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16 September 2015

back2businessship 2015 by Sarah Giddens

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‘Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone’ sums up the introspective and informative day 5 at #Back2Businessship in the very welcoming Hill+Knowlton Strategies London office. This post is written by delegates Priya Dsouza and Katiso Ndlela

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As a graduate I launched my career working for an advertising agency as a pitch co-ordinator. After a stint in Tokyo, I returned to London and moved into fashion and consumer PR, then on to work in news and PR for leading children’s charity Save the Children.

Life as a fashion and consumer PR was exciting, fast paced and peppered with glittering late night press events. Working across News and PR for a children’s charity reacting to international emergencies, gave me a whole new depth and breadth of experience.

I had my son, followed two years later by my daughter and while both spent their days in full-time nursery, I fought to maintain my career. I felt constantly conflicted between obligations to my children and employer. I decided to resign when international travel to Save the Children’s programme countries was being introduced as a compulsory part of my role. I couldn’t justify leaving my children during those long press trips, or see how I could cover the childcare. It felt like time to take a step back.

I felt forced to choose between a career and my family, because of lack of flexibility at work and the high cost of good quality childcare. Women have too few options to allow us to be mothers and do so without compromising our careers. An article published 15 May 2015 in The Guardian stated ‘60,000 women a year lose their jobs because of having a baby’. I imagine that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Adjusting to full-time parenting was a new chapter. I networked locally, founded a community group and joined others where I volunteered. I fundraised for a local school, sourced cash to equip its library and lately to provide new infrastructure. I helped set up a gardening enterprise to engage children with growing, cooking and selling food. It’s all been hugely rewarding.

Three years down the line, both my children are confidently settled at school. I want to get back to work and not lose traction entirely, but find myself confronted by obstacles. The industry I left has bounded forward and I need support to pick up the pace.

Finding out about the back2businessship programme was like striking gold, offering women guidance to help them break back in to work. For me, it presents an amazing opportunity to re-engage with the experience I banked in the 10 years working across fashion, consumer and charity in both news and PR. It’s an exciting departure from the status quo, pushing an agenda that sees innovation and flexibility for women in the workplace, rather than ostracising them simply because they are mothers too.

Find out more about back2businessship by following @b2businessship or on the f1 blog