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Balancing the boardroom & motherhood - All Woman - Jamaica Observer
All Woman

Balancing the boardroom & motherhood

 

MANY women aspire to not just climb the rungs of the corporate ladder, but to shatter the proverbial glass ceiling — taking a seat at the boardroom table among their male counterparts.

As these women pursue their career goals, they often strive to strike the balance between juggling motherhood and the boardroom.

According to the 2013 International Labour Organization (ILO) findings, it is estimated that approximately 59.3 per cent of Jamaican women are in middle and senior management positions. Although, globally, Jamaica has one of the highest percentage of women at the management level, their representation at the executive level and the board level are lacking.

However, JMMB Group boasts a 54 per cent composition of women at the Group executive level, and 43 per cent of women represented at the Group board level. This is against the background that having women in 30 per cent of management positions is critical to positively impacting enterprise outcomes.

The ILO report presented the findings of a 2013 survey of more than 1,200 companies in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Eastern and Central Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, focusing on measures and initiatives to advance women in management.

JMMB execs, board members and senior managers who are mothers, share pointers on how they effectively balance both roles.

For Donna Duncan-Scott, JMMB group director and chief culture and human development officer, prioritisation tops her list of ingredients to achieving success in her roles as mother and corporate exec. She candidly shares how she made the decision to step away from the helm of JMMB in 2005, while proudly passing the reins to her brother Keith, in a bid to ensure she could dedicate more time to being a mother.

She admits she has no regrets about the choice she made, as this afforded her the opportunity to enjoy little moments with her daughters – Naima and Nia – adding that she is equally proud of the successes the company has achieved under Keith's leadership.

Claudine Tracey, chief strategy officer, credits having a flexible work schedule in what she defines as a family-oriented work environment, as her secret to achieving the successes, so far in work-life balance.

“I am measured on my performance and deliverables, more so than the amount of hours I spend in my physical office. I am, therefore, able to set my own schedule to support my 10-year-old daughter, Shiloh, while meeting work commitments.”

The chief strategist shares: “Having a flexible schedule and using the available technology allow me to be available to study with my daughter, as she prepares for the Primary Exit Profile examination, and provide the necessary academic support, where necessary.”

She adds that this flexibility allows her to enjoy great mother and daughter bonding moments.

“In my family, dancing is a legacy and so my daughter, my mother, and I spend a lot of time in dance sessions. We also enjoy regular day-to-day activities together, and I am also happy that I am able to be present to support her in several of her extra-curricular activities,” Tracey shares.

She notes that she is happy for her work environment, as she is able to not just balance the roles, but also teach her daughter key life lessons by modelling positive attitudes, such as a good work ethic and discipline – both of which she has seen her daughter trying to emulate. Allowing her daughter to work alongside her has also fostered a better understanding of the working environment and the role that she plays at her workplace.

“It is invaluable for her to see hands-on, her mom in action... I am happy for her to see what a career woman looks like, by (being) that example,” Tracey says.

Claudine Campbell-Bryan, senior manager, compliance and deputy company secretary, notes that, in addition to flexi-time, the availability of the free nursery facility is paramount.

“Family is important to me, and even when I think about options for employment, JMMB is such a great place to work because it allows me, as a mother, to balance both roles – manager and motherhood,” says Campbell-Bryan.

In further sharing the vital role that the nursery plays in her life, she adds that the extended hours of the facility allows her to start her day early, thereby maximising her productivity, while also affording her the opportunity to spend quality time with her family and pursue her entrepreneurial venture as a candle and natural soap manufacturer.

The nursery also offers the added bonus as a place of solace, she said.

“It is such a great feeling that I can walk over to the nursery (because of the close proximity) and check on the children while at work. Seeing my children centres me and provides stress relief, especially on hectic days,” said Campbell-Bryan.

The nursery is described by Janet Patrick, Group financial controller, as “a home away from home”.

She sings praises to the nursery team, who she credits as a strong support system for her, especially when her daughters, Shaneille and Janae, were younger. Confessing to not being the best hairstylist, the 'aunties' assisted in filling that gap and gave her peace of mind to lead a successful career in accounting at JMMB, knowing that her daughters were in good hands and being adequately cared for. Although admitting that she still struggles with ensuring that she dedicates enough time to her family, Patrick is grateful for a working environment that has allowed her to do it all.

All these mothers admit that it is difficult to master the juggling act. They credit a strong mindset and divine strength to getting them through most days, as well as having a strong support system, in the form of their spouses, family and friends, who help them to balance motherhood and corporate life.

Duncan-Scott further reminded other women that in seeking to balance both roles, “there is no perfection and don't take yourself too seriously”. In so doing, she adds that in showing your struggles, this allows for your children to see your imperfections and for them to learn that it is okay, too, to not be perfect.

As a company that was co-pioneered by a strong career-oriented woman and a mother of five children – the late Joan Duncan – JMMB seeks to create a family-centric working environment. Having experienced the demands of being a working mother herself, the late Joan Duncan sought to create a working environment that helped to foster the greatness of women.

Choosing between motherhood and corporate ambitions is common among women. Yet these JMMB Group senior managers, execs and board members have proven that this tug of war, though challenging, can be won with prioritisation, flexible work time, a solid home and/or work support system, and a family friendly corporate culture that supports and embraces motherhood.

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