Career, Politics and a 7:00am Kinder Egg

This guest blog is written by Cllr Pinder Chauhan, County Councillor, Sixfields, Northamptonshire & Bright Horizons Client Relations Account Manager.

Balancing a career, political life and children can be a challenge. However, I am lucky to work for an organisation and a manager who completely supports the various commitments that I have in my life.

From a political aspect, there is very little flexibility; you are quite frankly at the behest of the public and the residents that you represent. In my current role, I represent a division of 11,000 residents and the issues vary from area to area.

On International Women’s Day, I was very fortunate to be asked by the High Commission of India to represent my views as a panellist on the subject of “Parenthood and Career: How to strike the balance” and also “HR Policies: Are they inclusive, gender sensitive and adequate to bridge the gender gap?”

Joining me on the panel were some very senior representatives, including: Avnish Goyal, Managing Director, Hallmark Care Homes; Vinati Sukhdev, Executive Director, Pratham UK; Maithreyi Seetharaman, Director, Fortune (Live Media Content), Co-Chair, Fortune Most Powerful Women International; and Philip D’Costa, Partner, Penningtons, in addition to myself, Cllr Pinder Chauhan, County Councillor, Sixfields, Northamptonshire.

I was also joined by Rozy Contractor, General Manager, Topcoder at Wipro; Shoma Jamil, Head of UK India Tech Hub, International Digital Strategy, Deptt of Digital, Culture, Media & Sports, UK Government; T N Giridhar, Head of Investment Banking, Axis Bank; Manju Malhotra, Co-Chief Operating Officer, Harvey Nichols; and Punam Birly, Partner, KPMG for the second session.

Hosting the panel was Ms Lakshmi Kaul, Head & Representative – UK Confederation of Indian Industries. Lakshmi asked some very relevant questions that made me reflect upon my own journey as a parent.

Balancing a family and career is not easy by any stretch of the imagination. Quite often you are multitasking trying to factor in the school run, clubs, meetings, dinner and a toddler curled around your leg begging you for a chocolate kinder egg at 7:00am in the morning.

My contribution to the panel was to speak of my own career journey and moving to Northampton with my husband and my son who was 1.5 years at the time.  I remember not being able to drive, feeling isolated and looking for work. I didn’t have a support network around me and I decided to go back to University and study for my degree in HR Management. It literally was survival of the fittest.

At one point I went in completely the opposite direction. I couldn’t find work that offered a flexible working solution. I dropped my son to breakfast club early and collected him from childcare at 7:00pm. I didn’t even know where his classroom was and it was only when I was off for maternity leave with my second child did I realise how much I had missed out with my son.

My journey back into work after maternity leave became about finding a job that offered flexible working. I also started campaigning for an election during this time. I remember my interview at Bright Horizons when I spoke to the head of the department at the time and I was amazed at the flexible options available at Bright Horizons. Although, I was taking a step back in my career, it was what I needed.

Today, I have moved in to the Client Relations Team and I manage a portfolio of clients who are so engaged in offering flexible working solutions to their employees. Services such as emergency back-up care and self-coaching technologies through the Parental Leave Toolkit are life changing benefits that employers can offer their employees. I also discussed the Modern Families Index which Bright Horizons produces in partnership with Working Families, the UK’s only flexible working solutions charity. The report highlights the challenges and aspirations facing today’s working families and offers recommendations for government, employers and individuals about how families can grow and thrive both at home and at work. To download the report please click here.

My call to action for my audience, and for you as a reader, is:

  1. Change the culture of an organisation from top down to incorporate flexible working across all departments and all management.
  2. Change the culture of ‘presenteeism’ in an organisation. You don’t have to sit behind a desk, working set hours to be productive and successful.
  3. Inspire and encourage children to be who they want to be, to dream big and never doubt themselves. Our gender doesn’t define our abilities.
  4. Engage and read research, such as the Modern Families Index, to see a snapshot into the lives of today’s working families and hear first-hand the frictions they face in the workplace and at home.