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How PR firms can help parents before, during and after maternity leave

Jo-Ann Robertson, partner and CEO, London at PR firm Ketchum, discusses how she found returning to work following maternity leave with PRmoment founder Ben Smith, and suggests three ways PR firms can support new mums.

Ben Smith: You've just returned from maternity leave. Congratulations on having a baby girl! What's her name and when was she born?

Jo-ann Robertson: Molly was born on the 18th of June and Keir (who is three and a half) has been a perfect big brother to her ever since.

BS: Is it hard to come back to work after maternity leave?

JR: I'm sure every woman's experience is different, but overall it has been pretty seamless for me. I of course miss spending every day with Molly, but I was ready to get back full time. 

BS: Did you stay in touch with the business whilst you were on maternity leave or were you too busy being a mum?

JR: Both my maternity leaves have been unusual in that I've stayed in regular contact with the business. This time was a little brutal as a client called me at 10pm on a Saturday night when Molly was just 10 days old – I spent a couple of hours helping with the issue and then went back to being an exhausted mum of a newborn. Over the seven months I was out I spent about 30 days or so working.

BS: How can PR firms help mums during pregnancy, during maternity leave and when they return to work?

JR: Firstly, during pregnancy listen to the woman's needs, but don't treat her career any differently to when she wasn't pregnant. Secondly, empower women to make the right choices for them and their families during their maternity leave, one size doesn't fit everyone. And most women don't even know there are choices they can make. Thirdly, ensure there is a bespoke return-to-work plan as this will ensure that everyone is set up for success.

BS: As a society, women tend to take on the dominant role in child care. Until there is an equal responsibility for childcare within families, will we continue to see more women than men leave their jobs after starting a family?

JR: There are many societal barriers to women in the workplace, but a significant one is cultural expectations alongside policies and procedures over what it means to be a mother. This is why changing perceptions of the role of men as carers, challenging the status quo when it comes to women and their careers when of child-bearing age, and truly embracing flexible working so working parents can integrate family responsibilities is essential. One of the things I've done since returning to work is to completely revamp and enhance our family policies – so watch this space!

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