Most days at the Future Women office end up being special, for one reason or another.
Yesterday was no exception. I had the immense pleasure of sitting down with Amy* who recently joined our community via Project Return.
We talked about work, lockdowns, raising two kids under the age of two, and finding your unique purpose – in work, and in life.
Amy is one of 150 women in Project Return – a free 12-month leadership development program packed full of activities, workshops and tailored career advice – designed to support women returning to work after a career break.
In the last decade, the economic impact of unpaid caring duties in Australia has doubled. And it’s no surprise to us that women are still undertaking the majority of this unpaid labour.
It’s one of the many systemic challenges that women like Amy face in their careers.
A talented artist and designer, Amy was the longest standing senior creative in her team when COVID-19 sent the country into lockdown in March 2020.
She helmed impressive campaigns and delivered big results. But when she went on maternity leave, she had already noticed some problems.
‘A big part of [my unhappiness] was about the lack of mentors around me. I didn’t know how to elicit that kind of relationship in the creative field. So everything was self-directed.’
‘I also got to the point where I couldn’t accept my pay staying the same every single year. I thought about how my role had changed and realised I was earning less than when I started six years ago.’
When she returned to work, Amy knew that the outlook on a possible promotion was bleak. Even still, she was glad to be working.
‘I was happy to be back. But things were obviously different. Suddenly I was working on smaller deliverables, not the overall campaign.’
Things were okay for a while, Amy shared. But six weeks later, she was made redundant in the first wave of COVID-related staff cuts.
She relayed this to me with ease. Throughout our chat, it became clear to me that Amy – a self-taught artist and small business owner straight out of university – knows how to pivot.
Amy turned to freelance work whenever lockdowns allowed, but meeting new clients and building your base is tough when you can’t meet people in person.
‘I also really wanted to be servicing businesses that were doing good things for the world.’
With her return to work six months away, Amy is keen to keep growing professionally.
‘Up until now, I think I’ve done what we all assume we are supposed to do. Working really hard, and learning as you go. But at the same time, I haven’t really had an orthodox journey at all.’
‘It was tough, coming out of a fast-paced environment, feeling like I had all this potential that’s untapped,’ she shares.
But not anymore. As Amy’s eight-month-old daughter sang out on the line, her mother hurriedly told me what she wanted to get out of Project Return.
‘I want to work smarter. I want to be able to use the multiple skills I have to do some good. I have so many goals and wearing multiple hats is a big part of that.’
I guess that’s why every day feels special to me. We’re working together to do some good. So when I told Amy that Future Women was the right place for her to find her bearings, I meant it.