Secretary school. Menial, “fetching” tasks. Available 24/7/365. The “Glass Ceiling.” It’s safe to say, women have made major strides forward in the professional world since the era of Mad Men.
Of course, there’s always more progress to be made. In my own professional lifetime of more than 20 years, I’ve seen this progress take place, albeit sometimes at a snail’s pace. Today, I’m proud to work for Ogilvy & Mather North America, a company that’s named to the “100 Best Companies for Working Mothers.
When my daughter was born over 23 years ago, there was little flexibility for a working mom. As a divorced, single mother, long nights at the office meant expensive babysitters. Work trips left my daughter behind in tears, with any family member that was available. When my daughter was too ill for school, I had to stay at home as the caretaker, leaving my work neglected at times and often returning to work, myself sick with a runny nose.
Any working parent can attest to these and the myriad number of other daily issues that comes with the territory of being a professional with children at home. However, women have certainly taken the brunt of the pains of being a working parent. We’re often seen as the “natural caretaker” and judged as negligent when we, as mothers, miss a ballet performance or soccer game, leave a sick child at daycare instead of staying home, or decide to buy brownies from the grocery store for the bake sale because we didn’t have time to make them from scratch the night before. Yet, leaving the office early to make dinner or even just to put the children to bed before 8 p.m. can often warrant just as many judgmental looks from our co-workers.
Over the past 20 years, it has taken the combined efforts of many women, including myself, acting as trailblazers for today’s working mothers. As we broke down barriers and climbed the corporate ladder, we reached high enough positions of power to not only ask for change, but to be in the position to enact the change as well.
I know firsthand the importance of working for organizations that provide flexibility and support. As the Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer for Ogilvy & Mather North America, I have collaborated with my colleagues and visionary leader and CEO, John Seifert, who is the ultimate champion of diversity and inclusion, to implement the ability to design our company’s strategies to mirror those of our clients and peers. This has made significant strides in building inclusive corporate cultures.
We have worked tirelessly to improve our policies and benefits to ensure that working mothers are able to take advantage of flexible work schedules, emergency childcare, lactation rooms and in our New York office, a vibrant Working Parents Network and a Pumping Moms Club. Policies such as these have been critical in my ability to become the senior leader that I am today. I believe these policies will give new working mothers the flexibility and support they need to succeed in both their personal and professional lives.
Only by standing up and asking for change can we help one another achieve a better work-life balance, with the breathing room for both professional growth and fulfillment and happy home lives.
Donna Pedro is Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer for Ogilvy & Mather North America and was honored by Working Mother magazine and Advertising Women of New York (AWNY) and named one of five “Trailblazer Moms,” identified by Working Mother as “Pioneers who are paving the way for future working mothers.” Ogilvy & Mather North America is the only advertising agency on the 2014 “100 Best Companies for Working Mothers” list.
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