Friday, 21 October 2016

The Gender Pay Gap Conference - My Story.

Last week I spoke at the Gender Pay Gap Conference. I was there to share my story about maternity discrimination and the lack of work opportunities as a young parent. Being sat amongst CEO's of charities and companies was definitely intimidating. But I had one of my close friends Sophie on the same panel as me and Lydia from Young Women's Trust was there to cheer us on.

The conference was set up by the Fawcett Society, they have been striving for women's equality for over 150 years and it was an honour to share the stage with so many inspiring people. I wanted to share my speech, especially with the latest report released from the CBI that states employers should be more accommodating and flexible.

Pregnancy and maternity leave should be a time to relax and prepare for your baby, a time to bond with your child. But pregnancy and maternity leave isn’t like that for a large portion of young women. Instead it’s can be a time of discrimination, uncertainty and worry about being left behind and unable to move forward in work – something which I know all too well. 

Telling my employer was a tense moment. Working in a male dominated sales environment I was already at a disadvantage. But as soon as I added a pregnancy to the mix I felt vulnerable, as if I had a walking target on my back and they were waiting to shoot me out the door.

Being pregnant and working was overwhelming and exhausting. I didn’t feel as though I was respected as a member of the team and some male colleagues were allowed to leer at me and make snide remarks about my situation. To the world it might have been seen as ‘workplace banter’ but in reality it hurt to hear how some of my peers thought I was ruining my life.

Whilst on maternity leave, I attempted to reach out to my employer for some keep in touch days. Despite the negativity around my pregnancy in the workplace, I needed to return and wanted to work. I thought I was a valuable member of the team, no matter what was happening in my personal life. 

When I reached the end of my maternity leave I reached out to my employer to enquire about flexible working. I was not only returning to work, but also to university so needed to return to my old shifts. Being aware that flexible working isn’t always available, I was open to working with them to find a happy medium. I was then told they had no job for me, but I could work in another store if I had to.

A lot of attitudes had changed in the 9 months I had been off. I was made well aware that they weren’t going to welcome me back with open arms with a manager stating that I should ‘stay at home with my child on benefits like all other teen mums’. At that moment I felt worthless, I felt that all my contributions to the team and company were redundant as I was now a mother. That because I had chosen to bring up my child, I couldn’t work for the company too.

At the time I thought my experience was normal. But on retrospect I realise that no one should be left to feel worthless because they had a baby. Whilst my story may seem extreme, it is unfortunately the norm for many new mothers. 

There needs to be a culture shift starting with employers. Women should be encouraged to keep in touch with their employers, not only does it strengthen the bond between employee and job, but it also keeps the bridge of communication open. It allows mothers on maternity leave to feel as though they are still a part of the team. 

Flexible working should also be welcomed. Despite it being a legal right, Digital Mums recently found in their Work That Works report that 60% of mums don’t have access to flexible working in their jobs. Having a flexible working employee not only means that an employer is retaining those important skills they have trained their staff in, it also proves to their staff that they believe in them and are willing to work with them to keep them as an employee. 

Being a young parent looking for work, I’ve often found that jobs I’ve ended up in have led to no opportunities of progression or promotion. Potential employers have dismissed and judged me, expecting me to put work second when I’m in a role. I’ve watched countless childless colleagues surpass me and gain promotions, when I am just as qualified for the role offered. Being a parent should not be a reason to hold a young person back. 

My experience isn’t unusual. Earlier this year the TUC found that women who had taken a career break to have children before their 33rd birthday were paid 15% less than other women. The Institute for Fiscal Studies also discovered that when women reduce their work to 20 hours or less per week, they see their wage growth slow down over time.

I’m not trying to say that young parents should be pitied and handed life on a silver platter. We are just as much of an asset as any other employee. Whether we need flexible working, mentoring or keep in touch days, employers should feel encouraged to work with young mums to ensure they are providing a well-balanced and positive working environment, so that we can progress in our careers and not feel stuck.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

#Brightfuture with Unilever

I have a child that loves dirt. When I say he loves dirt, I mean he LOVES dirt. Rolling in it, running in it, making mud pies. The messier the better in his eyes. Whilst I love that he doesn't mind getting in touch with nature, I do find that his clothes are tinged with the colour of mud! We normally rely on Persil Non-Bio to get the stains out. Not only is it small and mighty, it also does the best job at getting rid of those tough mud stains. 

Unilever have launched their #BrightFuture campaign, to inspire people to take small steps to help the world be a more sustainable place for all. From helping empower girls with self esteem problems to helping children gain access to education, Unilever are doing all they can to help change the world one product at a time. 

We are the first to admit that we aren't as sustainable as we could be. Whilst we recycle, use eco friendly products and go out as much as we can. We do have two cars and we rely heavily on technology to get through the day. We do however love to unplug and take a trip to the local forest. 

We like to run around and pretend we are on a bear hunt, or looking for the Gruffalo. We love the fact that we can disconnect and focus on nurturing creativity and getting in touch with nature. We hunt for bugs and try and learn something new about out outside world each time we step out of the front door. It helps us forget about the issues we can face at home and focus on the bigger picture.

The future might be uncertain but I know that whatever happens we are doing our bit to shape the world around us. From little things we do in our family to bigger steps we can take with the community, we are looking forward to a brighter future. 

This post is an entry for BritMums #brightFuture Challenge, sponsored by Unilever

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Octonauts Gup-K Review

Out of all the tv shows on at the moment, Octonauts is one of our favourites by far. Not only do the kids love watching Captain Barnacles and the gang, but as a parent I feel that it teaches them so much about marine life and conservation. Fisher Price recently asked us if we wanted to review the new Remote Control Gup-K and Max couldn't wait to give it a test drive!

As with all Fisher Price toys, I have to commend them on how easy it is to actually get in the box! No longer do you have to wrestle with ties, scissors and plastic. There are perforated edges and simple ties to get it out and play in minutes. You do need 4 AA and 2 AAA batteries to fully get started but the toy can be played with without batteries too.

Based around the new Gup-K that wades through the swamps and outbacks, this set comes with the Gup-K and remote control, Captain Barnacles, two swamp speeders, a water cannon with dart and a baby alligator. Due to the batteries, this Gup isn't intended to be used under water.

Having most of the Octonauts toys, this one fit in with the rest of the set perfectly. Max managed to swap the characters and create hours of play from the set. The remote control was a fantastic feature, Max loved watching it zoom around our flat and the figures stayed in the Gup thanks to the pegs that hold the characters in place. As it moves, the mouth has a chomping action like an alligator which was a fantastic addition.

We did lose the water cannon dart pretty fast (it definitely flies!) but managed to improvise with one of the other cannon darts from another Octonauts set. This Octonauts Gup toy is the perfect addition to any existing set, or is perfect to introduce your child to the fantastic Octonauts series. I love how durable and hard wearing it is, it's definitely a top toy!