Championing working mums

What makes a working mums’ champion?

Maureen Bailey has been working on diversity issues for the last 10 years. She was asked to do some work on diversity in her role at the Ministry of Justice and recommended setting up a women’s network to get female voices heard and promote the issues they were concerned about. These tended to be flexible working and career progression.
Maureen, herself a mum, knows only too well how important flexible working is and says she had to push for it in her own role and set a precedent. “I fought my corner,” she says. “I knew people could be more productive and more committed if they were allowed to work flexibly.”
As part of her work on the women’s network, she went to other government departments to set up other women’s networks within the civil service and she put together a big cross-departmental event for International Women’s Day.
However, due to cuts in her department, she was told she would be shifted to a role which did not include women’s issues. “That was my passion,” she says, “so I decided to leave. I had set up a business when I was 16. I felt I could do it again.”
Maureen set up Inner Strength Consulting, a consultancy which aims to encourage women to “go for their dreams. “I felt I could not encourage them to do that if I did not do so myself and set up my own business,” she says.
Maureen’s work both in setting up women’s networks within her workplace and in supporting and mentoring women through her consultancy makes her an ideal candidate for the Workingmum’ champion award in its Top Employer Awards.
The award is one of eight which will be handed out at a ceremony in London in November.
Most of the awards are nominated by employers, but the Workingmums’ champion can be nominated by anyone.
The award is for stand-out individuals whose efforts have made a big difference to working mums in their workplace.
Potential recipients could include senior or middle managers who have set up a parent support forum; put forward innovative proposals for areas such as maternity leave and return to work; introduced mentoring schemes for women or championed the recruitment and retention of working mums through specific initiatives or in public forums. has featured examples of such individuals, including Caroline Artis, a partner at Ernst & Young, who set up the firm’s Parents’ Network to help mums on maternity leave reintegrate better into the workplace after she came back to work in 2005.
She describes the Parents’ Network as being an important extension of the type of networking that naturally happens for parents at home – whether through ante-natal classes or at the school gate. “The Parents’ Network  allows people who have lost day to day contact with such networks through their return to work to share their concerns and support each other in the workplace,” she says.
Another example is Karen Ovenden, a director of IT firm Hireserve. When the company needed to expand, she looked to working mums to fill the skills gap.
“I was very aware that there were many well qualified professionals out there looking for flexible working, most of them women, who had the skills we needed,” said Karen. “We wanted someone to fit the business’s needs, but also I felt very strongly that there are so many women out there who are exceptionally good workers and committed but cannot find positions where they could have a career and be with their children.”
Her championing of working mums is not limited to flexible working, for which she argues a strong business case, but also includes emphasising that family life comes first for herself and her staff, for instance, by encouraging staff to be open about childcare issues, such as children’s sickness.
 “I have always felt strongly that families are the most important thing in our lives and we should acknowledge that in the way we work,” she says.
If you know anyone you would like to nominate for the award, click here for more information. The deadline for nominations is 27 July.

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