Overcoming the barriers to young mums’ career progress


Shanae Dennis of Young Women’s Trust speaks about her experience as a young mum and how she had to fight to ensure her pregnancy didn’t impact her career plans.

In my life I had a plan to go to university, graduate, get the perfect job and get married. In my head it seemed simple, but when I fell pregnant in my second year of university, my life was switched upside down.

My main concern was if I was going to be able to graduate. I always knew I wanted to provide for any child I brought into the world. I was in a stable relationship when I fell pregnant, but I saw how it was easier for him to get on with studies and his life.

When we had a plan sorted I went to my course leader for advice. I was studying medical biochemistry and the teaching was male dominated. Straight away, a lot of my professors advised me to leave university. I was adamant to complete the year, but I just didn’t feel I got the support from my university. The first thing they thought when they saw me was that I was the typical black girl who had got herself knocked up. I was so determined to finish and I struggled through. I did my second year exams nine months pregnant, went back home and gave birth two weeks later.

The main thing that shocked me was how quick people were to write me and my potential off. I even started to second guess myself.  I stuck it out nevertheless and fought for my rights.  As a pregnant student and a young mother there were policies in place to support me, it was just finding the information that was difficult.

After giving birth and returning to university in time for my last year, I was faced again with doubt.  In my first meeting with my tutor I was advised to maybe go home and give myself a year off. I felt like that at every corner someone was tempting me to turn back.

I joined Young Women’s Trust’s advisory panel was because I don’t feel like young women are fully supported in settings like university and starting out in their careers.  I want to share my story so that other girls in my situation won’t give up. Whatever situation you’re in, there are policies and procedures in place to support you. I learnt that by making a stand and I finally received the full support I needed. I managed to graduate, find a graduate job and still have the flexibility to raise my son.

*This article was originally published on the Young Women’s Trust site.


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