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Women in Work: Looking Back, Moving Forward

Welcome to Women in Work, a four-part Bold Thinking series examining the unique role of women in the workplace. The series brings together the constantly evolving role of women in the workplace and the unique perspectives of our staff. NATIONAL’s Calgary office invites you to follow the series, released weekly on the NATIONAL Bold Thinking blog.

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NATIONAL is proud to have several strong women in leadership roles across our network. From our new hires to our seasoned executives, our organization acknowledges the role that women play in our success as a business and a workplace. Among them is Beth Diamond, Managing Partner at NATIONAL’s Calgary office. With over 20 years of experience founding and building our presence in Alberta, Beth offers Women in Work a unique perspectives on being a working mother in Canada’s oil and gas capital.
 

What is the biggest challenge currently faced by women, especially mothers, at work?


Feeling the pressure to be a good mother, a good employee, a good boss, and a healthy human being is very difficult. As a mother, no matter where you are, you’re not in the right place. You have to have boundaries and flexibility around your own expectations of yourself. You need to be able to get the help you need (one word: catering), because it’s not possible to be perfect in every scenario.
 

You’ve spent your entire career in Calgary, which is known for the oil and gas industry. Did you gain any new perspectives as a woman in a predominantly male industry?


It was just as male-dominated as I knew it would be. But I never expected to be treated differently, and I seldom was. How you see yourself drives how people see you, and clients will treat you in the way you expect to be treated. Calgary’s business sector continues to be male-dominated, and there are still distinct biases against women, particularly mothers.
 

Do you think that firms led by a woman in the C-suite are treated differently by clients, or seen differently in the public eye?


There will always people with biases. But being a woman is often an advantage, because we often have relationship skills necessary to grow business in professional services, and that’s my own business.

I remember working on one project with a team that always worked late into the evening. I couldn’t do this as a mother, and I let them know. Once people get used to the boundaries of family responsibilities, they are better to work with as clients and colleagues.
 

Do women, and specifically mothers, work differently?


Women with kids work differently. I never had a firm divide between work and home because I’ve always loved my work. I’m not trying to fit my family around something I don’t like. But it meant getting up early, working from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., going home, and then working into the evening.

One mistake some people make is pretending not to have children, and not acknowledging their families as part of their lives. I always introduced my children to my clients, and the clients knew the kids were important. And with that, the kids knew the clients were important and I didn’t have to fight that. It’s not about work-life balance, it’s about life balance. It’s all one category when you like your work.
 

Can you tell me about your experience running a company as a mother?


It’s very hard work to have any job and be a mother. Whether you are running a company or not, it’s always a balancing act.

When I started at NATIONAL, I had three young sons. NATIONAL has always been very welcoming and made me feel like my family was part of the NATIONAL family. Many years before it was common practice, the Firm understood that its consultants were human beings.

I brought my children to work when they were very young and work has always been part of their lives. Before NATIONAL, I was working within six weeks of having my first and second sons because that was the norm. My children saw how much I enjoyed my work and saw how rewarding it can be. Because they saw me at work, they never questioned that women could be the boss.
 

You’ve seen the workplace structure change considerably since you started working. What changes have impacted women the most?


The extended maternity leave is huge, but the flexibility is the most valuable. When I had my first two kids, the maximum was 16 weeks maternity leave, which is not enough for many women. Now, I feel that employers need to respect the total package of the person, parent or not, when an employee is hired.

NATIONAL knows that every mother is different and every career is different. We have a parental leave program here that ensures that our employees stay connected to their careers when they start their maternity or paternity leaves, and come back on terms that foster success.
 

There’s a significant amount of work to be done in regards to how women are treated at work, not limited to pay, healthcare and stereotyping. What changes would you like to see?


I want to see flexibility without penalty. Part of this will be facilitated by technology, so parents are able to work from home. Our future generations look at their lives as a total package, and if we put too much stress on them at home or at work, they are not going to see a future with the organization. Employers need to accommodate single parents and same-sex couples, and prepare for big changes in how young professionals prioritize.
 

Do you have any advice for the next generation of women entering the workplace?


I don’t want the next generation of women to feel like it’s impossible to balance motherhood and work. It’s hard at times, but your ability to prioritize will change. It’s very rewarding and very doable. I know I was a better mom when I was working. So don’t aim for perfection, find a job you love and understand your options.

 

This was the fourth and final installment of Women in Work. Thank you for following this series, exploring the diverse personal experiences of NATIONAL’s team. We were inspired by how fleeting International Women’s Day seemed in comparison to the monumental contribution women have made to the workplace. We’ve explored motherhood, paternity leave, and emotional labour, and hope that these topics have inspired you to think about the important work that’s left to be done.