Transitions: from pregnancy to career planning

In this podcast, Victoria and Yasmine discuss their personal transitions – in Victoria’s case being pregnant, and in Yasmine’s case changing jobs, and how they are taking action in these situations, and how these personal circumstances relate to the mission of ActionWomen and empowering women to achieve their full potential for good.

 

Listen to the podcast below:

 

 

Transcript: 

Victoria: Hi Yasmine! We are both sort of in a transition phase…

Yasmine: Hi Victoria! Yes true, I’m currently sort of in between jobs, being on annual leave from my old job from which I have resigned to start a new job in a more technical of financial services later this month. So, I’m waiting to transition from my old job to a new role at a new company, working in a different part of the financial services industry, namely financial technology. And you’re of course waiting for your own big change to happen, Victoria – tell us about that.

Victoria: For my part, I am reaching the end of my second pregnancy, and I must say, being pregnant for the second time was much different.

Yasmine: How come, should it not be much easier since you are an experienced mother already?

Victoria: True, but I am talking about the changes I had to face concerning my work situation. Due to Corona, I was not allowed to enter my workplace anymore and I was forced to work from home. That was of course to prevent me from catching Corona but I felt in a way that excluding pregnant women from the workplace is a discriminatory act, as you are not able to participate in activities anymore that take place at your work location. So, it eventually deprives you from certain career aspects. Then again, even if I had been at work, I could not have participated in all activities as much as before, as I’m now feeling tired and exhausted a lot.

Yasmine: True. However, there are certain advantages of home office, such as combining work and family life etc. Home working or work from home is a privilege, so what’s not to like?

Victoria: Home office does have certain advantages, but I would have liked the exchange with my colleague a lot, also to distract me from being afraid of pregnancy risks.

Yasmine: Could you not enjoy your pregnancy at all?

Victoria: They say you should enjoy your pregnancy especially if it is your last one but even though you do, many aspects are disturbing, e.g., if you feel sick to your stomach all the time or when everyone comments on your pregnancy, how big you got etc. To me, it feels better being applauded on what I’ve achieved, e.g. with my band we wrote songs for a documentary. Then there is the question of working part-time afterwards and wanting to breastfeed. It is still so difficult working full-time and combining all these aspects.

Yasmine: Remember how we did a poll on which things employers and governments could do to help women achieve parity in the workplace and so many people said that flexibility is a crucial aspect of reaching gender equality.

Victoria: Yes, I do remember, and it reminds me of my situation. Going back to work you depend on your employer’s goodwill if breaks for breastfeeding are granted, even though the law says so. And that you have access to a suitable room for breastfeeding and not just the bathroom. As a mother you have to plan everything so well in order to manage work and (especially) small children. It does actually provide you with excellent management skills. It’s a shame that employers don’t see this as a big plus. If I knew of a female applicant that she has kids I’d hire her right away because she definitely knows how to be creative, flexible and extremely well-organised. And to lead she does know, too. Of course, she does need flexible structures in case her children get sick and after a couple of nights where she did not sleep at all she would e.g., to start work at a different time etc. This will be my reality for the next year. Yasmine, what is going to change for you?

Yasmine: I’m also going through a change at the moment, although on ‚only‘ on the professional side. After almost five years with my employer, I’m moving on again and starting a new job with a new company. While I enjoyed work at my company, I can’t see myself as a lifer, someone who makes their career dependent on a single company.

Victoria: So, what made you look for a new role, Yas?

Yasmine: Well, my bosses were surprised that I wanted to leave – they thought because I was doing well and had nice colleagues, I had no reason to move on. Truth is, I feel that by making the choice to pursue a new job opportunity I am putting myself in control of my career and my personal development. So in that sense, I think that leaving for the next opportunity that’s right for me and will challenge me is actually “more stable” than just staying put and experiencing change only when I get new managers or when someone leaves or gets pregnant and I then have the ‚opportunity‘ to experience their jobs.

Victoria: Yes, I think that often women fall into the ‚good girl‘ trap: they meet their boss’s expectations, they do all the extra work that gets rewarded with goodwill but not with money or progression.

Yasmine: Exactly, it’s like back at school when the good girls would help the teacher with tasks, clean the blackboard, fetch the class register, volunteer at extracurricular events and so on. It all earns you brownie points but has no impact on your grades. And there’s a similar dynamic in the workplace if you don’t plan your career proactively – you get stuck with all the extra work without the extra reward. So instead of waiting for the next internal move, I thought it would be good to look into which skills I want to develop and where I want to be in ten years’ time, and proactively change to do the sort of job that will get me there.

Victoria: In fact, that sort of thinking – wanting to plan your own career and create your own ideal working conditions is why it’s important that more women take steps towards becoming senior executives in their firms but also founding their own companies, so they can then implement the flexible working policies and workplace culture that allows women to be successful at work without facing prejudice. Unfortunately, in Germany, when I say that I don’t want to stay home for a long time, people look at you with suspicion if you voice that opinion – like either that’s not true, or it’s true and you’re not a good mother – like what mother doesn’t want to stay home with her child?

Yasmine: Well, I think there’s an element of that in the UK, too, and clearly fathers don’t encounter that sort of prejudice. They just get congratulations, and maybe a bonus or pay rise in recognition of being the breadwinner in their family.

Victoria: True, but I think that in our generation more fathers want to spend time with their kids during the week or have time to pursue their hobbies and just have more control over their time. Certainly, I know my husband who works freelance really enjoys that.

Yasmine: Fair enough, we shouldn’t stereotype men. On that note, I just read a study the other day that women often compromise on pay in order to get flexible working, but that it’s more rare for men to request and get flexible working because men face an even bigger stigma there – there’s no daddy track yet, so a man who steps outside the corporate norm of working 100% and preferably in an office rather than at home, can often find himself punished, career-wise. And if we want to change, yes, we can lobby companies and governments, but it would be quicker and more effective to try and put yourself in that position of power and be that change and create that work environment you want to have.

Victoria: Yes, Yas, certainly that’s some of the thinking behind ActionWomen – the need to take action for things to change! And we definitely need more women founders. Stay tuned for our next episode where we want to explore this topic.

 

 

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