I am very very fortunate. I married a feminist man.
When I first met Lion, I was 25 and he was 26. We were both advancing our careers, albeit in different fields. Very quickly, our respective workplaces, careers and ambitions became a very important topic of our conversations. We became one another’s coach. Our careers were advancing in parallel. We were slightly competitive with one another.
It was fun.
Then we got married and I became pregnant with Apple. And things changed.
People in work were congratulating him and then treating him as if nothing was changing.
People in work were congratulating me but then treating me differently. Mostly out of kindness, but I was very aware of it. People were telling me things such as “you have more important things coming up now” or “you should take it easy”. No one ever told him anything like that.
It was the first time the fact that I was a woman put me in a different position than him in the workplace
WE were having a child but I was pregnant.
After Apple was born, I took 4 months of maternity leave (see here for my take on why a short maternity leave can be a good thing).
I have a lot of respect for every parent out there : whether stay at home, working full-time or part-time, we are all doing an amazing job. My personal feeling, however, was that I wanted to go back to work full-time. I wanted to keep progressing my career at the same pace, I didn’t want to take on more than half the chores in the house, I wanted to keep 100% of my salary and of my financial independence. I also wanted Lion and I to keep having those exciting management discussions at the dinner table and I feared that, if my career was going to be on the back-burner for a few years, we would lose that important part of our relationship. I was lucky : Lion agreed with me. And so he helped me by :
- Being VERY supportive and reassuring me everyday that I was doing a good job at work AND at home (he is the professional Mum guilt killer)
- Splitting childcare 50/50, ruthlessly, even going as far as alternating mornings and evenings so that each of us could have a chance to stay a bit later a few nights a week to finish off some work (and it pains me to say so, but the goal was for me in particular, to be “seen” staying late)
Doing all this, he helped me recover my self-confidence and made it possible practically for me to dedicate a lot of energy to work. I am very conscious that the word “help” can be seen as controversial here. After all, they are his children too, he is not supposed to “help”, only take on his half. Yes, but if I look around me at my girlfriends, very very few fathers are taking their half. Some of my friends are very happy with this, some are less. So even if it is very non-feminist of me, I am grateful to Lion that he is doing something that not everyone does.
I got promoted 2 months after returning to work following Apple’s birth. And then again after I announced my second pregnancy. And then again after I returned to work the second time around. More than my family-friendly company or my performance, I have Lion to thank for that.
The Gender Pay Gap is a very hot topic (click here to see all the data submitted by companies above 250 employees in April 2018). Despite women being as (if not more) qualified than men when they enter the workforce, 2/3 of companies have a majority of men in the highest paid jobs. Regulations and government have a role to play in helping the balance get better.
But it will get better quicker if we all play our part.
Promoting female role models in the workplace is equally important to show young women and new mothers it is possible. But male role models, Dads like Lion, have an even stronger role to play. Because every time a Dad says “sorry, I can’t do the 4 pm meeting, I need to collect my children”, he empowers other men to do the same. And he also shows his daughters what they should expect of their partner when they are all grown up : someone who treats their ambitions as equally important as their own.
If only women embrace the Gender Equality topic, then it will remain a minority’s challenge. If all of us start to change things, it will become a society’s challenge !