Working mums profile: Nicola Dandridge

Nicola Dandridge is chief executive of the Equality Challenge Unit which works to encourage equality in all walks of higher education. Nicola has worked in the field of equal rights for many years. Before becoming chief executive of the Equality Challenge Unit she was head of equality at Thompsons Solicitors which specialised in equal opportunities and employment law and worked with trade unions and the Equal Opportunities Commission. She is on the National Equality Committee of the Learning and Skills Council, on the Executive Committee of the Disability Discrimination Act Representation and Advice Project, and has been involved in advising the European Commission on equality legislation. She has also written widely about equality. Nicola has two children and works full time. We asked her how she personally handles the work life balance issue, which she says she is still struggling with.

How many children do you have and what are their ages?

9 and 11

How much time did you take off for maternity/paternity leave?

3 months for each child.

Did you keep in touch with your job during maternity leave?


How was the first week back?

It was OK. I went back part time for the first month or so after each child, which was invaluable. I don’t think I could have gone immediately back to full-time working.

What kind of childcare do you have and are you happy with it?

Live-out au pair. Happy is not the right word – I have tried every option (nanny, live-in au pair, nursery) and nothing is ideal.

What has been your worst moment as a working parent?

Immutable pressures at work that simply can’t fit around finite working hours. It’s that relentless pressure coming from all quarters – home and work – that really grinds me down sometimes!

And your best?

When I feel I am in control of both work and home, and the children are flourishing.

What is your typical working day?

No such thing in this job.

How many hours a week do you work?

About 50

What do you feel, if anything, needs to change to improve work/family life balance?

I would perhaps need to do a less demanding job, or work closer to where I live – at the moment I have to commute 3 hours each day.

Do you feel there is enough support/advice for working parents?

Yes. Generally, I think it is employers who need the support and advice about how they could make work more flexible and therefore more manageable for working mums.

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