It was the day before I was due to come back from mat leave. I was absolutely terrified. Time off with baby had been so beautiful, and I had this overwhelming sense of guilt that by going back to work meant I was deprioritising her and going after something only I wanted. I had felt supported at Expedia Group to pursue this, which made it that much easier to make the decision. But I felt I was going against gender norms, since I was the only one in my Mums group deciding to go back full-time and the expectations on my husband from society seemed so different.
But my gut instinct was to give it a go, I had to just know if it was possible for me to do this and enjoy it!
I’ll be honest, the return to work wasn’t a breeze. Going from spending 100% of my time with baby to suddenly being in a corporate environment meant my brain had to switch gears, fast.
But my team and boss had made it so much easier for me to transition. I had meetings with colleagues throughout the business to get me up to speed, and I gradually returned to full-time hours over an agreed timeframe to assist with the work-life balance.
It wasn’t long before I realised I really missed the work environment – setting goals and achieving them, working in a team, being surrounded by people. You do all of this as a Mum, of course, it’s just different. I guess I realised I love being both a Mum and working 9 - 5, and I’ve learnt to embrace this and not feel bad about it.
It was funny, though. After having a baby I noticed firsthand the dire need for gender equality in our society. When my husband received only two weeks paternity leave off from his company, it was a slap in the face and a clear reinforcement of gender roles and stereotypes.
When Expedia Group introduced equal maternity and paternity leave more than a year ago in Australia, this was a powerful message that they are committed to promoting gender equality. Showing both men and women that they’re equally important and responsible for looking after a child speaks volumes! And it’s a chance to break the mould that a man staying home with a baby doesn’t make him less of a man. It’s great to see the statistics improving on this perception, too.
The Global Institute for Women's Leadership at King’s College in London’s study recently found that the majority of men believe gender equality can only be achieved with men’s support. And according to the same research, in most countries, childcare is no longer seen as the responsibility of the woman. Three-quarters globally (75%) disagree that a man who stays at home to look after his children is less of a man compared with just one in five (18%) agreeing.
So hats off to Expedia Group for leading the charge in this area. Seriously! Equal paternity pay is a loud supportive voice for women AND men in the area of parenting and working duties. There are so many things we can do to help with gender equality, but don’t feel like you have to try to do them all. Pick an area you’re passionate about and advocate for that.
You could join one of your advocacy groups in your company – I’m part of running the Women at Expedia Group Learning and Leading (WELL) in Brisbane, for example, which is a platform for promoting leadership and learning opportunities for women across the organisation. I try to challenge gender stereotypes in my broader community too, encouraging women to make the choice to work full-time if they want, without guilt from societal pressures and norms.
We do still have a long way to go, so let’s keep pressing on toward gender equality in all areas and make a difference together.
#EachForEqual, we all play a part.
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