Melinda Lofts, Data Strategy Director – April 11th 2018
Adland needs to learn to embrace mothers, just as mothers need to embrace adland
After a shift from client side to agency side after having a baby, LIDA’s Melinda Lofts began to see the boxes adland’s mothers are often too easily put in.
From the moment I was engaged I made a conscious decision not to wear my engagement ring to any job interviews. I knew that my chances of a job offer could be reduced if interviewers knew I was in my late 20s and engaged.
What I really wanted to do was ask about the maternity policy of my new potential workplaces, as it would have huge ramifications on my future finances – but I resisted. I am not alone, as many of my friends who work in media or law confirmed they have done the same.
After I had my first child I shied away from liking LinkedIn posts about working mothers or anything that could flag that I was a mum. With 52% of woman in Australia saying they have been discriminated against purely because they are a mother, I wasn’t alone. I had a point.
In my actions I perpetuated the notion that working mums were somewhat lesser. The penny dropped for me six months ago when a marketing manager in her late 20s complained, she “wished she was a mum so she could leave early”.
This was the very person who in five years’ time would possibly be in the same situation as myself. For weeks I bit my tongue, until I couldn’t any longer when she exasperatingly asked “why do you never come to lunch with us?” and I explained that my priorities were applying myself to my work to make sure I got home on time.
I felt further validated by a 2013 Ernst and Young study which found woman working part time were the most productive in the workforce – wasting just 11.1% of time compared to 14.5% of the remaining workforce. The same study found that of working mums only 11% had a flexible work arrangement.
The “motherhood penalty”, as it is known, is detrimental to women’s careers. It is the main reason why the pay gap between men and women in rich countries is no longer narrowing. According to a recent article in the Economist, in the rich and middle-income countries that make up the OECD, the median wage of a woman working full-time is 85% that of a man.
This is my second stint in agency land and, as a mother, I now feel a sense of confidence. I have worked across a number of industries in my various agency roles, but motherhood has given me practical experience in so many more, with relevance to important demographics.
In the past few weeks, I have been working on a pitch for an infant product. Having first hand experience in this area, I believe I (and all the other parents out there) have a fantastic wealth of experience to dip into to creatively find solutions for our potential clients. It is yet another reason why it is so important to have a diverse agency.
I implore mums and mums-to-be to have open conversations with potential employers – if they do not employ you for being a mum (or a potential mum in a few years’ time), do you really want to work for them? The companies that embrace mums are much more likely to have a supportive culture and allow greater flexibility.
I urge all mums to be proud and encourage women who are thinking of kids to consider staying in adland. If you are going to be away from your kids at work; make sure you’re doing something you love, in an environment that supports you.