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  • Date posted:13/03/2023
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With a rich and varied career, including running her own business, Sally Tucker is a prominent Life Sciences figure that we couldn’t wait to speak with. One of our Lift Up Allies, Robb Green, sat with Sally and learned about her thoughts and experiences. We were not surprised to find that Sally’s principles included striving for diversity in leadership, and championing other women. We were also keen to learn her insights about being a working mother, and how she used her experience to further her career.

Motherhood in the Workplace

As a mother of three, Sally is no stranger to motherhood in the workplace. As such, she’s learned some invaluable insights, and used her experiences as a mother to shape and advance her career.

Sally gladly shares her thoughts and experiences with the Lift Up community, so we can all benefit from her experience as a mother in the workplace.

Many women may question if motherhood is the right move, or if it will significantly impact our careers. In Sally’s experience, the impact of maternity leave is minimal and should be thoroughly enjoyed. In the grand scheme, it’s a short but fundamental part of your life.

But when it comes to actually taking time off work, Sally argues that the world becoming more connected has made it harder for women.

“With technological advances and the ability to always be connected, it has become harder for employees to switch off and to truly be ‘off duty’.”

Maternity Leave & Guilt

When women take maternity leave, it’s common to feel guilty. In the moment, it can feel like you’re taking a long time off; in the span of your entire career, it’s negligible. Taking and enjoying that time doesn’t make you any less of an employee, or mean you’re less valuable.

In fact, I would argue there are many transferable skills you develop as a mother that benefit organisations in the long term. These include:

  • prioritisation,
  • multi-tasking,
  • time management,
  • compassion, and
  • empathy (to name just a few).

Motherhood is a gift. Our children are the leaders of the future and we have the responsibility of guiding, coaching, and nurturing them through many different phases from infancy to independence.

That is a big responsibility but doesn’t mean that we cannot do it without also being successful ourselves. Sally wants those women who plan on returning to the workplace, to take that time and enjoy it (as much they can when there is so much to learn). Establish new routines and return with additional skills, feeling empowered and motivated, knowing their worth and value.

The amount of time any one woman takes off is individual to each person and can change between pregnancies, based upon personal circumstances. For instance, while Sally took around six months of maternity leave for her first two children, she only took two weeks for her third.

When asked about the difference, Sally revealed that her third child arrived while running her business. In her own words:

“It was my own business, at a critical time and with the ability to work from home. It seemed harder to let go but also easier to make it work, maybe because it was the third time round, I had help and my youngest was a very easy baby. It is true I was further along in my career, with more responsibilities but it really does come down to personal choice and what works for each mother.”

“Mother’s guilt is a real thing — returning to work too soon, wanting to work, not feeling you are always there, feeling like you are juggling… The list is endless. It actually took me a long time to come to terms that I am a better mother working. I love my children but I also love my work, and I believe them seeing their mother working and striving to make a difference is teaching them valuable lessons that will serve them well in the future.”

Sally took the amount of time off that she felt was right. Ultimately, doing what you think is right will always be the best decision for you.

Developing Interpersonal Skills

Sally revealed that becoming a mother helped her develop skills that easily transferred to her work life. One of these major ones was improving her empathy, and awareness of the bigger picture.

As a mother of 3, Sally is acutely aware that there is more than one side to every story. Considering and applying this to work is hugely important. We, as leaders, must always probe, ask questions, and consider each and every possible aspect. It allows for perspective and broader consideration which, in turn, fosters fairer and more sound decision-making.

Diversity in the Workplace

It goes without saying that the Life Sciences industry still has a long way to go to achieve equality.

“It’s great that we’re talking about diversity and inclusion, but the fact we talk about it shows we still have a long way to go.”

Men and women are of equal importance within the workplace. There is no ‘one way’ that fits everyone, and we need to be more appreciative of each other’s strengths to benefit all.

Despite this, however, women are still vastly underrepresented in Senior Leadership and Board-Level positions. That is, in Sally’s viewpoint, something that requires addressing. We need equality and equity in the representation of leadership positions to support the needs of the diverse workforce.

Diversity in Leadership

Perhaps one of the best ways of achieving workplace diversity, is by aiming for diversity in leadership. This can bring greater visibility for people from diverse backgrounds, inspiring them to set higher personal goals.

Additionally, the way men and women lead is very different. With the workforce comprised of both men and women, this must be reflected in leadership too.

We need greater respect and empathy for each other’s capabilities and strengths. As a whole, a diverse leadership team can bring a range of benefits to their organisation.

One benefit is that diverse teams can generate a range of solutions that may not have been realised if this diversity wasn’t in place. We have long realised the importance of brainstorming and how these activities can benefit idea generation.

In Sally’s opinion, this is also the case in leadership and strategic planning. Diversity at the top can lead to broader discussions and considerations that can ultimately benefit the organisational direction.

Championing Other Women

During her conversations with Robb, Sally mentioned that she had been lucky to have worked with numerous inspirational women throughout her career, many of whom have become good friends and valued mentors over the years. This began very early on in her career when she conducted her PhD.

Her PhD supervisor was a woman, Sarah Hosking, who provided inspiration at an early stage. Sarah is now the CEO of the Cancer Council and remains a friend and mentor to Sally to this day.

In fact, Sally’s perspective on championing other women aligns directly with one of Lift Up’s core principles. Supporting one another brings greater visibility to each other’s achievements. As the public eye sees more women in high-power positions, it becomes easier for other women to progress too.

If you, like Sally, want to help champion other successful women in our movement towards equity, join the Lift Up community. As a part of our community, please share anything from our library of easily accessible content.

Together, let’s #CloseTheGap.