At the height of the coronavirus pandemic, when much of the world shifted to working from home, juggling responsibilities became particularly tough for working parents.
When the government lockdown was ordered in March 2020, I was pregnant with my second child. My maternity leave was due to start in June, which was only two months away. The circumstances created an additional strain when I lost the childcare support I had secured for my daughter. This led to an unforeseen balancing act: working from home while being heavily pregnant, filling the void left by the lost childcare, and working long hours all at once.
Having an employer who empathised with my situation made all the difference. Wasserman stepped in to make sure I was not overwhelmed, accommodated changes to my working hours and made a point to check in on my wellbeing.
Working from home takes centre stage
Data taken from the Office for National Statistics shows that three out of 10 parents felt they faced some sort of obstacle in fulfilling their childcare responsibilities within their work life. Long working hours were identified as the main barrier to balancing childcare and their career effectively.
As a co-founder of Mother of all Media, founded in January 2020 to highlight the experiences of diverse working parents in the media and creative industry, I quickly realised the crucial role employers played in this equation. From creating a culture of work-life balance to developing authentic diversity and inclusion policies, employers can set the path and parameters for success. When parents are supported at work, they will thrive, if given the flexibility to balance their home commitments with work life. It's simple.
Driving inclusivity for parents too
A study from Boston Consulting Group shows that when organisations have diverse management teams they have 19% higher revenue. It highlights that diversity is not only about metrics, but it's also key to business growth and success.
We're all aware there is a race and gender representation gap in the industry, specifically in leadership ranks. Mother of all Media co-founder Louise King and I are both mothers. We realised there were few women under 40 from ethnic minority backgrounds sharing their experiences of working in the media field.
We both knew from the outset that we were coming into a predominantly white and male-oriented industry (in senior positions at least) and that we stood out from the industry norm for success.
We have both frequently talked about being the only black person in the room, from leading client meetings to managing video shoots. This dynamic reinforces the need for diversity as a way to add value to a changing industry. We realised we were in a position to help drive this important transformation.
When Louise was pregnant with her son, she worried that as a black woman working in the media industry, becoming a mother had the potential to put the brakes on her career. Unless she took ownership of her narrative.
Statistics from Pregnant Then Screwed indicate that 67% of BAME pregnant women believe their pregnancy was a factor in their redundancy. Louise became intentional about flipping the script on this pattern, and believes that with the right support and understanding from employers, there is a way.
A forward-thinking future
At Mother of all Media, we offer advice to companies on diversity and inclusion initiatives and back-to-work mentoring. We also offer coaching for parents wanting to get to the next level in their media careers. As employers look to the future, I have seen positive steps taken to empower parents with managing home life, while still delivering on their work commitments.
Investment bank JP Morgan recently announced a revision of their childcare benefits in light of the pandemic. For employees, this includes discounts on full-service childcare and remote learning tools for school students.
In light of recent government plans to try to encourage employees back into the office and as children start returning to school, the industry can do more to consider the needs of parents while they finalise their return to work plans.
To employers: continue to promote flexible working, encouraging open discussions with your staff. Create a safe space for employees to express their needs without fear of judgment or discrimination.
To parents: continue to be vocal about your achievements while being clear about the support you need to succeed.
We will continue to share our truths, to inspire the next generation of diverse talent rising through the ranks, so that they enter the industry on an equal footing along the path to success.
Alicia Emejulu (pictured above, left) is senior producer at Wasserman, and Louise King (pictured above, right) is executive producer at distillery, the pair are co-founders of Mother of all Media.