Karen Gill is the co-founder of Everywoman the UK’s largest network for women in business. She has a 15-year-old son.
I didn’t go back to my job after maternity leave. My role included a lot of travel and I didn’t think I could deal with that and be a new mum. I’d been there for 15 years and saw it as an opportunity to escape corporate life and do something completely different, so I started my own business. Having kids makes you re-evaluate everything.
Starting a kitchen table business when you’re on mat leave can be lonely. Everywoman was the result of realising how difficult it was for women to start businesses. At the time there was a lot of patronising responses from business providers like banks, accountants, lawyers. So originally we started the company to provide a better service and help women feel more connected.
Most organisations want to hold onto their female talent and develop them. That’s the biggest attitude change I’ve noticed. Lots of companies have put in great mentoring/buddy schemes, which is one of the things that would have helped me.
Fatigue is the biggest challenge you face as a working mum. Particularly in the early days. It’s hard to juggle when you’re exhausted.
I learnt very fast to build up a network of people you could call on quickly if you needed help
Working mums are scared of being written off. I’d like to see it easier for employers and employees to have a conversation about what they want from each other, without the fear that surrounds it all.
There’s no such thing as the work/life balance. There’s no constant equilibrium. Life just isn’t like that whether you have kids or not. The reality is that sometimes it works and sometimes it’s messy.
Build up a support network. I didn’t have any help from family at the time, so it was tough and I learnt very fast to build up a network of people you could call on quickly if you needed help.
Every stage of motherhood has its challenges. My son is a teenager now and in a way that’s even more demanding. Being responsible for developing another human being is very rewarding. That’s probably why it’s so difficult when they get older because you’ve got to let go.You just have to hope that what you’ve done is going to work.
Having a baby doesn’t mean you have to hang up your boots. If you’re a working mum and you want to progress you should be overtly open about that.