Saturday, April 6, 2013

“Where to Now?” 4th Women on Boards conference CareerMums Q&A profile

Today I am profiling Gillian McFee. Gillian has held CEO and Senior Executive roles in large complex organisations in Government. Gillian's areas of speciality are in health and human services with a focus on housing, aged care and community services.

Gillian's current board experience includes as non-Executive Director of Basketball Australia Ltd. At BA, Gillian chairs the Associations Commission and is a member of the Board's Finance Audit and Risk Committee. Gillian is also a non-Executive Director of RSL Care Ltd and a member of the Strategy and Capital and Risk Committees.

Gillian is an endorsed Mentor for Women on Boards and a member of their NSW Top 15.

What do you do?
I have established an interesting portfolio career where I mix consulting and project work with non-executive directorships on boards.

How old are your children?
Rose is 27 and Will is 22

What do you love about your job?
I love the opportunity I now have to work with interesting people who are committed to leadership and innovation in their businesses. My job gives me more flexibility than I previously had when I worked full-time for one employer.

Did you always have the intention of progressing your career after having your children?
Yes. It actually never occurred to me that I could not be a good mother, have a happy family life and work as well. It was challenging at some times, however my husband and I were always in this together.

It takes a village to raise a family. Who helps you to manage work and family?

Parenting for me was always a shared responsibility with my husband, Richard. My Mum was a great help as were family friends usually from the local school.

When you come home each day, are you good at switching off from work?
I am now. I wasn’t then.

Every parent should have a selfish pursuit or ‘not-negotiable’ that provides them with an opportunity to relax and re-charge their batteries every week. What is your ‘not-negotiable’?
To be honest, I didn’t have one. I did what it took to get everything done

Have there been some difficult moments in your career with young children? What were they?
I remember a time when I had started a new job and Will who was then 10 months old had to go to hospital with suspected asthma. My husband took him to the doctor and then onto hospital. When my new boss knew the circumstances, he told me to go to the hospital. On reflection, I should have called and explained what had occurred and started work when Will was well.

What advice would you give to parents who are about to return to work and resume their careers?
Making sure you have good childcare is critical. For older children, it is important to have safe before and after school care. Working parents also need to accept it is OK for there to be other significant adults in their children’s lives.

What support measures should employers be offering to working parents?
Parents need financial security to support them and their baby especially in the first 12 months. They need to be able to work part-time or flexibly so they can have work and family balance. Some companies now “case manage” women who take maternity leave. This means doing what has to be done to support their employee and the baby through what can be a challenging time. Helping with access to childcare is critical as is arranging short-term care particularly at short-notice when a child is sick.

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