Mothers in management positions

Mothers in management positions

Being a mother and successful at work – is it possible? We believe it is. Two part-time-working mothers in management positions at HR Campus talk about the compatibility of work and family life.

Mothers in management positions

Equality at work has long been an issue for employees. Just recently, the Swiss National Council voted for the women’s quota, because companies are still not meeting long-standing demands to employ more women on administrative boards and in executive positions. But why is that? Why are there still so few women in management positions?

There are many reasons. Mothers need more flexibility – on one hand, they have to be able to work part-time; on the other, they need to be able to work from home. In emergencies, such as when a child becomes ill, it is important to have a sympathetic employer and the opportunity to make arrangements. However, part-time work is not widespread, particularly in management positions. This is not only due to the unwillingness of employers, but above all due to problems in putting it into practice and the lack of support for talented women.

HR Campus attaches great importance to empowering women in management positions to reconcile work and family life. Two of our mothers talk about their experiences and their secrets for success in management and part-time work.

Flexible working hours are a must

Martina Nietlisbach is head of the talent-management team at HR Campus, working two defined days per week. This clear regulation helps her. In this way, team mates in particular know when she is working and accessible. When working with customers, this regulation is not always so easy to implement. Customer appointments or important issues sometimes require exceptions to be made, for example. In her position as a manager and part-time worker, Martina finds it important, among other things, for the appointment of deputies to be clearly regulated, so that urgent requests can be dealt with immediately. Her team is also very independent, which simplifies team management for her.

HR Campus also maintains a so-called “godparenting system”, which means that team members do not need to address general questions to team leaders directly, rather they help one another. She also appreciates that her team is very understanding, because all but one of them work part-time. For Martina, however, the ability to work part time is heavily dependent on the job and the team, so this concept is not suitable for everyone. Martina is grateful to HR Campus that she can remain team leader while reducing her workload, and for giving her the necessary flexibility. However, she has been working for HR Campus for twelve years and knows the culture and the company very well. For Martina, this familiar relationship goes a long way to making the working model work for both sides. Listening to Martina, it is clear that meticulous planning is very important, and it is essential to have a private network, such as parents or partners, who can step in in emergencies or exceptional cases.

So this leaves the question of what single mothers with no family network do. In these cases, companies could provide more support. Martina sees a gap in the market here: “It would be great if there were an emergency crèche right in the company. That way, if an unscheduled important meeting is coming up, I could just take my son to work and know that he would be looked after for that time.” But Martina acknowledges that career development can no longer proceed as she would like, since she has to make occasional sacrifices. As a part-time employee, she can no longer tackle the same topics as previously, rather she takes on responsibilities with no rush.

As a mum, she has to completely forego large-scale projects for the time being, as coordinating them would be too complicated. But her personal priorities are clearly defined: “I’m fine with it, because the three days with my child are just so important to me.” Martina has the following advice for other women: “Women should commit themselves and demand what they want for themselves. Mothers often do themselves down and let themselves be forced into an old-fashioned female role model. That's just a shame and unnecessary!” Besides, pioneering women are very important. If there are already women working part time and holding managerial positions, this breaks down inhibitions for other women, and also for the company itself. As Martina’s life shows, flexible working hours are especially important, and this applies for both parents. For example, Martina benefits from her husband’s flexibility. He spreads 90% of his working hours over four days and can rearrange his days in emergencies.

Companies need to show initiative

Eliane Hofer manages the entire HR department at HR Campus and works three days a week. She also makes sure that she is never away for more than one day, since most tasks can wait a day. For Eliane too, the most important thing is to get organized at an early stage, to reach a clear agreement and to divide work within the team. Eliane also appreciates the understanding she gets when, as an exception, she has to postpone working days, that her Fridays are respected and that she is only called in urgent or important situations during her time off. Key to the success of Eliane’s dual role are the flexible working options HR Campus offers her, such as flexitime or working from home.

Eliane’s children clearly come first for her, so the interaction with the caregiver is very important to her. She has to be able to trust him or her, and – first and foremost – her children have to feel good about it, so that she can drive to work with a clear conscience. “Wherever possible, it is very important to organize a flexible person, be it a nanny, someone from the family or sharing with a partner.” Mothers are subject to heavy demands in their dual role, which also became evident when talking with Eliane. Holding a management position as a mother is tough, she says, because the two worlds are very different, as are their respective requirements. But she really appreciates the variety and enjoys these challenges. Although the expectations are very different, one learns to appreciate both more. Eliane says she uses and enjoys family time all the more intensively, but she also appreciates that she can still use her skills and knowledge.

For Eliane, time means recreation with the whole family, and that recharges her batteries. Eliane would like to see more initiative from the companies themselves: “I would like to see companies being more open and daring with part-time work and employment of mothers. The introduction of working-time models such as job sharing should also be examined.” Consequently, companies should offer flexible working hours for both genders and deliberately promote women and point out their opportunities for management positions. Eliane also believes that more gender equality would have a positive effect on the entire company: “I think employees are more motivated when both genders are in leadership positions or both have the opportunity to advance their development.”


Published: 1. October 2018

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