Championing Unique Perspectives: Working Parents
Five CAs join our Championing Unique Perspectives Series to share experiences of striking a balance between their family lives and their career ambitions.
While accountants are experts at ‘balance sheets,' they often find that striking the work-family balance provides new challenges. That's why a common theme amongst five working parents was the fact that flexibility and open communication from employee to employer is essential to success.
For Jamie Mumford-Raine CA, M&A manager at Baker Hughes, balancing his time with work and school drop-off has always been a priority to spend time with his daughter daily.
"As a parent, finding balance is challenging but it’s possible. Making time for your children, especially in their formative years, is so important for their mental health. You need to look out for your own mental health too, so you can be present, and not just physically, during this time.
Post-pandemic it’s been a real positive for people to see each other working from their homes. Your kids are running around in the background sometimes and it’s lovely. It’s human. I respect working parents and children help create dialogue to get to know people. This insight into people's home lives has enriched the working experience and has created conversation. It’s different from being in a sterile office environment where you might not know if someone has a child or is a carer.
My advice for anyone starting a family and working within the profession is to get a good mentor, have regular career conversations, speak to as many people about what you think is exciting and have a loose plan for your future with kids. With this, organisations need to be the voice to enable the conversation for flexible working to unlock value for both employers and employees."
Tracey Rob Perera CA PMP FCMI, Fractional CFO/COO, Non-executive Director NED, Business Strategy Consultant and Chair of the ED&I Committee and Council member, is inspired by the potential of working female professionals and leadership talent. She believes by providing equal opportunities and equal promotions, we can propel the productivity and economic growth of the UK.
"Parenthood has helped me personally in finding purpose, building inclusive leadership skills fast, leading by example, building mental fitness, resilience and every day reminding myself how grateful I am to be able to create and bring up precious life, educate them and enjoy the journey. The potential of skilful working mothers inspires me and by providing equal opportunities and equal promotions, we can unlock so much potential.
When it comes to leadership, it's about being mindful as a leader. Understanding your employees’ lives and being empathetic. You need communication lines both ways, to be flexible both ways. If there's mutual respect, inclusive leadership and you're putting in the added value, innovation, efficiency and flexibility, then employers completely respect that. Life will throw you things you’re not prepared for. It’s being mentally fit and calling on the right support from mentors and coaches who will help get you through."
Claire Clark CA, Head of Specialists at Hutcheon Mearns Integrating Finance and member of the ICAS Grampian Area Network Committee, had plans to dive straight back into her career after taking maternity leave, but her priorities changed and realised she sought more flexibility after becoming a mother.
"There are many people who have had amazing careers and now just want a bit of flexibility around their family and I support that, within my own life and my own team. To achieve balance, I think we (firms and employees) need to work together and a lot of that comes through positive discussion and conversation. If you feel you're given the flexibility around family, people are usually happy to do a little more at work. I think it's a partnership and that we both need to work together to achieve that. Without this partnership, it’s challenging to fulfil both roles.
Sometimes it feels like I am doing a bad job of everything. I think it's natural that you always feel you're not doing a good enough job. It’s part of being a parent. I also don't know if there's a way around that. If you want to fulfil both roles, I think you need to decide where you are prepared to compromise to get the best life balance for you. This is very much an individual decision and I have been very fortunate that Hutcheon Mearns supports working parents."
For Kerrie Murray CA, CEO at Pryme Group and Grampian Area member, finding a balance between two major life challenges, raising children and building her career, is never easy, but always worthwhile.
"I don’t feel pressure to keep my professional identity and my identity as a parent separate. Those who know me, know I’m a mum to two boys. My experience of workplace attitudes towards working parents, especially those who allow their parenting responsibilities to take precedence, has always been positive. I think it’s important for leaders to encourage parents to take the time they need to get the balance right for them.
Leaders need to lead as they want to be led. Be honest with people, share experiences and support your teams in life. Leaders need to ensure they provide support and guidance. This advice is not just for mums because becoming a dad is life-changing and I’m so pleased that firms are adopting shared parental leave.
Honestly, I didn't think about my career when I started a family. I knew I wanted to be a mum and that was it. However, when I returned from my year of maternity leave, I returned full-time to a new role. Therefore, it was all new – new role, new mum, so we just made it work. It’s not perfect and has its challenges but if everything in life was easy, we wouldn’t be able to celebrate the wins."
For Ross McAdam CA, Associate Director at Craig Corporate Ltd and member of the Glasgow and West Area Committee, prioritising work/life balance is key to success, in and out of the workplace.
"You must prioritise things as a parent, within your work and other interests. I tend to be busy being a dad and with taking my daughter to numerous weekly classes and a busy working life amongst other things, it can be a challenge. There are not enough hours in the week to do it all, so it is about prioritising what is best as a family and my requirements at work.
Ultimately, the industry is suffering from supply challenges in terms of recruitment and therefore staff retention. If employees, particularly working parents, do not feel supported at work and aren’t able to better balance their lives, they will find an alternative employer who does support that. The ability to work flexibly, whether at home versus the office or with fluid working hours, is beneficial for managing all aspects of parenting and gives parents the confidence to adapt and plan for the week ahead. Right now, post-pandemic is quite possibly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that should change the way we view traditional working environments and cultures."
We want to hear your unique perspective. How do you find balance? Get in touch if you would like to share your story.
For more information on returning to work after parental leave, read more on our toolkit for returning to work.