Work-life describes the balance between an individual's personal and professional life. A healthy work-life balance assumes significance for women, particularly in the current context in which both family and work have posed challenges for women. Work-life balance for me is when I can happily execute both my roles without neglecting either.
Before my family came along, my work represented my world and happiness. Going to work was an experience I looked forward to each day. Then my son was born, and I had to take him with me to the office until he was about a year old. There was no facility for nursing moms, and I depended on colleagues to care for him while I attended to business in and out of the office. It was a real struggle when I had to work long hours.
In Ghana, when a woman can manage work and family pressure, she is called “Margaret Thatcher” (a name used for strong women). How ironic that a woman is only seen as strong when she puts in more effort than a man on the same career level. Notwithstanding, it is a truth I have not come to accept that women in leadership positions tend to be seen as difficult.
I’ve worked with amazing men who respect women and had the opportunity to advance in my career. This was not simply a matter of more women in senior management – even though that is important – it is also a question of the right policies, benefits and finding the best way to nurture human capital. At Dentsu Aegis Network, gender diverse leadership delivers results because where women are better represented in leadership, companies are more likely to adopt family-friendly work policies. However, it hasn’t taken away the challenges of combining two full-time jobs. I have experienced nights spent crying when I felt I was failing in my role in the family, for instance, the times where my five-year-old would ask, “Mummy, do all mothers go home late?”.
Progressive companies are working to achieve family-friendly workplaces, but the protagonists also have a role to play. I know many hesitate to press the stop button and go home; it takes courage to know when to change roles. I maintain a level of professionalism and maximise the time I spend at work to reduce the interruption during post-work hours.
Healthier, smarter, progressive
Family-friendly workplaces have a lot going for them – healthier, smarter and progressive female employees with healthier homes. As a manager and a woman, I always look out for and promote the basic things that family-friendly workplaces do for businesses.
This allows female talent to work with the peace of mind that their family responsibilities are recognised, that they can take time off for paediatric visits and maternity leave without any guilt or insecurity, and that leaving the office at 5 pm does not make them unreliable employees.
The workplace environment requires women to make a lot of sacrifices to succeed and so does the home. Where do companies find the balance and ensure they continue to retain their female talent? I am convinced that companies will see great shifts in their bottom line if they adopt deliberate and well-thought-out practices to make the workplace as family-friendly as it can be.
If we want to attract and retain amazing people, especially in our industry, then we must start walking the walk concerning company culture, because many of them are moms, and many more will become parents.