Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Why the trappings of success are no match for equality

Why the trappings of success are no match for equality
Ten years ago I was flown first-class to Dubai for a job interview. In the list of extravagant experiences I have had during my career, that one ranks right up there.

I had been headhunted for an executive role with Forbes UAE. A global search had been conducted and the short-list was a male from Britain and me. At the time my children were in primary school so an international posting wasn't on my to-do list. However, my attitude is always nothing ventured, nothing gained so I spent three days in Dubai meeting the publishing team and getting to know the city.

During the first meeting with the group of people who would have been my team, I noticed that the women in the group lined the back of the room, while the men sat upfront. When the chairman of the company finished introducing them to me, he invited the team to ask me questions. It was only the men who spoke up. They asked me what I knew about the Dubai publishing industry. The truth was: not a lot, but I could learn quickly. They also wanted to know why I wanted to live in Dubai. This time I couldn't tell them the truth, which was that I wasn't sure that I did. So I answered that I was keen for an adventure. They looked at me blankly.

I then turned the questions on the team and requested that the women come forward. They said no and waved their hands to emphasise it. I asked them if they had any questions for me. Again they said no. At the completion of our meeting, the most senior woman in the group, who was the finance manager, informed me that she would be showing me around the city so that I could decide where I wanted to live.

At that point I was still open to the opportunity. It would have been a rocket for my career and bank account, and I had been hearing that expats were living a charmed life in Dubai.

The one-on-one time with the female executive, a local, was an eye-opener. As she drove me around the more glamorous parts, she warned that it would be difficult for me to do business in Dubai as a woman. I was quite shocked by that because it was the first time in my career that I had been confronted with the gender issue. There is no doubt that in my chosen industry there were glass ceilings everywhere, but I hadn't yet knocked my head on one. So I was keen to explore what she meant by that.

This highly educated woman explained that if she needed to speak to any of the male customers of the publishing business then she would need to have a man with her. Apparently businessmen in Dubai, at least back then, would only do business with men. I asked her if she thought that I would need a man with me when meeting with clients of the magazine. She said, "yes, definitely".

As a result it was an easy decision for me to say, "no, definitely not", to the opportunity. It was a defining moment in determining what was important to me in my career. Equality is a basic right and I knew that an impressive title, significant salary and first class business travel were no substitute for it.

Mums@Work 27 Nov 13
Source: Women's Agenda
By: Marina Go / Nov 22nd 2013 at 6.59am 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

A 24/7 job and three kids under four. Would I do it again? Absolutely

Fiona Sugden and her three children Isla (9 months), Giselle, 2 and Finn, 4.
Fiona Sugden and her three children Isla (9 months), Giselle, 2 and Finn, 4. Source: News Limited         
DAWN is breaking outside my bedroom window and I know my alarm is about to go off prior to the first of many phone hook-ups for the day.
I quickly reach over to turn it off so it doesn't wake up any of my sleeping children or my exhausted, yet stoic partner.
My two-year-old has ­woken repeatedly through the night with a cough and has ended up sprawled between us in our bed.
It has only been a couple of hours since I was awake giving the baby her bottle. I force myself past the exhaustion to get up, shower, get dressed and read the news headlines.
I've prepacked my bags late the night before and they are waiting at the front door. I made the three lunches for my babies for childcare to give my husband a break. I take the first of many calls in the dark. I book a cab to the Brisbane VIP terminal. I sneak in to quickly check the baby and feel grateful she is still asleep.
I feel the pang of guilt through my chest about stopping breastfeeding her. Something had to give. I check the two-year-old and four-year-old and kiss them goodbye.

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It is high risk. If they wake up all hell will break loose ­because mummy is going again. I only just made it home in time the night before to read to them and sit with them until they fell asleep.
The four-year-old tells his kindergarten teacher mummy is in Canberra working for Kevin. The two-year-old is a different story.
With no understanding of what's going on she is showing signs of separation anxiety and when I come home she has started to say: 'Mummy I lost you.'
My baby is too young to understand, so frankly that helps. I missed the baby crawl last month. That was low point.
I sneak out the door to the waiting cab. Call No. 2 two in the cab. Today will be long: three different states and time zones. A major announcement.
As the VIP prepares for takeoff from Brisbane the sun is rising.
I need to go to the toilet but that will have to wait. After years as a political staffer I have learnt to always go to the toilet when there is a chance whether you need to or not. The same goes for eating.
Everywhere I go the first question most people ask me is 'how are you doing this?', or 'how are your children?' While they are well-meaning questions, the truthful ­answer is not one they want to hear: 'I don't do it, a team of other people do.' And 'I don't know how they are at present'.
The question I wish they would ask next is 'do you think this is really worth it?'
Yes. And I would do it again.
When the opportunity was put to me to be communications director to the prime minister I made the choice to do it for a number of reasons. One of them was because when I asked myself the question 'would I do this if I was a bloke?', the answer was yes. And no one really says to a bloke 'you can have it all, just not at the same time'.
Women with children need to be at the table helping to form and deliver the right government policies for families, so every effort needs to be made to encourage this.
My job looking after my children is the most important one I will ever do. But my career is important too.
I do not believe women who want a career need to have their own 'wife'. I think by saying this we are accepting that men do not need to do 50 per cent of the work looking after their own children. We are letting them off the hook. I think we need equal parenting in the home.
True equal opportunity based on equal parenting. Equality for women needs to be progressed further in the home.
Let's stop talking about how impossible and hard it is for women with children to work in politics and talk about how we make sure there are many more of them. That is the positive future that the Australian Government needs."


AMANDA Whittle, 35, is a property manager from Mt Annan and crams a week's work into three days to make time for triplets Addison, Brock and Callum, 4, and daughter Kiera, 8
Amanda Whittle and her four kids Kiera, 8 and triplets Addison (blue dress), Brock (white shirt) and Callum (orange shirt) all a
Amanda Whittle and her four kids Kiera, 8 and triplets Addison (blue dress), Brock (white shirt) and Callum (orange shirt) all aged 4. Source: News Limited

We planned for baby number two and were very surprised to find out it was triplets. Natural and homemade. Finding out was shocking but the reality of living with triplets is actually much nicer than I could have ever imagined. A lot of people ask how we do it. The answer is we just do - not doing it isn't an option.
Our household thrives on routine. The working week starts with my husband Luke up and out of the house before 5am. It's incredible to me that he showers, turns lights on/off, opens/shuts doors, kisses me goodbye and I can sleep through it all.
One noise from the kids and I'm instantly awake wondering what could be wrong. I'm usually awake before the kids. It's nice to be able to shower without an audience. I make up lunch and finish packing their bags. I love watching them sleep and I hate waking them, but they are night owls and if I didn't wake them we'd never be on time.
There are reminders to Kiera on repeat: get dressed, brush your teeth, put your shoes on. I do sound like a broken record.
Then there's the discussion with the triplets about who is wearing what. Allowing them fashion freedom is a small price to pay for them being happy when they leave the house (this battle, I've discovered, is not worth fighting even if they look hideous).
Getting four kids out the door at 8am by myself is no easy feat. If we get Kiera to school by 8.15am and I can avoid the line of shame (the late note line), it's been a good morning! Then the pre-school drop, then off to work.
I always imagined returning to work after having kids so my six years at university didn't go to waste.
I feel that I try to fit in a full working week in my three days, deadlines have to be met regardless of whether I'm in the office or not. The financial reporting calendar waits for no one.
Luke picks the kids up from preschool/after school care. He unwinds at home by having a beer and watering the lawn, while he watches the kids ride scooters and bikes.I cook dinner, Luke runs the bath. I only prepare one meal for the family - anything else would be too difficult. We sit down to eat, it's the first chance I've had all day to actually sit down and not rush. If I'm lucky this lasts 15 minutes.
Luke packs up after dinner and I sit with Kiera doing homework and daily reading. I try to squeeze in the gym three times a week so after the kids are in bed I sneak off. Even though I do have to drag myself there at times, I always feel better for going.
Thursdays are my first day of the week not in the office but probably the most overwhelming. The list of things to be done is greater than my ability to do it all.
I'm often taking calls from work, solving problems while tackling a mountain of washing, tidying up, cleaning and changing sheets.
The triplets have swimming lessons at midday.
This week Luke and I are looking forward to a rare date night without the kids. It's so important that we still make time for each other in our often hectic lives so we stay connected, rare as it may be. I work for a few reasons - it keeps my mind active, and we couldn't survive on one wage with four kids, but we are just treading water as
the child care fees are $600 a week.

I don't get to be the mum who can do school drop off and pick up every day, and I feel a certain amount of guilt about that.

Emma Walsh, 39, is managing director of mums@work who has seven-year-old twin boys and a three-year-old daughter

It's 6:30pm on Thursday evening, the taxi pulls up in the driveway. I've been away three days in Melbourne and Adelaide delivering training and visiting clients. I'm exhausted.
My poor husband, who has held the fort for three days while holding down his full-time job, will be exhausted and ready to hand over the parenting reins to me the minute I'm through the threshold.
Emma Walsh, 39 with her three kids 7 year old twins Luc and Ewan and 3 year old Alice.
Emma Walsh, 39 with her three kids 7 year old twins Luc and Ewan and 3 year old Alice. Source: News Limited

I walk through the door and, before I've put my bag down, the kids have raced to the door yelling with delight "mummy's home" and, of course, my heart melts. My three-day jam-packed work scheduled is forgotten in an instant.
Within minutes the tantrums have unfolded. My husband's now nowhere to be seen. I settle back into mummy mode and start cooking. The kids have been fed so that's three less people I need to worry about. My three-year-old daughter is following me around the house and now demanding my attention, and dinner is starting to burn.
Husband must still be in the man cave, hiding.
Finally we manage to get the kids to bed by 8.30pm and sit down for a meal. We manage a two-minute "how are you?" conversation before we start planning for tomorrow.
It's a home day for me and yet my diary is full. I've volunteered to set up for the school fete; I've cakes to bake and a craft stall to station most of the weekend.
When I was a twenty-something up-and coming, hardworking, impressionable HR executive with something to prove and with dreams of making it to director one day, I noticed that some of my colleagues were starting families. They left work and were not returning, or returning part-time but out of the frontline. Surprisingly, they were grateful for being allowed to work part-time.
One day I received a call from an irate manager, ringing to give HR a piece of his mind. He "would not and should not" have to take his staff member back who was applying to return part-time. And he was going to make sure it didn't happen. I was appalled and dejected by his attitude and discriminatory comments.
When I started a family I didn't want to be begging for part-time status too.
It's fair to say that those months of tossing and turning ideas as to how I was going to balance family and career led to a business idea of my own and mums@work was born the same year as my twin boys.
The business is an advocacy service for mums and dads returning to work and I consult with employers on how to make the workplace more family friendly.
I've managed to squeeze in having baby number three.
My life is frantic as ever balancing the business and juggling three kids.
The good news is, I did make it to director level - of my own company. I'm the boss.
My husband works full-time so there is never a dull moment and we spend ridiculous amounts of time discussing logistics.
Most importantly, I'm doing something I love and I'm helping other mums and dads find ways of balancing work and family.
Mums@Work 18 Nov 13
Source: Daily Telegraph
By: Fiona Sugden / News Limited / Nov 16 2013 10pm