So it’s International Women’s Day today and what a great platform to talk about how each of us can better support and accelerate gender parity across the globe. On this day in which we celebrate women and applaud gender inclusiveness I would like to share with you my story.
Even though it was 18 years ago that I secured my first corporate job, it just feels like yesterday. I still have the piece of paper that I wrote down the appointments of the 6-round interview/psychometric testing process that I needed to “pass” to get my job. I remember the recruiter preparing me for my first interview with my prospective employer by saying no matter how hot the day was, that I absolutely needed to wear stockings and a jacket.
I remember not caring in the slightest what number was written on my contract because it was all about getting my foot in that proverbial door! And I remember wanting that job so so, so badly. That this occupation would determine the beginning of my adult life. And boy did I get my foot in…. I got that job, and I worked HARD, really hard, just like all my other girlfriends around me who were starting their careers. But you know what, I just never ever thought about the fact that I was female and that over time, my needs and wants would change. I was just a person trying to get some experience and trying to put my university degree to use.
As I “climbed the ladder” I again didn’t really care about the salary I was receiving. I knew that if I worked hard and continued at it, doing great things, learning new skills, then the money would come. And in some respects, it did…. but so did gender inequality. I think in my more junior roles “the establishment” accepted that there would be some percentage of women in certain roles, and I enjoyed being placed on corporate talent programs and was supported through promotions and bigger roles…
But then, I wanted babies – and everything changed.
I’m not that old right, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to say that I was absolutely supported through my pregnancy by my colleagues and by Management – I received beautiful well wishes and gifts from my workplace after my son was born… but that’s when everything changed – except that it didn’t.
My heart was full, so full of mama love, and so I – like all the other working mothers in the world – juggled motherhood around my work, except that it wasn’t a juggle, it was more like I had to “hide” my motherhood. It was just impossible to be able to fully give myself to my workplace in the way that I did before. Working 12-13 hours a day 4-5 days a week, travelling for days and being completely dedicated and uninterrupted in my dedication was not something that I could commit to anymore, except that was the expectation.
My workplace had zero compassion for family life, the rigidity was unbearable and the guilt and frustration was almost intolerable. I endured the juggle (let’s get serious, it was an utter struggle) for a couple more years and had my second son and felt like a failure in every aspect of my life.
My loving husband would say, “Aren’t you home yet?”, my all-consuming workplace would say “Are you leaving already?”, and my amazingly caring parents would say “When are we going to see you?”, and all I wanted to do was scream… and then cry and then cuddle my babies…
Cut to now and my boys are 9 and 6¾ (that ¾’s is very important to a 6 year old!). They are certainly not babies anymore, but boy do they sure still need their mama and my heart bursts with joy that I get to drop them off and pick them up from school each day.
Pinky, Sarah and I are proud female business owners of an almost all female team that has a strong family first ethos. Working hard (actually bloody hard) goes without saying, but the standard 9-5 doesn’t work for us and it doesn’t need to.
Flexibility, compassion, kindness, teamwork, collaboration, reward, diligent planning and strategy are all important aspects to our success. Employing amazing women that exude these qualities are paramount to our achievements. Constant tweaking and checking in with each other is also really important and necessary. We celebrate our diverse team with our Uni students both younger and mature age, with our mums who have returned to the workplace for the first time to come and work with us, we have Sarah living abroad and Pinky who not only has 5 children of her own, but grandchildren too. It is an amazing and a very fulfilling place to work, and the biggest kick that I get from it all, is that I get to play a role in shaping what this workplace looks like and what it represents, and I take on this role with great pride and sincere gratitude.
The workplace that we have created represents equality, diversity, innovation and growth. Our workplace also enables us to create and provide a truly niche but extremely vital product and service to other women.
We are a business run by women, for women. We celebrate a woman’s ability to breastfeed her children every single day and feel passionate about helping women during their breastfeeding journey. And we are proud, super, super proud to be women in business, and women leading business.
So on this International Women’s Day I really want to celebrate all the small, medium and large sized businesses out there that are taking gender equality and parity to the next level in every part of their employment offering. I want to celebrate each and every manager that takes into consideration how a workplace can be better tailored for a working mum. I want to celebrate every woman who stands up and challenges the biases that she faces in the workplace. I want to celebrate every man who observes and celebrates the achievements of women in the workplace.
On this day, I want to celebrate WOMEN! Happy International Women’s Day!
Kim Vespa has a mixed background of both corporate and entrepreneurial experience as well as being a mother to two very active boys. A Psychology graduate, and a HR post-graduate with a background of over 15+ years in Human Resources, Kim has worked across various industries in senior advisor and management roles. She is co-owner of Boobie Brands, a women owned business supporting, informing and nourishing breastfeeding mothers through Boobie Bikkies ™ , all natural and organic cookies to support a healthy breast milk supply.