Commentary and opinion on national and regional politics by Seema Malhotra

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Are we wasting the talents of professional women?

I went to some excellent drinks organised by the Women of Warwick network for female Warwick Business School students past and present. What still strikes me as both inspiring and exciting is the variety of ways in which women, particularly mid-careerists are living their lives today. Many of my friends are going through a mid career change - but often with a common theme underlying it of how to balance work and life. This might mean reduced hours, or change of workplace to reduce the pressure to keep up with the incessant demands of the workplace at all hours. Yet what is also a theme is how to keep the same professional status both in their own eyes and in the eyes of others. One shared an interesting story. She works four days a week in her mid thirties having changed career from private to public sector for lifestyle reasons. She suggested to her partner that he might work four days and she work five - both were in senior positions. What was his response? "I can't do that! I won't be taken seriously at work!" A great instinctive response. Welcome to the world of women professionals who are hitting the ceiling of senior management and making the choice to "trade in" time and progression to help keep society going. How seriously are they really taken in the workplace and why does it still vary so much? And how are we creatively changing employment practice so as not to waste the productive talents of women who will have had 10+ years of work experience and investment?