I had the privilege of attending Inspirefest 2017 in Dublin this week. For anyone who hasn’t heard of this yet, it’s the world’s leading event on STEM and Inclusion. To quote inspirefest.com, it’s a “truly unique international festival of technology, science, design and the arts, which places diversity and inclusion at its heart”. There were so many awesome, fascinating speakers and it’s going to take me some time to digest what I took away – I left feeling truly inspired.
Day 2 particularly resonated with me, with themes around the need for: a shift in corporate mind-sets, authentic leadership, more women in leadership – and with plenty of focus on creativity, problem-solving, authenticity and diversity and inclusion.
Authenticity is a particular passion of mine. Who I am is at the core of what I do every day, and understanding what drives me is central to this. Authenticity, happiness and freedom are biggies for me. Freedom - that is, the freedom and flexibility to live my life in a way that is right for me and my family. This value of mine frequently drives me to refuse to accept the status quo and to keep searching for alternatives. Along with a passion and belief in my proposition (obviously), this was a strong factor that drove me to set up my own business; refusing to accept that I needed to work inflexible hours to pursue my career, or settle for whatever job comes with reduced hours during these crazy years of early parenting. It also played a strong factor when reviewing the options for maternity care in Ireland against evidence-based care, and finding it came up short – my refusal to accept this resulting in a very relaxed and safe home-birth of my second child. And, this value is central to most of the decisions about how my children are raised.
Diversity & Inclusion
For me, freedom and authenticity strongly link with diversity and inclusion – freedom to bring your whole self to work and to be accepted for who you are. Diversity is simply a no-brainer; not only is it the right thing to do, it makes business sense. If you don’t believe the financial benefits, take a look here www.catalyst.org/knowledge/diversity-matters, or check out the fantastic work of projectinclude.org. Your company should broadly reflect the diversity of the society in which it operates and its customer base; if not, you need to take a long, hard look at why not.
I was delighted to hear that one of the fastest growing demographics in some of the big tech companies in Ireland are new parents. The females of this demographic are central to a strong female leadership pipeline, and shifting market perceptions to get them in the door is a great achievement. Those companies that can demonstrate a commitment to meaningful work, authentic leadership, and enabling people to thrive inside and outside of work, are setting themselves up to successfully navigate the changing employee landscape ahead.
So what can we do to enable new parents to thrive?
For a start, we can support them in making the transition to parenthood, whether for the first or subsequent time. Becoming a parent and taking time out of the workplace involves a significant, complex professional and personal transition, and often comes during a crucial time in an individual’s career trajectory.
How this transition is managed by the individual, their line manager and their employer, can set the stage for the medium to long-term well-being, engagement, commitment, and retention of key talent in an organisation. Outside of the workplace, other factors affecting the success of this transition include: mental well-being and resilience, partner support, access to perinatal and community supports, and success in accessing suitable childcare.
Providing a holistic support framework that takes all internal and external factors into account enables new parents to thrive through change and emerge stronger, more confident and equipped to deal with the challenges that come their way.
Claire Flannery is the Founder and Owner of Strength Within coaching and consultancy, where she focuses on helping people create the headspace and mental clarity to discover, cultivate and maximise their strength within. She is a qualified Business Psychologist, Executive, Business & Personal Coach and Gentlebirth Instructor with over a decade of experience working in HR leadership in Financial Services. She is also a Mum to two small boys and has personal experience of successfully managing her career while preparing to transition out of, and back into, the workforce; and is passionate about helping people to successfully navigate the huge identity and life transition involved in starting and growing a family. As a large part of her work, she is privileged to work with women and their partners as they make their journey through pregnancy, birth and early parenting. Along with Coaching services, she runs Gentlebirth and Return-to-Work workshops in Dublin, Ireland.