Magazine article Management Today

The Power Mums

Magazine article Management Today

The Power Mums

Article excerpt

Combining a big job with raising children is tough, but it can be done - if you've got the support. christine armstrong talks to three mothers - and a dad - who wouldn't have it any other way.

It was in 1977 that MT first wrote about female managers, when we discovered Felicity Green, the Mirror Group's director of publicity, who confided: 'I think the obstacles facing women are so enormous that it takes a superhuman effort for them to get to the same level as men.' That was 36 years ago. How much has changed since then? Do you still need to be superwoman to get to the top, particularly if you are a mother?

MT has long championed the cause of women in the workplace. We've written extensively about work/life balance and continue to publish our annual '35 Women Under 35' list, which highlights high-flyers across business. Many are new mothers or soon to have children. How hard will it be for them to continue with their upward career trajectory five or 10 years down the line? Here, we speak to the mothers (and father) who have done it.

For the power parents interviewed here, the basics are the same: find a job you can thrive in, work hard, get ahead as much as you can while you're young. The women talk about learning to advance in a world where men are in the majority. Many of them still find their big jobs lonely places and have consciously learnt tactics to manage in a world in which they are outnumbered. One power mother joked that she has learnt never to 'take on a field of willies', by which she means there are usually better ways to get your viewpoint across than take on a room of men directly.

The power parents say they are doing well. While many of the mothers have wrestled with their decisions, they remain convinced that they have made the right choice. They know they are not hard-wired to stay at home full-time. As Nicola Rabson, a partner at Linklaters, puts it: 'I know I am not a natural mother or a natural lawyer but both, and therefore incredibly blessed.'


Bennison, 45, is marketing communications director for Barclays retail and has four children (three girls and a boy aged 13, 11, 10 and six respectively). She also manages a team of 60 people. She gets up at 5.30am to check emails before getting the children up and dressed and making two packed lunches. She mentally packages her time into 10-minute slots throughout the day. Her husband runs a business from home, as well as helping to look after the children.

- How do you get it all done?

I don't draw a line between home and work. I multitask. If you are late for a meeting, I'm doing the Ocado order. I have both agendas running at the same time, constantly thinking about everything that is going on. If I don't do something instantly, it doesn't get done - that's why I am an email fanatic. Last weekend, we had second cousins staying and they unloaded the dishwasher, and I was thinking, this is the 10 minutes I've allocated for this, and I honestly didn't know what to do with myself We have a nanny who cooks and has dinner on the table when I get home - I'm like an old-fashioned dad. We have supper around the table as a family, which has made a really big difference.

- Does it ever go wrong?

If anything goes wrong on the childcare front that is really, really stressful. But the times I get most miserable are about silly things, like if I send them to school in the wrong clothes or forget something small - that's what will reduce me to tears. The big stuff you just manage. The thing that makes me most stressed, because my time is so valuable, is if someone doesn't respect that or wastes it or is inefficient. I get really emotional and angry because they are taking me away from my children.

- How do other people see you?

At work I think people find it a bit exhausting. I'm not sure I'm a terribly good role model. Younger women wonder if you need to work that hard. …

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