Don’t Say Mum

Elizabeth Murphy, Co-Founder of The Change Agenda, contributes a guest post on why she stayed ‘mum’ at work regarding her parental status.

THE IDEA OF CEASING EMPLOYMENT WHEN I HAD MY DAUGHTER TEN YEARS AGO DIDN’T ENTER MY MIND.

I love working. I like to use my brain, learn new things, engage meaningfully with others, use the skills I’ve been gifted and benefit from the financial independence.

Not long ago, I worked for a global organisation. For many years, I was fortunate to have a brilliant leader who understood juggling motherhood and work. I had the right work – life balance. It was only in my last year in 2013 that things changed. I relocated states so I could move into head office and into a global role managing billions of dollars of business across multiple time zones.

I WAS A PROFESSIONAL AND CONFIDENT EMPLOYEE WHO IN MY LAST YEAR, WORKED HARDER AND LONGER THAN EVER – DRIVEN BY A NEED TO PROVE MYSELF AND SUCCEED.

It was a time when I started feeling differently about being a mother. I found myself wanting to avoid conversations about my daughter, with certain people, preferring to swiftly move on or not entertain a conversation at all.

The worrying thing was, I knew why. I felt at risk of being perceived as less committed and dare I say, less capable. I worried about being judged for working in a global role that required travel and demanded a high level of engagement.

Yet, I insisted on maintaining my professional façade and kept my conflicted thoughts to myself. My confident facade conveyed the message, don’t question me, I’ve got it all under control.

HERE’S THE THING. I WAS FAR FROM HAVING IT ALL UNDER CONTROL. I WAS GOOD AT MY JOB BUT AWAY FROM THE OFFICE I WAS SUFFERING, AND, MOST OF ALL, THE RELATIONSHIP WITH MY THEN SIX YEAR-OLD DAUGHTER WAS STARTING TO SUFFER.

It’s ultimately what supported my decision to walk away in search of a better way of working. I’m a confident woman, yet I struggled to speak up about this one area causing me the greatest grief. All because of my own need to be perceived as successfully managing work and family.

WHY COULDN’T I BE HONEST ABOUT THE BEHIND-THE-SCENES STRESS I WAS EXPERIENCING? WHY DID I FEAR THAT BEING A MOTHER COULD POTENTIALLY WORK AGAINST ME?

The 2016 report, Women in the Workplace: Roadmap to Gender Equality by Lean In and McKinsey & Company, revealed that only 28% of employees reported that senior leaders encourage candid, open dialogue on gender diversity. Twenty-eight percent!

What if organisations offered a safe environment to explore current strategy and policy in order to have a deeper understanding of what’s working, and where there is real opportunity for improvement?

And do this without employees worrying about their jobs? Would this accelerate success?

This article was originally published by Femeconomy

Elizabeth Murphy is Co-founder of The Change Agenda.

The Change Agenda delivers facilitated forums for organisations that are designed to drive change in the area of diversity. They support organisations by facilitating courageous conversations that create the environment for employees to fearlessly share their opinions, experiences and ideas with the goal of creating positive outcomes.

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