There’s a ceiling below the glass ceiling that prevents many women from achieving all they can. I know because I have hit it myself. I am going to call it the ‘family-work-life balance’ ceiling. I crashed into it last year and again recently.
I have been working part-time in the public sector since having my first child 10 years ago. While I appreciate the fact that I can work part-time, the problem is that although my skills have increased, opportunities have not.
That was until a couple of years ago when a senior role in my department needed to be quickly filled. I put up my hand and jumped straight into the role, while working 3 days a week.
This initial 2 month role became 18 months. I was then told what a great job I was doing and the job was mine – if I came back to work full-time.
With a husband who often travels interstate for work, I can’t work full-time. My children are still young, so I don’t want them to spend 10 hour days at school when he’s away.
So, I had to say no. Well – I didn’t say no. I put forward a job share proposal, based on my workplace’s job share policy. All my rationale was rejected. The position was awarded to a colleague – who ironically is now pregnant.
My brain started ticking. Again, I put together a job share proposal to cover her maternity leave. Again, it was rejected. Frustrated? Yes! But what it has taught me is that my future is in my own hands and I am now working towards becoming a ‘mumpreneur’.
Taking control of your own future
I want to be my own boss, my own manager, in control of my own destiny – and be available for my children whenever I need to.
So, I combined my love of researching holidays with my background in journalism and marketing communications to develop a website that lists and reviews family friendly accommodation. And I am having a ball!
While I am still straddling the corporate world until my website becomes financially viable, the autonomy I have in my own ‘business’ is what keeps me inspired and excited.
Is flexible bad for a woman’s career?
Doing a Google search on working part-time and career advancement makes you realise the issue of work flexibility is one governments around the world are grappling with. You can find report after report on the issue. But where is the action?
Of Australia’s more than 5 million working women, 2.4 million work part-time. More than half of university graduates are female. Yet women comprise only 3 per cent of executives with line management or profit centre responsibilities in the top 200 companies
Recently, our own female Prime Minister committed to having 12% of federal public servants working from home by 2020. Currently, about 4% work from home.
Personally, I would like to know how many public servants work part-time or job share. I think a commitment to greater flexibility and career progression within that flexibility is a better way to go.
So, is this lack of opportunity why more women are going into small business, or that setting up business in the home is one of the fastest growing sectors in the Australian economy?
Alli Price is a ‘mumpreneur’ and the founder of Motivating Mum – a business offering advice and support for mums in business. She agreed that lack of opportunities is one of the reasons women leave paid work to go into business.
Starting your own business
As a business owner, women have the flexibility to work, but also to be with their children.
“Another reason is that when they have time off to look after their children, they can start to pursue what they’re really passionate about. Then, even if they are able to head back to work, the cost of childcare usually means there’s no point working!”
Alli, who decided to run her own business prior to becoming a mum, said the life she had chosen as a business coach ended up being the perfect fit. However, felt lonely and isolated at home.
“I thought there might be other mums out there like me wanting to network. I was right.”
Since setting up Motivating Mums in the UK and Australia, Alli has helped thousands of business mums connect and support each other through lunches, workshops and other networking events.
And while not all mums succeed in business, Alli said there was no doubting their passion.
“Until people stop viewing mums as either A) stupid or B) not committed – both of which are grossly incorrect – it will still be a long, hard road for mums trying to work.
“At least in business we only have ourselves to answer to.”
Has your decision to work part-time after having children stalled your career opportunities or inspired you to set up your own business?