I caught up with successful sales professional, Gemma Watkins on her recent promotion to Sales Director of NSW for an international media company. This promotion resonated with me because it’s a wonderful example of Gemma kicking goals as a corporate working mother, but also because she’s pregnant with her second child!
From my experience and observations since launching Thirty4Seven, the stigma attached to women who want to excel in their careers and balance a wonderful family life is still very much in play and something that deserves more conversation. An article in the Wall Street Journal just before the pandemic hit talked about this here.
As a rule there is still not enough genuine support in most workplaces for working mothers so it’s great to have a positive story to share and there are some learnings in here for any business that wants to retain great talent and support their people.
- Tell us a bit about you and your family/work life
I’m a working mother with a two-year-old daughter Rosie, living in Inner City Sydney with my husband Anders and our dog Alfie. I am currently working 4 days a week at JCDecaux. I have been heading into the office one or two days a week and working the remainder from home.
- How long have you been with your current company and tell us about the new role!
I joined the JCDecaux team 6 years ago as an Account Manager, back when there were about 10 people in the NSW Sales team. I have recently been promoted into the role of Sales Director NSW alongside the amazing Morgan Hannaford.
- How many weeks pregnant are you and did it have an impact on your decision to apply for the role? Ie, did you consider not going for it?
Right now, I am 25 weeks pregnant. When the position opened up, I was really excited about the potential opportunity but I did also definitely consider not going for it. Not because I didn’t want to take on the role, I was a little unsure about the timing with my pregnancy. I had a chat to a couple of people and I was reassured that being pregnant would not impact the outcome of the process. It’s the second time that I have been promoted whilst being pregnant and I feel really proud to work for a company where this has not played into decisions.
- Did you have to interview for the position (what was the process like?) and did you think your pregnancy would be an issue for the business or have they always shown support in this area?
I did have to interview for the position. It’s a bit different interviewing for a role with people that you already work with, but you also have the benefit of them knowing you and how you work. In my experience, JCDecaux have always shown support for working parents as well as throughout my pregnancies.
- This is a great example of a business supporting its high performing staff despite family obligations! Are they a supportive company overall and what lessons could other businesses learn from them?
Yes they are absolutely a supportive company overall. Since returning from my first maternity leave I have really noticed the flexibility available and the trust that is placed in the team to get the job done. I will generally start my working day a bit earlier and finish up a bit earlier so I can spend some time with my daughter Rosie in the evening. Occasionally I need to adjust my timings, but I have felt there is the flexibility to adjust as required. There is an understanding of the pressures faced by working parents outside of the workplace. There are quite a few working parents employed by the business so I don’t feel alone in managing the balance of my working life and personal life outside of work.
One thing which I think really helped my adjustment back into work life is that the company where my husband Anders is employed, offers all staff three months parental leave. I returned to work when Rosie was 9 months old and he then spent three months at home with Rosie (quite literally as it was during lockdown last year), before she started at day care. He managed her transition into day care which helped me to adjust back into work life. We both now work 4 days per week, spending equal time with Rosie outside of work. Based on my experience, I think it would be great if more businesses were able to offer parental leave to both parents.
- How are you feeling about maternity leave so soon after the promotion? (Does it help that this is second time around and you have more of an idea what to expect?)
I have quite mixed emotions about it. I really want to be able to get my teeth stuck into the role, which I am really enjoying so far. It would be great to have a few extra months before heading off on maternity leave but I am also really excited to meet my new bub and get to spend some quality time together. It does help knowing what to expect. I want to be able to soak in the newborn period a bit more this time. It passes by so quickly and before you know it you have a toddler!
I adjusted back into work life nicely following my first maternity leave and I have really enjoyed working (maybe even more!) since becoming a mum. I am expecting it might be a little harder to get out the door in the mornings with two kids, but I feel confident that I will enjoy returning work after my second maternity leave.
- As a mother and a successful business-woman, is your career an important part of your life and identity?
Absolutely! I would say that equally being a mum and a business-woman are important parts of my life and identity. I love both of these parts of my life. Occasionally they conflict, but for the most part I feel like I have a great balance going on. I am hoping I can maintain this after throwing another kid in the mix.
- What’s your advice for other mothers or mothers to be who might be considering the next step in their career?
I would say go for it! Don’t let the fact that you are a working mother, or that you are pregnant/planning a future pregnancy halt your ambitions. Being pregnant, a working mother/parent doesn’t take away from your skillset. In my experience it has actually helped in certain areas. Particularly in the area of negotiation with a toddler!
Thanks Gemma & good luck!