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The positives of being a parent in PR, from Fenella Grey, MD of Porter Novelli UK

8th March 2016


Recent research conducted by Flamingo as part of Omnicom’s Omniwomen initiative reveals that for some women, the vertiginous climb up the ladder is a thing of the past. Instead, they want to side step and seek different experiences to reach self-fulfilment. Or to use a Nicola Horlick-ism, they’re getting stuck in the metaphorical marzipan. Many quoted job satisfaction as being more important than job title. Others quoted lack of female role models to aspire to. And then, of course, starting and raising a family was another major influence in this shift of attitude.

But why does it have to be one thing or another? Job title or job satisfaction? Family or career? If you look beyond the marzipan, you’ll find there can be a cherry on top of the cake if you want it.

I found mine a couple of years ago while on my second maternity leave. For me, parenthood became a strength rather than an Achilles heel and – shock horror – it even became a platform for career advancement. It spurred me to consider trying something new and taking on a different role that would work for me.

And if it worked for me, why can’t it work for others?

In simple terms, becoming a parent gives you a different perspective and outlook on life and it gives you the gumption and carte blanche to dare to think “what if?” What if I do things differently from now on? What if I choose to work part time? What if change jobs, on my terms? What if I follow my heart?

For me, becoming a parent was both a grounding experience and a catalyst for asking more of myself. And so I entered my second maternity leave treating it as a ‘curious phase.’ With my antennae firmly up, I took the time to reflect and mentally explore different options. I pulled on my network of contacts and had more honest conversations about my career and what I really wanted from my career, than I’d ever had before.

Motherhood gave me freedom to make choices. My choice was to take a leap into a new challenge – a four-day-a-week MD position, which I’m now two years into. I’m thankful to work for an enlightened employer, in an enlightened industry, but I’m also aware every day that there is still more we, as employers, can do to create an environment where women and men, parents and non-parents, feel empowered to act on their ‘what if?’ moment and to find their ‘cherry on top’.

At Porter Novelli, we have a great flexi-working culture and we’ve introduced Think Higher grants to give people time and inspiration to think about – and act on – what really matters to them. Because surely the starting point for us all is feeling energised and self-fulfilled? If we can achieve this, career nirvana is within reach. Marzipan and cherry.

Fenella Grey is managing director of Porter Novelli UK. She also sits on the Committee of Omniwomen, an initiative designed to increase the influence and number of women leaders throughout the Omnicom network.



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