Heidi Stevens, Territory Manager at ITW, says she’s found an employer who truly empowers her as a leader and as a mum. Read on to learn how Heidi returned from parental leave to step up for a promotion – while embracing flexible work to raise her daughter.
Hitting the ground running
Eight months after welcoming her daughter Elsa-Jodi into the world, Heidi returned to work in July 2019. However, she didn’t simply return to her previous role; she dived into a completely new position, switching the world of Marketing for Sales and Strategy.
“After a few months on parental leave, I saw a leadership opportunity come up in Sales. I wanted to jump back in, diversify my skill set and set my own targets. Yet, earlier in my career in other organisations, I felt I would not have been considered for a position while on parental leave – I would have been put in the ‘too hard’ basket.”
After more than six months in her new role and 15 months as a new mum, Heidi says ITW has made her transition back to work incredibly smooth.
"I feel really lucky. My Manager asked me for a ‘Return to Work Plan’ based on my own expectations and goals. I jumped straight in four days a week, with Wednesdays reserved as ‘Mumday’.”
Even though Wednesday is her Rostered Day Off (RDO), Heidi’s team and customers know they can reach her by email or phone – they may just hear a baby in the background.
“When one of my male customers heard Elsa-Jodi ‘goo-goo’ and ‘ga-ga-ing’ in the background, I let him know it was ‘Mumday’, but to not let that deter him from calling me. He said it was really refreshing to see I had this flexibility. For me, talking about ‘Mumday’ helps to shift the culture around working parents within my circle. Parents CAN do both – we can raise healthy and happy children and have a fulfilling career.”
Here, Heidi shares some words of comfort for parents returning to a new role after welcoming a little one.
Be bold, courageous and take a leap of faith
“It’s natural to feel overwhelmed when returning to work – particularly if you’re embarking on a career change like I did. However, if the time is right, you’ll surprise yourself with your capability. Importantly, if you’re with the right employer, there’s no reason to hold back from applying for your dream opportunity simply because you’re on parental leave. Be bold and ask the question; it’s a ‘no’ anyway if you don’t ask.”
Know you’re not alone – talk about ‘Mum Guilt’
“Being away from Elsa-Jodi evokes an amplified sense of guilt unlike any I’ve ever experienced. However, I’m grateful that I’ve been able to sit down with my sister who has helped me see the bigger picture. In truth, our kids develop invaluable social and life skills at daycare. I cherish our ‘Mumday,’ but I understand it’s important for Elsa-Jodi to spend time learning and growing with other kids. So don’t be hard on yourself. ‘Mum guilt’ shouldn’t be taboo – it’s a conversation we need to have.”
An empowered employee
I’ve worked in male-dominated sectors for the lion’s share of my career. Most of the time, these organisations had a fierce ‘boys club’ culture. As a woman, I was on the outer. ITW is different – I feel respected, supported and empowered to achieve. It’s a unique culture that comes from the top down. Diversity is a key pillar – everyone is valued, regardless of age, background, gender and religion. I’m proud of ITW. Here, I can be successful in my career and as a mum; I don’t need to settle.
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