Paying a long overdue debt on International Women's Day
I want to celebrate International Women’s Day by paying tribute to the woman who had the biggest influence on my life with regards to my working mum career.
My first proper office job was at a theatrical literary agency that was a hub of amazing women – owned by a woman and with one exception all the staff were women. My boss, Sara, was the only mum in the business.
Sara was a force of nature, a brilliant, fast mind, an excellent agent. Funny, fearless, strong, kind, generous. A perfect mentor for a woman in her mid-20’s taking her first steps into the business world.
Sara balanced work with being a single mum in a way that looked effortless (I know better now). She worked two days a week from home and when in the office, left at 3:30.
Sara told me when the time came for me to have my own family to stand firm in the ways I wanted to work, if I wanted to continue working. She told me, and she showed me every day, that if you add value to a company that believes in its employees, you can work and raise a family the way you want to.
I was in an amazing job when I got pregnant. I worked for a big production company, spending time on set, travelling, surrounded by amazingly talented people. I loved my job. And the idea of having to give it up terrified me.
Luckily, the company was as amazing as the job. The senior management team got very excited whenever new babies came into the picture. So I was able to negotiate a way to continue in my role that I felt would fit with who I wanted to be as a mother. I stayed in that job for almost ten years after I had my first child.
I never got to thank Sara for that advice. The last time I saw her, I was a fairly new mum, still trying to find my feet. I didn’t have the confidence to tell her what an influence she had been on me, I was to young and dumb to understand what hearing that
might have meant to her. I was oblivious to the fact that I wouldn’t always have that option. Less than a year later, Sara lost her long battle with breast cancer, leaving behind her 14-year-old son.
I can’t tell you how much I wish I had told the impact that she had on me. Twenty years down the road with my kids fully grown, I am so glad that I continued to work.
Being a working mum isn’t easy, being a stay-at-home mum isn’t easy. But I am so grateful to have had the choice.
Now I work with women who are running their own businesses because I want them to be able to take advantage of all the choices available to them. Women who do so to fit work around their families, to find a creative outlet, to fulfil a long-held dream, to skirt that glass ceiling we nudge a little bit higher every generation. Women who are writing history every day – their history, their family’s and that of the generations coming up behind them.
Sara, I wish I could tell you what a huge debt I owe you and how grateful I am to have had you in my life. You laid the foundations of the history I wrote for myself and my family.
So today, celebrate International Women’s Day by taking a moment to thank those amazing women that influenced you the most. We all have them.
And you know what? We all are them. I guarantee you, someone in your life is grateful for the role model that you are to them. Even if they haven’t told you.