Real Estate Mums: the ultimate balancing act
We’ve called for better gender balance in our workplace before and now International Women’s Day 2019 has arrived with the theme, ‘Balance for Better’. And this time we want to highlight a group of our colleagues that often fall under the radar – mums.
When Emma Walmsley was tossing up whether to accept the role of GlaxoSmithKline CEO, one of the first questions she asked herself was ‘how could a wife and mum take on something so big?’ She did, and became the pharmaceutical world’s first female CEO. In New Zealand, it was the critics who questioned Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s ability to do her job when she became the second woman in the world to give birth while in office.
From CEOs to Prime Ministers, mums feel the same pressures, whatever their role. It’s no different in Real Estate where mums have had to reroute their career trajectory, not entirely by choice.
Adding children to the mix of managing clients, appointments, meetings and pitches and you’ve got yourself a 24/7 balancing act.
BresicWhitney agent Adrienne Williams is well acquainted with the working mum juggle, and before her kids came along, admits life revolved around work. But there’s nothing like having children to turn your priorities around 180 degrees.
‘Fitting in school drop-offs and family time between appointments, being present with the kids mentally, not just physically, as well as the perception that in real estate everything needs to be actioned ASAP (even if it doesn’t!) means you’re ‘on’ all the time’, Adrienne says.
‘There’s also the ‘mummy guilt’ that comes with being a working mother, and even with a very supportive husband and family, it’s hard to switch that feeling off’.
‘Life has different layers and dimensions now though, which makes me a better person and therefore a better agent. I’m also lucky to work in a business that have an understanding of what it’s like to be a working parent, so I feel very supported.’
Belinda Carter, BresicWhitney’s Head of People and Culture (and a new mum), agrees, stressing it’s more important than ever that we continue looking at better supporting people through the transition of becoming a parents.
‘The industry needs to take the time to listen to our returning-to-work women (and even those that don’t come back), and understand where and how we can find a better way to support them’ Bel says.
Like all parents, Bel’s list of mum challenges is long, but she sums it up pretty well by describing it as ‘bloody hard’. But what makes it manageable for her is working for a business that supports true flexibility. Also, ironically, Bel was on maternity leave herself when BresicWhitney implemented a formal parental leave policy – one of the few Real Estate brands to do so.
‘We’ve set an aim for ourselves to understand how we can make even better decisions around how we’re setting up our working parents to succeed’, Bel says.
In the Property Management space, the story is much the same. The heavy workload often sees people leave the role, and with children added to the line-up, a business’ willingness to be flexible can make or break you.
One of BresicWhitney’s Senior Property Managers, Rae Walters, brings up flexibility as being key too, emphasising that employer trust is a key reason why she can walk the fine line between a successful career and home life successfully.
‘As long as I have a phone and a laptop, I can work anywhere, and BresicWhitney have invested in the tech to allow that, which is really important for me in how I manage everything’, Rae says.
Rae believes encouraging diversity in the workplace and enabling working mums to maintain a career makes for happier homes and more productive workplaces.
Father of two and BresicWhitney CEO, Shannan Whitney, has seen how important coming back to work can be for a mother’s sense of self and purpose, and he believes their ability to transition after time away is a monumental change and for him, inspirational.
‘Mothers are contributors at work, they multitask really well and their ability to do many things in defined timeframes is hugely valuable and extraordinary to watch’, he says.
‘As a business, we have to constantly ask ourselves whether we’ve created the right conditions in which mothers can return to work and have the flexibility to bring their whole selves to that environment, but also have the balance of supporting their family role too’.
‘Without having the experience of a being a father myself I couldn’t have possibly begun to contemplate how difficult it is for working mothers, and adapting to the day to day challenges that arise is something we, as a business and as colleagues, can continue getting more comfortable with and supportive about.
When International Women’s Day rolls around next year we hope to have a lot more to talk about on the progress we’ve made for working mums and their vital contribution to the workplace. But if we’re not talking about how working dads make up the rest of the picture, we’re missing half the story.
So, here’s to balance.