Kylie Hammond From Maternity Leave Straight to the Boardroom Interview

Kylie Hammond From Maternity Leave Straight to the Boardroom Interview

Kylie Hammond From Maternity Leave Straight to the Boardroom Interview

Numerous studies have documented the trouble many women face with continuing their careers following returning from maternity leave. As the Australian Human Rights Commission found in its 2014 National Review, discrimination related to pregnancy, parental leave and returning to work from parental leave was 'pervasive". One is two mothers reported experiencing discrimination in the workplace at some point.

Whether it's coming back to work and finding their position has changed, being made redundant while on leave or being overlooked for promotion they are seen as unreliable due to caring responsibilities, pregnancy and maternity leave can have negative outcomes on women's careers and their confidence to progress.

However, according to Kylie, who has facilitated over 2,500 board appointments, very few women consider the possibility of a board career as a viable work option, as the pathway to securing board opportunities is very unclear, seemingly out of reach and not widely promoted.

Kylie believes that there is no real reason why executive director-level or CXO-level female who have had a successful corporate career cannot return to working life as a board director in an advisory board or non-executive director capacity.

Kylie suggests women focus on these three areas in order to return from mat leave and secure a board position:

Refresh your corporate brand – Your personal branding materials should include a board resume, a corporate biography and a LinkedIn profile that compliments each other.
Get connected at board director level – This requires a clear strategy about the types of roles and connections that you need to have a successful board career.
Formal interview preparation – Engage professional help and support to work out your key strengths, value proposition and develop your elevator pitch.

Interview with Kylie Hammond, CEO of Director Institute

Question: Is it possible for women to return from maternity leave and secure a boardroom position?

Kylie Hammond: Absolutely. There is no reason why an executive-level or CXO-level female candidate who has had a successful career cannot return to working life as a board director in an advisory board or non-executive director capacity.

Question: Why does a board career can suit women with a young family?

Kylie Hammond: The hours associated with board work can be very suitable and enticing to women with young families. Boards typically have meetings at manageable and predictable times, making balancing being a mum and a board director a real possibility.

Question: What advice do you have for a mother returning to work?

Kylie Hammond: Most women who have left the workforce to have a family know how hard it can be to return, especially if you work in a traditional corporate environment. But the difficulty can be minimised with careful planning. 1. Refresh your corporate -personal brand' – Firstly have a first-class board resume showcasing the skills, experience and capabilities you would bring to a boardroom. Don't forget to mention any prior experience reporting to the board, sub-committee involvement or any volunteer board experience. Secondly, make sure you also have a corporate biography and a strong LinkedIn profile.
2. Get connected with other board directors – Spend time and effort in re-establishing meaningful relationships with other board directors. You might need to join clubs, attend events and ask for introductions from your network.
3. Formal interview preparation – Engage professional help and support to work out your key strengths, value proposition and develop your elevator pitch.

Question: How can a mother feel confident when re-joining the workplace?

Kylie Hammond: It really comes down to mindset and preparation. Knowing that yes, you may face challenges but being prepared to overcome those. Sometimes action is the best cure for fear or uncertainty, as you are moving forward. I also suggest getting some outside perspective and support. Sometimes women are slow to recognise their own worth, and an outside consultant can help you to better see your strengths and give you a boost in confidence.

Question: What types of discrimination are women experiencing in the workplace when returning from maternity leave?

Kylie Hammond: Discrimination is reported across the market and there can be both conscious and unconscious bias at play from recruiters, HR professionals and employers. There can be a lack of flexibility for women returning to the workforce, perceptions and concerns that they may not adjust to full-time employment with balancing a young family. Women may be overlooked for significant career opportunities upon returning to work, and offered to other employees due to concerns for a female employee returning to work about handling more responsibility. However, on the whole, there are many employers who go above and beyond to support to female executives returning to the workplace. The few examples of poor employer behaviour are actually quite limited.

Question: How can women approach changes to their position when they return from maternity leave?

Kylie Hammond: The best advice I can give women returning to maternity leave is to also demonstrate high levels of flexibility and an openness to come up with a workable solution with your employer. This is especially important if your role is not quite what you are expecting on return.

Maternity leave can be difficult for employers to manage and both parties need to work together to create the right outcomes. Keep the communication open, friendly and positive with your boss and HR team. Often initial issues with a change in position are addressed within a short period of returning to work and re-establishing your connections within the organisation.

Question: And, how can mothers respond to other forms of discrimination?

Kylie Hammond: Pick and choose your battles, try and work out what is really going on and speak with your trusted mentors and advisors to work out a plan. Ultimately, many working mothers vote with their feet and choose to work with employers who offer flexible family friendly working solutions. There is no shortage of companies who embrace working mums and the options are wide and varied.

Question: What is the Director Institute Next Generation Directors?

Kylie Hammond: Director Institute Next Generation Directors is the fast growing network of board directors in the ANZ region and aims to refresh boards in Australia, addressing the gap around connecting fresh director talent with board opportunities. Director Institute provides the next generation of board directors with access to exclusive business networks, peer-to-peer education opportunities and online resources needed to support a successful board portfolio, including access to exclusive board appointments.

Question: What's a typical day like, for you?

Kylie Hammond: I run a busy career mentoring practice and lead the Director Institute business in terms of being the corporate spokesperson, chief sales officer and ball juggler. A typical day involves a very early start so I can get my exercise routine out of the way, then I have a couple of strong lattes and usually start my meetings by 9am and work through to about 6pm with a mixture of face to face meetings, answering emails and keeping in touch with clients and members on the phone. No day in my week is the same and I thrive on the variety and fast paced business environment.

Interview by Brooke Hunter


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