Last week I met with Federal Minister for Small Business Bruce Billson. We talked about the fact that in Australia 46% of women with children under four are currently at home full time and around 75% of those women had considered starting a home based business to enable them to be at home with their children.
We talked about the fact that the number of women starting a business since 2008 has doubled and that according to a recent survey by St George the major reason so many women are starting a business was to enable them to have more time with their children and greater freedom and flexibility.
We talked about the fact that the reality is the traditional nine to five is not working for women anymore. In fact I don’t think it ever really did. Women have had to fight hard to be accepted into a model that was originally created by men for men. It’s no surprise to me that women are leaving the traditional workplace in their thousands and taking matters into their own hands and creating an entrepreneurial lifestyle that ‘works’ for them.
This was literally one of the most important meetings of my life, a huge opportunity to be a voice for women and make a difference by speaking to someone with the power to create change at a Federal level. And I took Ellsea my busy toddler with me. I had actually teed up two different people to mind her for me but on the day they both fell through and couldn’t make it. So my only option was to bring her along.
This isn’t unusual for us because we go everywhere together, but its not like this for all mums, lots of women have to leave their children in childcare to be able to work, there is literally no other option for the majority of working mothers.
A facebook post I shared recently really resonated with a lot of women:
“I have an important business meeting on today at the head office of a big corporate in Melbourne and I’m bringing my busy toddler. For years working mothers have had to feel like they need to pretend they don’t have children to be able to get ahead in their careers, to lie about taking days off when their children were sick or to try to hide their pregnancy from their employers for as long as possible & I know it still happens now. But little by little I think things are changing and I want to be part of that change. I want the world to know that I am a mum and I have a successful career and I want other women to feel that they can say that too. And so I’m bringing my toddler today and I’m not just doing this for me this is for all of us. Because little by little together we can change the world. #mumpreneurmovement“
There were lots of comments applauding me for taking this step:
“Wonderful! I take my 1 year old on business trips, have since he was born. I love hanging out in the qantas club with him, and he gets all the attention in the office (he’s such a ladies man). What a wonderful role model you are for your little girl. Woot woot I say!” Amanda
“Love this post – from ‘AusMumpreneur’ I’m so tired of everyone ‘saying’ “family comes first” and yet as soon as ‘work’ comes into the equation suddenly family must appear to cease to exist. I am a solo Mum, I work, study & run two small businesses with my toddler by my side most days.
Just the other day I had someone completely gob-smacked at the thought of trying to have a business meet up simply because I’m a parent, yet my customers love it when I show up with my daughter. It’s an icebreaker, there is an instant change in attitude and a more relaxed atmosphere, Plus the ‘work’ still gets done!
As an added bonus my toddler learns how to behave in public, good manners, how to occupy herself as well as interact with a variety of different people. Let’s start putting ‘people’ first and accept that their lives are a part of who they are and ‘why’ they work in the first place.” Trace
“It’s refreshing to hear you say this.” Samantha
“I’m all for it. I own a security company, an industry of course male dominant. Both my part time receptionists have kids. As long as it doesn’t implicate work too much both know they can bring their children in as needed. To get great people we need to be flexible in our approach.” Julie
“Perfect! this is why I love this community!” Amy
But sadly, even among my own tribe, not everyone agreed:
“I don’t know if I agree but good on you if that’s what you feel you need to do.” Katie
“Sorry but I disagree , I’m a mum and business owner and i understand at times kids need to be with you but for a business meeting I just think no. It’s like saying is it ok if my husband sits in too. But each to there own and I hope it all works out :):)” Bekh
Which really goes to show we still have a long, long way to go.
So I was delighted when I heard that designer and stylist Rachel Zoe has opened a dedicated office nursery so that her staff can be with their babies:
“Strong, multi-hyphenate women are important to every aspect of my business: I design for them; I dress them; I highlight them on The Zoe Report, and I also employ them. In 2014, five of my staffers became mothers. I found out they were all expecting within the span of a couple months (something’s in the water here, I swear), and my immediate thought was: We need to open a nursery. We might not be styling out of my garage anymore, but I still think of my staff as family. I wanted to create an environment where these new mothers wouldn’t have to make a choice between career and motherhood. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to grow my company from just a few people to more than 40 while having my kids (and my husband) by my side, and so I knew I had to do everything in my power to give my staff that same luxury.”
“Sure it required us to make additional investments—the physical space, the insurance required to protect everyone, the furnishings—but what we are getting in return is invaluable; the working mothers at our company can improve and grow our business without having to sacrifice spending precious time with their babies at such a crucial stage in their mother-child relationships. In light of the controversies surrounding unequal pay and other forms of gender discrimination, I feel good sending the message to my team that they work for a company that supports and celebrates who they are in their personal lives and that we aren’t afraid to let those truths influence the culture in the office in order to make us more productive and happy on the whole.”
“On March 8, in honor of International Women’s Day, the Clinton Foundation’s No Ceilings: The Full Participation Project launched a powerful campaign that imagined what the world would be like without women in positions of power. At Fashion Week this season, mothers and their children were everywhere from the front row to the runway. And on the red carpet, celebrities including Reese Witherspoon and Diane Kruger demanded to have their voices heard through a social campaign called#askhermore. In other words, I’m not the only one who has been inspired to challenge convention and make drastic changes in order to better support the women around me. It’s in the air.”
It sure is Rachel, and we can feel it in the air here too! I Love, love, love Rachel’s advice for other working mums:
“Never apologize for being dedicated to your kids and challenge those around you to not only acknowledge, but celebrate your ability to be a mother and an asset in the workplace. Ask your employers to help you do the job the best you can, whether that means providing adequate healthcare and benefits for you and your family, opening a nursery in your office or allowing you to partially work from home in order to be with your children. If there is one thing I now absolutely know to be true it’s that we are all stronger together–babies and all.”
There are lots of other amazing high profile working mums out there bringing their kids to work with them like Beyonce and Blue Ivy:
Pink and Willow:
Posh and Harper (Harper is always front row at Victoria Beckham’s shows):
And this one has to be my very favourite, three-year-old Vittoria Cerioli, daughter of Italian MEP Licia Ronzulli who has been attending Italian parliament since she was born:
This mother’s day I want you to think about motherhood and how it looks for you and for the women around you. If you are a mother I want you to celebrate how special that is and if you’re not a mother I hope you’ll acknowledge the mothers around you for the incredible work they are doing in raising our next generation!
I love that I can take my daughter with me to meetings. We have our bad days and I do love the odd solo meeting but my job allows me to be so flexible around my family needs. It helps that I love my job anyway but this is an added bonus. And I know from first hand experience that your gorgeous girl is a dream in meetings xx
I have really clear memories of Cate Blanchett co-chairing a session at the 2020 Summit with a 7 day old baby, and it made me even more impressed with her – and encouraged me to see that family and a passion could co-exist if people would just let it. Great post, thanks!
Yes we need more examples of high profile women doing this kind of thing!