Myra Geater is the Europe Management Information Business Partner at Vodafone. Before her high flying career took off, Myra was a stay-at-home mum who had no qualifications or professional work experience. She became a qualified accountant through AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians) and has never looked back.
There are many barriers or concerns that can prevent women from returning to work after having a baby. Whether it is a drop in confidence, reduced responsibility or in some cases a cut to salary, it’s unfortunate that circumstances often change after taking time off to start a family.
These factors make returning to work a stressful time for new mums and this is compounded by the fact that many feel the need to ‘rush back’ into the workforce in order to avoid financial problems.
Employers need to do more to support women returning to work, especially if we are going to reach the government’s target of 25 per cent female representation on FTSE 100 boards by 2015. Advancements in digital technology have meant that the concept of a traditional working week is fading. No longer are people bound to the office desk or standard office hours. And with the cost of childcare being what it is, organisations have to be more understanding and adaptable if they want to keep their staff.
In saying that, a certain amount of responsibility does fall on women – to dictate the terms and conditions on how and when they will return to work.
I had plans to pursue an accountancy career after I left school, but I decided to put my career on hold and be a mother whilst my children were young. Once they got a bit older I decided it was time to build a career for myself.
I already knew about the AAT Accounting Qualification and decided to find a job at an accountancy firm that would also support my training. I studied two evenings a week for two years. This involved a lot of studying at home, which meant sacrificing some of the time usually spent with my family, but I knew it was something I had to do for them.
Having this qualification to my name made it possible for me to get a job at Vodafone – a global mobile communications company. I overcame the challenging task of juggling a professional career with motherhood and can say that I learned some important lessons that I can offer to others in my position.
Be patient. It’s important to understand that there will be a transition period where you need to find a routine that works for you as a working mum. You may have to try different approaches until you find the right working pattern for your lifestyle.
Ask for a helping hand. Many people who return to work after time away or start a new job benefit from a mentoring programme. It can help with the transition into the workplace so don’t be afraid to ask for a helping hand. The more help you get at the start, the more you’ll pick up and hit the ground running.
Communicate your needs. If you need flexible working arrangements then it’s important that you start the conversation with your employer or HR department. It’s becoming more common for women to work from home or around family commitments in order to address the work/life balance. But remember, this can only be arranged if you ask for support as and when you need it.
Upskill. Don’t be afraid to upskill to keep on top of current processes, policies and practices. New trends are continually emerging across all sectors. Get your head back in the game by picking up new or refreshing old skills.