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Who Cares?

April’s session asked the question ‘Who Cares? The challenge of juggling a career and care responsibilities’.

Our panel of speakers:

  • Dr Claire Lucas, Discipline Degree Leader, School of Engineering
  • Dr Rebecca Cain, Associate Professor, WMG
  • Mary McGrath, Director of Fundraising, External Affairs
  • Anna Preston, Senior Careers Consultant

Discussions provoked a range of questions and observations from participants and speakers:

  • Having a supportive line manager who is willing to allow flexible working makes a huge difference to those with care responsibilities and fosters loyalty and commitment as well as staff retention.
  • The importance of trusting staff to deliver against outcomes rather than ‘presenteeism’
  • From those whose children are now young adults, feedback and reassurance for those with younger children that despite working full time and feeling guilty about not spending time with their children that ultimately theirs had turned out just fine as young adults, so that there is no need to suffer with feelings of guilt about ‘abandoning your children.’
  • Inevitably, sacrifices were ‘me time’ and time with one’s partner. These were seen as important but a rare and sometimes non-existent luxury.
  • ‘Emotional labour’ was used to describe the implicit multi-tasking women take on…remembering for instance, not only one’s immediate family birthdays but partners/others key dates/events and the associated forward planning this necessitates.
  • The headache of primary schools expecting parents at short notice to help with school events/create costumes for themed days/bake cakes and be flexible. Seen as unreasonable and unrealistic. (Many cheated on the cakes and bought/decorated shop ones)
  • The importance of recognising your personal tipping point in order to avoid burn-out/ill health

Feedback from participants:

I found Monday’s session inspiring and reassuring. As someone planning a family, it can be overwhelming trying to imagine the various ways that might have to work alongside your job, and hearing the compromises, creative approaches and reassurances of the panel (even as they explained how devastatingly life-changing caring for another person is) was just what I needed. It sounds so hard, but now I know how other colleagues are doing it, I must be able to do it to.

I just wanted to email about the session yesterday which I found inspiring and faintly depressing in equal measure! I think the frustrating part was that we all shared the same experiences and problems and these were left hanging by the end, with the overall message being, ‘Yes, it’s hard and you muddle through'.

It was great to hear from successful women in senior positions at the University how they have managed to juggle their career and caring responsibilities. It is inspiring to know that it can be done and what sort of flexible working options are available, especially as it can be very daunting and overwhelming trying to achieve the whole work/life balance and adjust to the new challenges it all brings.

The next Inspiring Women event will take place on Monday 4 July and will feature Tricia King, Vice President International Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE). Booking details to follow.

Anne Wilson



Panel of speakers

Who Cares? Panel of speakers