travel with me from SAHM to working mum….

First Thoughts about Mumsnet WorkFest

I attended the first Mumsnet WorkFest on 15th June for personal and journalistic reasons. On the train home I put down my initial thoughts about the event.

A show of hands revealed our differences. We may have all been mums but our reasons for wanting to learn about flexible working were as different as the careers we represented.

The Mumsnet WorkFest was a unique networking opportunity. Mums had come from around the country. Well, around the home counties mainly, but we were at BAFTA in Central London.

mumsnet WorkFestSome had come to learn how to set up their own business, others to learn how to return to work part-time after having their first child, a couple of women weren’t even pregnant yet. Many more had had a career break and still more were career changers. The common denominator was that we were all mums, so the mood of the conference reflected this.

There was no need to conceal our families, in fact it was de rigour to mention them. The collective relief was palpable.

If this usual elephant was plonked firmly in the middle of the room, given a name tag and its own breakout session, then there was a whole herd that weren’t addressed.

The opening speakers were dynamic and awe-inspiring. But they were driven alpha females and all hinted at the supportive husbands lurking in the wings to take up the slack at home. Not much solace to those of us married to silverbacks who don’t want to outsource our childcare indefinitely.

The glossy hair, smart phones and clipped accents encouraged my mind to ponder that we weren’t here to talk about a return to any work. Flexible and part-time working is available for supermarket checkout assistants and cleaners. These returners were middle class, well-educated professionals. Let’s face it: the ticket price was £75, and that’s with the Times+ discount. Thomasina Miers and Yasmina Siadatan were refreshing with their ambitions to build from a low base, although, despite being broke when setting up their businesses, Thomasina was public school educated and Yasmina was an LSE graduate.

There was no need to conceal our families, in fact it was de rigour to mention them. The collective relief was palpable.

Another elephant was preaching to the converted. Yes, of course the law defends our right to ask for reduced hours and our husbands should help us out at home, our jobshare applications should be considered and our time spent organising the PTA should be credited. But it is generally men, and women who are men-a-likes, that we are asking to employ us. And they weren’t in the applauding lecture theatre.

I don’t want to paint the day in negative terms. In fact I’m taking away a lot of positives from the experience, however, Thomasina Miers got it right when she began her speech by saying that women have got to stick together.

She addressed the real world trends of the growth in porn culture, casual misogyny and the preoccupation with younger/thinner women that masks ageism.

And that was the biggest elephant in the room. No matter how many women get together to pat each other on the back and hold out helping hands, it’s going to take a lot of Caitlin Morans tackling the thorny issue of unpopular feminism to make the workplace mum-friendly.


2 comments on “First Thoughts about Mumsnet WorkFest

  1. Barbara
    June 17, 2013

    I was there too. I did not hear one single thing from any speaker or panellist that I could not have found in a quick Google search, or from chats with my friends, and I heard some things that, as an ex-HR Director, I profoundly disagreed with. Nevertheless, connecting with other women in the breaks – I hesitate to call it ‘networking’ because it was just friendly, supportive chat – was the best thing. And leaving my husband to do Saturday taxi-ing, shopping etc was pretty good too!

    • domesticbubblewriter
      June 17, 2013

      Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment, Barbara.

      I agree, bring able to interact with other women was the best thing. You’re right, most/all of the information was googleable, but I did enjoy being treated as a grown up, thinking person (by most of the speakers, anyway!).

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