This mentor note celebrates a very personal achievement - the professional growth of my amazing, career driven younger sister who is a hard nosed executive working in the highly competitive and patriarchal corporate sector. She has over a decade and a half of experience and has managed premium brands for a leading FMCG company. She was in her 20's when she joined and her hiring manager noticed an unmistakable spark in her eyes and thought: "Such a bright girl. But hiring her will be a risk. She will get married, have babies and leave." But then there was a flicker of hope that if he mentored her, she would stay and become an asset to her company. The spark that he saw in her grew as he considered. He had to hire her. He did.
So many years later, she had climbed the corporate ladder to become a leader in the organisation. Not yet 40, her professional accomplishment is testimony to how women can break the proverbial glass ceiling. But can they do that from home? Can a woman professional make the years that she spends working from home count? I believe she can. Here's how:
(a) Invest in learning. Marriage and motherhood are distracting and require a huge investment of your time. If you choose to step out of a regular full-time job, enroll in a degree or diploma. It will not only break the routine of a household but also help you find different circles of support and friendship. And you will, by the end of it, have a degree or a certificate. My mother, for example, enrolled for a PhD after my younger brother was born and completed it by the time he turned four. How she managed is a different story, but it is one of achievement and accomplishment. Actively plan a study and learning schedule and stick to it. This will count.
(b) Volunteer. Find an hour or two every day to volunteer. This can be with a local NGO, a community organisation, or even a cultural institution. If you don't find something in the vicinity of your home, expand your horizon and find something in the neighbourhood or even online. This will help you to discover a different facet of yourself, bring out hidden talents or interests, but above all, it will count when you are ready to return to full-time work.
(c) Become an entrepreneur. This isn't really for everyone, but many successful ventures have been birthed after child birth. Find a niche, start something from your home, and see where it goes. I met a few women not-too-long ago, who were all researchers and had started their own public health research company when all of them coincidentally met each other in their children's school!
(d) Look for part-time work opportunities but do not make this the norm. Ensure that the break from work is neither too long nor marked with long periods of not being able to account for time. Nine months is a good time frame to look at returning to the work force and perhaps starting part-time work. But do not do this for too long. Actively seek full-time opportunities. There is a glass ceiling that has to be demolished. For good.
Traveller - in spirit and by profession. I believe in making careers out of unconventional pursuits and have been a researcher, polio eradicator, author, development professional, wannabe entrepreneur, cultural philanthropist, educator.