The busy life of a top female MD is endless juggling of home and work
Frankly it's a miracle I have had time to write this at all! I was at the British Chambers of Commerce Annual Conference and there were hardly any women.
Someone asked why there weren’t more and I can tell you the likely reason – not because they weren’t invited – the organisers say they were. The Chambers’ director general Adam Marshall is an American, good man, forward thinking. It’s simply because busy women cannot prioritise an opportunity to sit on a panel. They are too busy doing a myriad of other things. Who is taking up the slack so they could?
I readily acknowledge I am lucky to have that support. Let me describe a bit of my life to explain…
This week I bought a new business with three others on Monday. It’s growing fast and we now need to employ new staff.But Monday I had forgotten was a teacher training day, luckily my friend had planned a day’s childcare for my nine-year-old before I dashed to work trying to sort out millions of things left during the couple of half days I managed to have at half term. I had meetings in the morning, then back in the office. I had legal issues for the new business with immediate deadlines.
Tuesday I was at that chamber conference in London. To get there on time I had to be on the 7.20am Doncaster train, so with my husband working away, my daughter had to stay at her grandparents. I didn’t get in until after 11pm because I was delayed for two hours at King’s Cross as tragically a train had hit someone. At the same time, Hannah is ringing saying she really wants to see me. I catch up on emails and the day’s problems on route.
Wednesday I dropped Hannah at school then dashed into the office for a meeting to deal with a range of challenges. I missed a Skype interview as a client arrived late, then at noon to a networking lunch where we heard about exciting plans for local supply chains to Meadowhall’s expansion by British Land. Dinner was with, among an amazing line up, my inspirations Julie Kenny, Jackie Freeborn and Jill White. This was at an event hosted by Nabarro’s discussing women in business coaching and mentoring – close to our hearts.
Thursday my daughter had a reading morning 9am to 10am, then I had to take delivery of a new bed at home. The new business is so busy I dealt with lots of calls, then off to Airmaster.
Friday I attended a Chamber update. I had promised someone lunch but had to cancel. Friday is always a mad day; me and my co-director Mark meet up to discuss the week’s achievements and plans – plus that night was the Chartered Accountants annual dinner.
Saturday there is still no peace for the wicked. I saw my coach Lisa in the morning and in the afternoon it was the brilliant literacy charity I am a trustee of – Grimm & Co’s first birthday. Sunday I needed to just lie down in a dark room while feeling guilty about not spending enough time with my family.
I imagine now you can see why there aren’t too many women round those top tables. We are BUSY working, volunteering, caring and supporting others!
There’s a balance to be stuck. If you do want a work and home life, women need to buy in help. At work I have office support from my senior management team to whom I can leave day to day responsibility for the business. Personally, I have a super coach and amazing women around me like Julie Kenny who has given me financial and legal advice and the chairman of BR Chamber’s Women in Business group, Jackie Freeborn, to offer mutual support.
I have also benefited from ‘lean in’ groups of like-minded business women such as the Female Entrepreneurs non-exec board group I belonged to and Minds of Many with Jill White.
At home, after many years’ resistance I cracked and got a cleaner. It was a tough decision as my mum was a cleaner. The best childcare is essential- and for me that is my fabulous mum and dad, and my friend Judette. My husband works away a lot as he’s self-employed and needs to go where the work is. Children need reliability and consistency and my support team provide that.
The Chamber conference was all about mentoring and resource – investing money and time correlates to achievement. For me it’s not about simply getting women into top spots- it’s the balance that is important. It’s not about women per se- who is the right woman and will she bring balance?
Our focus at Women In Business when I joined the Chamber board three years ago was to get three women on the board when there were none. We had heard a report from Hallam about balance on boards called The Power of Three: apparently more than three women completely shifts the dynamic. We were elated whenthe third women joined.
In our own company, I am so proud that the joint MDs are male and female and the senior management team is two men, two women. Personally, I have to say I don’t like all female teams either – we are different for a reason. All studies show the best teams are balanced teams.
I get excited that women are now putting themselves forward for positions in bodies like The Chambers. And it’s great our Prime Minister is a woman too.
And we all need support to do that- our cheerleaders, male or female. We can all be the wind beneath someone else’s wings.