Imagine planning your pregnancy around the next D.D. Dumbo release. Or getting on stage to play a set just three weeks after giving birth. Or pulling regular all-nighters to both get work done and spend time with your family.
It sounds nigh on impossible, but it’s what many women in the creative industry do, in this largely male-dominated space. Earlier this year, triple j’s Hack program found that just 35 percent of all public board members in the Australian music industry are women. Furthermore, mothers represent only 3 percent of female staff at Australian major record labels.
It was the chief topic of discussion at panel talk ‘The Mothers of All Strength in Music’, part of Brisbane’s BIGSOUND Festival and conference. It featured women who have continued their creative careers post-baby. Bossy Music Director Claire Collins acted as moderator, joined by panellists Gabe Cramb (Scrabble PR Director), Esti Zilber (Creative Producer at SOUNDS AUSTRALIA), Liz Rogers (Solicitor at Brett Oaten Solicitors) and musician Emily Wurramara.
Throughout the discussion these remarkable women provided their positive stories about how mothers can flourish in the biz, called for changes to be made, and also shared some sage advice from their own journey.
1. A baby does not mean the end
Singer/songwriter Emily is a proud Indigenous performer from Groote Eylandt, Northern Territory, and when she found at she was pregnant at age 21, there was a range of responses.
“I had a lot of support around me … but still I got the typical ‘Oh my god, what’s going to happen to your career?’ I was like, ‘I’m not going to die or anything!’” she said during the panel.
She continued the sentiment on her Facebook page:
“It’s so important to have these discussions. Don’t you dare let anyone tell you that just because you have kids you can’t work and can’t live your dream. It’s so important to live your life too and bring baby along for the journey! I know it’s hard, but you can do it.”
2. Support systems are a must
Producer Esti emphasised that a strong support system is an important element in striking that work/life balance, including the support of colleagues, and of course her partner.
“After we had [our son] the first trip I was scheduled to take was to New York, and again it was put to me by [my colleague] Millie, ‘Is this something that you’re interested in? Do you feel ready?’
“I had a sense that I was empowered, I could make these choices myself,” she added. “Dad came along and was on 100 percent dad duty when I wasn’t feeding, and it was a really great experience.”
“I still remember breastfeeding in front of Dean Ormston, who’s now our CEO at APRA AMCOS, and it was no big deal. That was part of it - it did not stop me from doing my job.”
When you have all your supportive ducks in a row, you’ll be unstoppable!
3. Ask for what you need
If you don’t quite have those support systems around you as yet, ask for them!
“A lot of mothers aren’t particularly good at asking for the help that we need,” Esti said. “We think that we have to be seen as strong … I think we can do it and I think we can do it well, but I think we do it best when we’re able to say when we need help,” she advised.
4. Find your flexibility
Legally, parents are entitled to flexibility under the Fair Work Act.
Liz explains that due to her partner also working in the music industry, flexibility has become key to life as a working mother.
“I’ve just found flexibility in all the work that I do and I feel like that’s enabled me to be a good mother and also do great work, because there’s not expectations of being in the office 60 hours a week.”
Do remember that you need to be proactive when asking your employer for flexibility, often they don’t offer it up front!
5. Prepare for misconceptions around your capacity
Claire’s found that as a mother, people have a few misconceptions about what she’s actually capable of doing with a baby at home.
“In my experience, the first three months - you’re tired, you’re kind of tied to your baby,” she said. “But then pretty quickly you get back to normal and there’s a huge amount of things you can do physically and mentally,” she encouraged.
It's so lovely to see women supporting each other to be the best mum and career woman they can be, with great advice an encouragement. Go mamas - you can do anything!
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