Hear from a Jem on International Women's Day
International Women’s Day is 'a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.' (un.org).
I recently read that the UN have set goals to achieve gender equality and women’s economic empowerment by 2030. While that’s fantastic news, it still seems a long way off and it got me thinking about my own career and the challenges I’ve faced as a woman and a mother. So, I felt passionate about sharing my personal journey on International Women’s Day from Recruitment Consultant to Managing Director in eight years.
This might not sound particularly extraordinary, however, as a woman it was not straightforward. On 25th August 2008, I, along with my colleagues, was made redundant with no notice. It was the beginning of the recession and we were far from alone in our circumstances. But I was also a mum of a two-year-old boisterous toddler, and I was due to have my second child the following month, so not the best circumstances to be interviewing for a new job! I spent a few hours panicking, found out where I stood legally regarding maternity pay and the following morning, I began to build a business. My existing clients were extremely supportive and this spurred me on. I started my business with a mobile phone, a borrowed laptop and a determination to succeed.
Roll forward three weeks and my daughter was born. Literally holding the baby in one arm, a phone in the cradle of my neck and typing on the laptop with my free hand, Jems Recruitment was also born. Starting the business wasn’t particularly thought out; think of a name, register with Companies House and then do what I do best….recruit. In the early days, I spent a lot of time worrying about the day to day responsibilities; the children were so dependent on me for everything and work had to fit around them completely. Often, I had to make tough choices and grow the business more slowly to ensure I could cope with the demand plus ensure I succeeded as a mum too. When the children moved to primary school, this opened up more hours to work with less guilt from my side, something most working parents will understand. I have many stories about how I juggled work and the children and looking back it seems as if I am watching someone else live through those days. Some of the stories are humorous, some a little sad but the overall feeling is pride.
Through a lot of hard work, dedication, commitment and sleepless nights, I have driven the business from strength to strength. In the early days when I was up at 1am, 2am and 3am with the kids, I questioned what I was doing and whether I could make it work with two young children. My husband, who is a very hands-on dad, was the voice of reason. We had many conversations at 1am about this and each time all he needed to say was “you can do this” and “you’re a great recruiter”, and so I carried on. Now my son is nearly in secondary school, the children’s independence is growing almost daily. They are both very interested in my business, they understand the concept of work and are aware of working mums and how we have to juggle our lives.
Today Jems Recruitment is now an office of four, soon to be growing to five. We also happen to be four strong females, pure chance, but it works well. The challenges I have faced during these years have shaped not only the values of my business – honesty, perseverance and equality – but also my children. My daughter is a force to be reckoned with, my son a gentleman and they both understand the value of hard work.
And while I expect that by 2030 my daughter’s career choices will be easier than mine, I hope I have set an example that through hard work, determination and sacrifice, I was able to create a success out of a mobile phone, a borrowed laptop and some sleepless nights!