The wait leading up to our launch of Procurious – the world’s first online social network for procurement and supply chain professionals – was killing me. It was like re-living those last few weeks waiting for a baby to be born. There’s not much I could do other than hope and pray for a safe delivery. Fortunately we’ve launched successfully and have had some great initial traction.
This waiting period, in conjunction with my eldest son’s 9th birthday (yikes!) and the daily juggle between work and family, gave me cause for some reflection on the whole topic of motherhood and career.
Australian procurement superstar Georgia Brandi recently posted this very thought-provoking article on LinkedIn written by Sramana Mitra. Dramatic opening paragraph aside, the rest of the story covers just about every tricky point of this highly political debate. To stay at home, or not? To work for someone else, or yourself?
I’ve had some flashbacks of those awkward first days transitioning from career super woman to working mummy. Highlights of which mainly focus around breastfeeding, but given we have a mixed audience here, I’ll save some of those stories for another forum.
I could write a book about my journey as a working mother, but in the interest of brevity, I would like to put forward my thoughts on the benefits of staying employed by a company, vs. opening your own business when you become a mother.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I LOVE owning my own business, I have had a fantastic time, working with, and for, some great people. But it hasn’t been easy. Also, my business was a few years old when I had my first child, so I wasn’t exactly starting from scratch when I first “went on maternity leave”.
I had a lot of reasons for wanting to start my own business – primarily I had a strong vision of what I wanted to create – I wanted to create a specific workplace culture, more than a specific company…and twelve years on, I’m happy to say that culture is alive and well. I also wanted to do my own thing, be free of the corporate hierarchy which I found very frustrating. I was tired of being judged by peers and leaders I didn’t always respect (this of course was a very naïve reason as you will always be judged – when you’re in your own business, your clients/customers are the ultimate judge!). I also wanted to have children and travel with my busy husband. So there were lots of forces driving me to do my own thing.
But of course, the path I chose took a lot of hard work and perseverance. It took a year before we won our first big client, so I had to fund the business (and myself!) during that period. And then we needed to (and still do!) keep proving ourselves and winning new business, while we’re working on producing quality outcomes. When I had my children, I asked different people to help run the business, with varying degrees of success.
But in the end, it has all worked out….and if you’re feeling an affinity with all the above, I fully encourage you to pursue your dream.
HOWEVER, I can also see MANY benefits in remaining employed by someone else during your child-bearing years.
Here’s my top 5 reasons to work for an employer when having children:-
- Do it for the sisterhood. Australia still has an appalling lack of female representation at the highest levels of business. The more women that actually stay in the workforce, will provide us with the greatest chances of increasing the number of women in the senior ranks.
- Do it for the money. How much money you generate from your own business in the early days totally depends on the business model. However, in my case, I had to fund the business for at least the first 12 months of operation. You need to be prepared for this loss of income. On the flipside, if you stay with a corporate employer today there is more financial support than ever before. When you return to work, you will continue earning at the same rate as previously, and hopefully continue on your career trajectory which will be compensated with salary increases.
- Do it for the recognition. I am going to make a broad assumption that most corporate women have reached their late 20’s, mid ‘30s when deciding to have children. This means you have reached a certain level of success and have built a reputation within your internal stakeholders, suppliers and other third parties. Starting a new business is very humbling (I’m trying to be positive here). You will have many setbacks on your journey to success..and when you do achieve success, it will be only you and your team there to recognize you. In a corporation, you will be recognized and rewarded (well, not always!…but more so than working for yourself.)
- Do it for your development. There’s no doubt that you learn a great deal running your own business, but nothing as formal (unless you organize and pay for it yourself!) as the quality and frequency of training you receive in a large organisation. Think about it – companies train you on everything – from Microsoft office, to the latest legals, compliance and your professional training….maybe even the odd corporate off-site or incentive travel.
- Do it for your sanity and self-esteem. Really, this is a point in favour of either working for yourself or someone else. If you’re the kind of gal that finds domestic life a struggle, just knows she needs to work, or has the all-important financial imperative – then you will no doubt need to get back into the workforce in some capacity. I’ll never forget those early days going back to work. Buying a cup of coffee from my favourite barista, then sitting at my desk in a zen-like state for at least five minutes soaking up the serenity. That was heaven. It saved my sanity and definitely kept my struggling self-esteem somewhat in tact.
What are your thoughts on this topic? Have I been too harsh on the entrepreneurial option?