off for a hysterectomy in October. “I didn’t want them to think I was taking them for a ride,” she says. She finds her job stimulating and says her biggest challenge is keeping her boundaries. “I could easily do five days and may do in the future, but I think part-time work is fabulous.”
She also thinks the fact that she is working is good for her children and encourages a sense of the work ethic and independence. Her son weekly boards and her daughter is old enough to look after herself until Catherine gets home. Catherine says she does miss her work for Kate and Emily “terribly” and she and Emily are planning a review seven years on. “It was a very creative time and provided a lot of excitement,” she says. She thinks her inclusion on the Timewise Top 50 Power Part-Timers is due to her work with Kate and Emily as well as the fact that she took a long career break. “I think what we have inspired women. We managed to empower a lot of single mums to think creatively about getting a job.”