With today‘s long-hours working culture, is it impossible to juggle work and a career in PR? We asked two mothers, one who runs her own small business, and one who works for a large firm, for their views. The PR professional bodies offer their own perspectives..
A small agency owner describes being a working mum
Pamela Lyddon, CEO of digital agency Bright Star Digital, says that if you want to be there for your kids, it helps if you work for yourself:
“I see so many women leave our industry because childcare is not supported. Having my own business means that I am able to be flexible around my young daughter. Many women I see in agencies spend loads of money on childcare, work all the hours and look so unhappy, in the end they just end up leaving. As an industry, we should do more to help parents with kids, as we are starting to see women getting to the top and then leaving as soon as children come along – this is nuts considering we are quite a female-heavy industry.”
“When I met PR guru Lynne Franks last year, she said that the future of PR will be more women going out on their own to be flexible for their families. She told me this after admitting going back to work after a week when her child was born and she said it was something she deeply regretted,”
Advantages for parents who work in large firms
Zoe Ensor, director of consumer PR at Bell Pottinger North, says that it’s not easy being a parent and having a PR job, but you have useful skills that those without kids don’t possess:
“If you work full-time and have children, chances are you will spend your life with lists of lists and a nagging feeling that you may have forgotten something. But that’s true of any profession and I’ll bet my last chocolate button that you’re 100 per cent more effective than most of your childless colleagues."
“Kids bring challenges: when they’re sick you balance your laptop on their sleeping bodies as you work from the sofa and your day doesn’t end in the pub with colleagues. But children bring a wealth and quality of experience to you and your job and boy, do they give you stamina."
"Negotiating a £100K contract is a breeze after you’ve done the pocket-money deal, there’s no conflict-resolution training like refereeing the battle over the Wii remote and if you want to talk multi-tasking, then talk to a working mum in December.“
View from the CIPR and PRCA
Sarah McMonagle, CIPR PR manager, says that it’s important for all organisations to offer flexible PR roles that parents can manage, particularly when they are returning to work:
“A serious point to consider is how easy the public relations industry is to re-enter after an extended period of maternity or paternity leave, or absence for other family related reasons. One of the key aims of the CIPR’s Diversity Strategy is to establish a best-practice approach to re-employment and return to work. Public relations has a reputation for involving long and unsociable working hours with regular late nights, but many PR roles can be accommodating in terms of working flexible hours and working from home.”
Francis Ingham, chief executive of PRCA, says that PR is a flexible industry, but more can still be done to support parents:
“The Independent Access Commission, established by the PRCA last year, investigated how family-friendly the industry is in some depth. Its conclusion was that overall, the industry is more flexible than others, but that more could be done. There is a compelling business case for flexibility – the highest industry staff-churn rates are at account director level – the point when families start to grow. That churn has a definite impact on the costs, corporate knowledge and skills base of companies.”
PROs who have decided to go it alone
Jill Hawkins, director of PR agency Aniseed PR:
“One of the reasons I started up my own business was to have more flexibility and to be able to spend more time with my daughter. I think that being a freelance PR consultant is one of the most child-friendly jobs. I fit my work around my daughter. I pick her up from school most days, but I can still respond to urgent emails if I need to on my BlackBerry. Although I have to say that having to do a full-blown pitch to a journalist whilst at the playground can be tricky.”
Simon Turton, owner of agency Opera PR:
“I don't have holiday pay, there's no career structure as such and I won't get a huge pension, but I do get to see much more of my family and that, in the words of a certain credit card advert, is priceless.”
Written by Daney Parker