Written for Professional Beauty 2019
I recently saw a thought-provoking quote online that said, “We expect women to work as if they don’t have children and raise children as if they don’t work.”
In the debate that followed, one woman commented: “The sad truth goes back to the 70’s when we felt like we had to make motherhood invisible to prove we could work as brilliantly as the men (who made their fatherhood invisible).”
This is quite a sweeping statement but it got me thinking – why did businesses then, and why do some now, not see mothers as good investments? I opened The Secret Spa in Chester 19 years ago and over the years I’ve had my fair share of employees who have left the business to start families, but have returned after their maternity leave. However, having spoken to other salon owners over the years, I’ve come to the conclusion that for many, a staff member announcing their pregnancy can be a problem.
But why is that? Is it because their number one therapist now has another plate to try and spin, and the employer is worried about what it means for the success of the business? Well I think this fear is illogical and the answer is simple, what if your top employee could choose their working days to suit their new lifestyle as a mother? Of course I know first-hand – I’m a mother of four – that having a family means your priorities change, but with the right support, success in your employee’s career can still be achieved, just in a different form.
I want to see my team happy and successful and, as a result, I do whatever I can to support them in their personal lives. This year alone three of my therapists have had children and my advice to them is to enjoy every second of this magical journey. When they’re ready to come back to work their career will be waiting for them, along with an open conversation about how we can make it work for both of us.
I appreciate that this might not be the case for all beauty businesses, or the route they take, but by allowing my therapists to choose their hours/days it works because they stay with me, are loyal because of the flexibility I offer and give the job 100%. By doing this, I know they are happy and focused when they’re at work.
If my therapists decide to work part time to care for their families, it doesn’t mean that they are viewed as a lesser part of the team. They can still attend events, are entitled to annual reviews and can be booked on training courses that will expand their career in a timeframe that suits them.
Having practiced this working ethos for some years, I’ve found that when the time allowed, members of my team who are mothers then organically extended their hours or offered to do more overtime with no pressure from me, which is brilliant.
I would never want to hide the fact I’m a mother just to be seen to have a successful career – it’s the biggest part of who I am. I feel honoured to be able to work with and help women with the biggest job they will ever have in their lives, and when women support each other amazing things happen.