Women who break the glass ceiling are inspirational. And women who break the glass ceiling while juggling the role of a mother as well rise that much more in our esteem. Being a woman and a mother in a professional setting comes with its own set of judgements. With some family support and mom-friendly workplaces, women now find themselves more able to balance work and babies.
On the occasion of Mother’s Day, we spoke to some business leaders in the media fraternity on being a working mother. Here’s what they had to say.
Mother to two daughters (aged 29 years and 19 years) and CEO, Havas Media Group, India & South Asia
When I started off in the industry and my kids were small, being a working mother did take a toll on me. It is essentially a dual job - you have to deliver professionally because you have chosen to have a career and yet, you cannot neglect your family. During the initial part of my career, I only worked from home. So there has been a lot of compromise on my space. While I still tried and managed within the means available, it was not easy.
When I was expecting my second child, my male boss did remark that he did not expect me to come back to work. And, I said: “Why not! Because, when I had my first daughter, I went back to work after three months. I do not see any reason why I cannot return to work this time round.”
I do not know what the situation is like presently in the industry, but in our office, we encourage women colleagues to take leave and come back to work. There have also been situations when we have extended leave for a new mother or offered flexible working hours. If women bosses like us do not support our staff, then you actually end up losing good talent.
You have to figure out what your priorities are. And, I do not see any reason why work and children cannot both be priority. Yes, it is difficult, but there has never been any short-cut to success. If you are a mother who is aspiring to be a good professional, be ready for a lot of hard work.
Mother of a 4-year-old daughter and CEO, iProspect
It is a challenge to be a working mother, but I have been lucky to have a lot of family support, which is why I was able to resume my career. Women who do not have that kind of support might find balancing work and a baby challenging. Being a working mother means having to keep shifting priorities between your work and your baby. Sometimes you feel the need to pay full attention to work, while at other times the baby comes first.
If you are not leaning towards one thing, organisations these days are very understanding. In my case, I came back to work 6 weeks after giving birth to my baby because I had to take up a new role and I needed to come back to work early. And when you show that sense of responsibility, organisations also respond well to you. Therefore, because I came back to work early, I could continue to have flexible timings for six months.
Today, with the kind of data connectivity we have, women have the option of flexible timings and working from home, so there are a lot more women who come back to work after delivering a baby. Three things have helped me as a working mother: hard work, confidence in myself, and not ever feeling guilty that I am not spending enough time with my child.
Leena Lele Dutta
Mother of 5-year-old twin boys and Business Head, Sony YAY!
I have always believed in maintaining a balance between my personal and professional life. It is not difficult being a working mother, as long as you have the right support at work and back at home.
With a strong support system at home, my twin boys got the right nurturing from my mother and husband. While they do miss their mother during the week, I ensure that I dedicate my weekends to them. It is motivating to spearhead Sony YAY! And to see my kids watch the channel and associate it with their mother makes me feel happy.
It was never an issue for me to prioritize being a mother versus choosing to be a working professional, but I did receive advice from people around about the traditional role of a mother. Unfortunately, back then, it was tough coming back to work since maternity leave was only for three months, but my previous employers were very supportive and offered flexibility in terms of work hours.
At SPN, there is a strong culture where they support working mothers and the welfare of their employees is of utmost priority to the organization. They have progressive workplace policies for women, such as extended maternity leave benefits (from 12 weeks to 6 months), reserved parking for expecting mothers and to make sure that a new mother’s return to the work environment is smooth, SPN has made special provision for a Mothers’ Room for nursing mothers. The company has always aimed to empower its women employees and nurture high-potential women leaders in the organization. In fact, it is committed to maintaining a flexible work environment for its women employees.
Baniaikynmaw L Shanpru
Mother of a year-and-half old infant and Associate Director, Media, Isobar
Being a mother is not a setback, it depends on how well an individual can multi-task and balance family life with work. Being a mother is as tough as any job out there. Balancing both would take a strong, level-headed woman. I come from a society where women are the pillars of the family. Women work and provide for the family along with the men.
I’ve been very lucky in all the organisations that I have worked with and am presently working with. I’ve never faced any problem and have always got the support I needed, both professionally and otherwise. My advice to mothers who are professionals: giving up is all too easy. Hard work and perseverance always pay. Always be proud of what you are. Never arrogant, but proud.