Can working mothers work in rental?
It is one of the "myths" of Enterprise that it is almost impossible to be promoted if you work in rental. The women who have pushed through and reached General Manager level are sometimes described as “the exceptions that prove the rule”.
But is this the case? Is it possible to have a successful career in rental - and to be a mother?
Clare Beynon has been working at Enterprise for 11 years.
She joined the Management Trainee programme in December 2002 and from there she took what is a typical career path for many ambition Enterprise recruits - though perhaps faster than many.
Five days after she completed the training she was promoted to assistant manager - and nine months after that to branch manager
Soon after, her career took a different direction: “An opportunity came up to take a position in training and development in Birmingham. I decided to take it because my degree had been in human resources, and so it felt like I was returning to something I knew and loved. Plus it added another string to my experience, a new dimension.”
And then...like a lot of women at Enterprise, Clare decided to plan a family and eventually was expecting a baby.
“My maternity leave turned out to be a very busy one as by this time, I had been promoted to Group HR Manager. Throughout my leave I stayed quite close to the business. I used my “keeping in touch days” for meetings, to maintain regular contact with my general manager, to check my emails, be available to advise people who might want my help, and to keep in regular contact with the person who was covering for me whilst I was away.”
However, dramatic events were about to change the stability of her life: “Two weeks after my daughter was born, my husband was diagnosed with kidney failure. He spent three months in hospital, and was on dialysis for a year, going into hospital three times a week for seven hours, before a kidney transplant.”
Clare continues, “We had to make some tough decisions and be ruthless on time management. We moved closer to our wider family to have more support especially as my husband was also still working although he was ill.”
Whilst many people in her position would have elected to stay away longer, Clare made the decision to come back to work a bit earlier after only seven months.
Five months later, and perhaps proving that career opportunities can happen even in the most complex work/life balance situations, she was promoted to another Group HR Manager role in Nottingham. This was a big job involving significant change management as Enterprise was integrating two regions with two very different cultures.
“I made it all work by creating strong routines,” Clare explained. “My daughter is at nursery one day a week and spends two days a week with grandparents. I couldn’t have done it without them. I had a lot of flexibility at work when I needed to adjust my hours around my home needs and make up for time later. My husband does most of the childcare as he’s quite close to the nursery and where the grandparents live.”
Four months ago, Clare decided to go back into operations as Area Manager. “I always had it at the back of my mind that I wanted to go back into operations and help to grow the business. I absolutely love it! I still work full time, covering six branches in U4A - Derby, East Midlands Airport, Loughborough, Hinckley and Burton-on-Trent. I’ve been out of rental for five to six years so I’m learning very fast. But it’s been worth coming back into operations. It’s the hub that makes the business work.”
Clare’s advice for managing a career through maternity leave:
- If you want it enough, you will make it work. Never lose sight of your career goals, even in the face of adversity. If you give them up when things are hard, you may have nothing to come back to.
- Outsource. Clear family time by outsourcing the things that aren’t really important to you - cooking, cleaning, gardening.
- Stay in touch. Don’t lose touch through maternity leave, as this makes it easier to integrate into the business afterwards.
- Plan your career even when you’re away. When I was going on maternity leave, I was still thinking about what my next career step would be.
- Family time is family time. I avoid doing emails or speaking to colleagues when I’m meant to be with the family. Create some boundaries so you focus on what is important at the time.
- Find a mentor. Have mentors within the business that you can reach out to if you want to talk through something.