My name is Victoria Entwistle. I lead our employee communications practice at H+K London and co-lead our EquALL mission, driving equality through all we do and are. H+K is an extremely supportive business and in the last few years especially, we have dug deep and explored ways to improve diversity overall, reduced our gender pay gap in the process, and put wellbeing at the heart of our approach in these transformative times.
I’m also a single mum of eight years to Theodore, 9 and Rose, 11. In that role, I’m the CEO! While the absence of their father to addiction was dark and exhausting; that wasn’t the crisis; losing my job would be the crisis.
I can’t tell you what it’s like to suddenly be three people who must be in different settings at 9 am, except mine is Central London and theirs is 25 miles east. Theodore still in his buggy and Rose just learning to read. It’s nuts.
You need breakfast clubs and childminders, while still funding a train ticket and the mortgage. Rose was dropped when breakfast club opened at 730; I’d push Theodore up the hill to nursery, then rush back down again to grab the 8:08 to Liverpool St.
You power through the day. Pretend your latte pick up is why you’re at your desk at 9:15, not kids. Look left and right before sidling out at 5 to race the other 1,000’s aiming for that one train to hit school club before it shuts at 6. Grab the eldest, fire back up the hill for Theo. 7:30 pm we’re home, all exhausted. And if the train line was down…
I kept at it because I had to. I wonder where I would be if I had another financial option – I doubt a director. I started at BT where a flexible working culture is engrained and my salary meant I could, to some degree, juggle the childcare costs. Moving to H+K, flexibility was a welcomed conversation and part of my contract.
But many businesses miss out on incredible women because it’s too hard to juggle. The potential of that loss is a deep shame.
2020 has TRANSFORMED my relationship between work and my children. Of course, homeschooling was a challenge. But we did it. Having every evening together has been delicious. My team have loved seeing them and I’ve loved the shared humanity of seeing colleagues and clients at home.
I’m also conscious of my privilege. The number of women compared to men losing jobs in the pandemic is staggering. It’s mothers the most, and mothers of colour more. Women skew high in the decimated hospitality sector and in teaching and shift-nursing roles, often because of the dilemmas I outline above. Negating the constant need for extra childcare on what is touted as 9 to 5 but in reality, is 7 to 7 with the travel wrap. For those who have luckily stayed employed, we’re knackered – doing more than our share of the extra childcare and housework.
David Solomon, CEO of Goldman Sachs is wrong. Working from home is not an aberration – it’s an opportunity for families to be families, and for the child-free to be creative and energised. Collaboration doesn’t just happen within an office setting. Yes, magic happens, and I look forward to being back, but a lot of social awkwardness has been eradicated by video. You can reach into a productive space much more quickly in many instances.
In spite of my imposter syndrome, I’m very good at my job. I’m empathetic. I’m patient, while hungry to get things right and grow the things I’m working on.
Being a mother brings extra to my game.
I can’t lose my career. My children depend on me for love, food, shelter, and game consoles! But with all the running around, was I losing my children?
If you want women at work, and it makes phenomenal business sense, then give women and men space. It’s something H+K is focused on – ensuring we maintain flexibility after lockdown.
2022 will be amazing if we get our vaccines, and can blend office and home. To be all we are, not forced again to choose which slice.
For IWD, I choose that.