You’ve got to write the rules. That’s the best thing about being gay – nobody tells you how to do it. Nobody has a bloody clue!
Emma & Kate
Emma You can pretty much do my job from anywhere, as long as you get it done properly. Now I’m at the level I’m at, they trust I can deliver, and so I can deliver wherever I want to deliver from. But there’s still a little bit of a stigma I think, working from home.
I can’t balance as much as I’d like to. There is a lot of ‘drop everything, be available for clients whenever they want.’ If I have to get up at 5 o’clock in the morning to finish something, I won’t leave the house, because if I leave the house then I won’t get it done before it’s due. I have to flex my time.
Kate Mine is a slightly unusual scenario. The rest of my team are based in LA, so unless I’ve got client meetings I tend to work from home. It means that when I do go into the office, I’m focused and I get things done, knowing I also have that flexibility to be at home. I find I'm more productive without having a regimented structure – if I had to go into the office from 9am-5pm every day, my productivity would fall.
Emma Throughout the pregnancy we’ve had multiple appointments – IVF obviously took its toll on us, and you have to free up time to do it. It’s really difficult actually – I don’t know how people do it if they don’t have that flexibility in their work.
Kate Emma’s been great throughout my pregnancy. She’s come to absolutely every single appointment – she’s only missed one because she had a key meeting. You watch women come to these things on their own and their husbands or partners are not there with them – but Emma’s made every effort to be there.
Emma But that’s because I’m not biologically related to the child, and so the attachment to the child has had to come from the very beginning, I want to feel like I’ve got as much of a role as Kate does carrying it.
It’s interesting, the whole concept of two women having a child together. There’s always that perception of “Which one of you is having the baby – which one of you is the mother?’ Well, we’re both the mother. I wanted to be with Kate and be a part of the process at every stage. But I think I also have to prove that I’m as much a part of the process as she is – I need to be supporting her as much as I possibly can.
Kate But whereas Emma initially had concerns about not having a biological link, I think if you do have that link perhaps you could take it for granted? I don’t know, but I can tell you that when we’re at hospital appointments, a lot of women are there on their own.
Emma Kate’s completely amazing. We are entirely balanced in our approach to parenting and because I feel included in the process, I think we’re even more aware of it being a 50/50 contribution.
Kate When the baby is born it is supposed to have skin-on-skin contact. Emma is going to be that first skin-on-skin contact, so that she can have that moment.
Kate I’m going to take the first twenty weeks of parental leave and then Emma managed to get twenty-two weeks leave. So that means for the first nine months of Peanut’s life, she’ll have her mums around. We want her to have two parents who are fully there. Constantly, from our wedding day through to now, we’ve been making our own rules.
Emma But I think that’s the point, you have to make the rules – you’ve got to write the rules. It’s like getting married – and that’s the best thing about being gay – nobody tells you how to do it. Nobody has a bloody clue! I tell people at work about it and they say, “Oh well yes, if that’s the way you tell me you want to do it, then we’ll accommodate it” and actually that’s what’s really nice. There’s no cultural precedent yet, so we are writing the rulebook.
Kate And we haven’t really spoken to other gay mothers, have we? I think we almost didn’t want to because we want to work it out for ourselves.
Emma It’s an academic and logical approach to parenting that has been fed by an emotional requirement basically. It’s all driven by the fact that both of us ultimately want to be equal parents.
And it’s also because both of us want to work. Both of us want to keep moving forward in our careers with whatever aspirations we have. I grew up in a world where both my parents were equal parents because they wanted to be, but they were both working full time. You have to try and make the balance happen, whether that means someone helping you during the day or not. Either way we both want to be around for our children whatever our careers demand, we want to make it work.
Kate I think we’re both naturally quite ambitious; we both want to focus on our career. We definitely egg each other on – if Emma’s having a difficult time at work I try to encourage her as best I can to see the end prize because we do need more women in senior positions, especially in Emma’s field which is more male dominated.
I think she’s already putting herself in a position of ‘role model’ without even realising it, and the further up the food chain she gets, the more she’ll be able to do that..
Emma I’m not one of those people who lives and breathes their work, therefore I know that passion for the day job alone isn’t going to drive me in work. What drives me and incentivises me is that I’m a role model to others. We lose women at my level all the time in my business unit and as a result we have a very low percentage still of female directors and partners. Steps are being taken to change this but it's about developing your pipeline of women coming through too and that is tough.
I think we’re both inspired by one other as successful women. So when Kate says to me, “I’d give up work in a heartbeat to be an at-home mum” – well, for one I’d be jealous because I’d want to do the same! But putting my selfishness aside, I really love you as a successful woman – that’s part of the woman I fell in love with, because you are so good at what you do and I watch you light up when work does go well. I’ve known that aspect of you for the last four years and I don’t want you to lose that. And as much as you’d be a fantastic woman as a full-time mother, there’s a part of you that’s fed by being a successful woman in the workplace, doing the work that you do. I wouldn’t want to lose that part of you.
The plan is hopefully that I push for Director this year – in the wake of everything else going on! My incentive to do that is because I want to be a successful – or be perceived as successful, whatever you want to call it – gay woman with a family. But I don’t want to be giving a hundred percent of myself in the workplace, a hundred and fifty percent of myself at home and then dying at the age of fifty. I want to have genuine balance and I want to prove to people that I can do that.
I think the difference is that I genuinely prioritise us having a baby. I’ve had conversations with people about shared parental leave at work, and men have said genuinely and openly, “Well I’m not sure. Apart from the fact my wife wouldn’t let me take the time off because she wants to take a full year, I’m not sure I could take that much time off because I wouldn’t want to be out of work for that long and for it to impact my career progression.” Funny that, because that’s the issue women have been facing for, oh I don’t know, a hundred years!
Kate When I told my boss that we were having a baby, it was one of the hardest things I’ve done because it does feel like it will have an impact on your career. I was up for promotion and I wanted to tell him in the early stages because we have a trusted and open relationship, but this was in the weeks before I'd received written confirmation of my promotion. We were both concerned about the impact the news might have on my promotion so he didn't discuss it any further until we had it in writing that the promotion was in effect. Ironically I was most concerned about the attitude of a senior female towards how my pregnancy could affect my progression as she had previously made some comments. Perceived or actual, it’s still a very real threat for women.
Emma But the whole premise of shared parental leave, from what I understand, is trying to level the playing field between partners, whether they’re same sex or opposite sex. The whole point is that you level the playing field and make it impossible for employers to discriminate in recruitment or promotions, because then recruiting a woman or a man is ultimately the same risk to the employer.
Kate There are people who support the change in policy, but there are also people who flippantly say “Well, I never got that.” It’s human nature, there’s bound to be resentment from people who have sacrificed their family in order to reach the top, or make things work financially. It takes quite a big person to say, “I will champion this for others, even though I didn’t have the opportunity myself.”
Emma I don’t want to take credit for this as if nobody else has done it before, because lots of people have. But I feel like if I’m more vocal about it then I will be pioneering. And I am trying to be – I’m much more open about the way that I work, my partners know that I work from home sometimes and that I balance things flexibly. I told them before we even embarked on IVF that we were going to be doing this, and that it was important to me that they gave me flexibility, so if something went wrong during the process they would be sensitive to the fact that I was going to peak and trough in my emotions.
The day we discovered that the first embryo hadn’t taken, we both crashed. I had a completely packed day and I was racing to the office – but I realised that we just couldn’t be apart that day. There was no way I could let her go home and deal with that emotionally on her own. I called my boss and left a voicemail for him; I was crying and I said, “I cannot be in the office and pretend that nothing is going on, I need to go home.” He said to me later, “You need to take as much time as you need, we will figure it out.”
I don’t think that women have had the permission up until now to challenge the status quo. But perhaps because we’re considered talent in our respective organisations, we have effectively been given permission to say what works for us and what doesn’t work for us.
And that’s how we’re approaching this now.