Balancing a job and a home life is difficult for most of us but throw in building an entire networking platform to help other parents trying to do the same thing and it makes the rest of us look like mere mortals! Louisa Symington-Mills had already established a strong career in banking and finance, and become a mother to two children when she set up Citymothers in November 2012, and Cityfathers in April 2014. She now runs Cityparents in her spare time and contributes regularly to The Telegraph online covering women, networking, work and business topics. Quite an achievement, we are sure you would agree. Louisa kindly wrote the following article for Parental Choice to explain the motivation behind Cityparents and how it is now growing from strength to strength helping other parents in the City achieve the right work / life balance:
“I created Citymothers in late 2012 following my own experience of returning to work in finance after the birth of my first child. I was surprised, when I returned from leave, how distanced I felt from the networking opportunities I had previously enjoyed, due to the simple practical problem of networking events in the City so often taking place after work. Pre-baby, I hadn’t thought twice about attending events in the evening, but now things felt very different. Even if the logistical challenges of finding a babysitter could be addressed, summoning the energy to support a late night generally couldn’t be.
At the same time, I felt there was a greater need for support for working mothers in the City. Having returned to work in investment banking after a four-month maternity leave with a flexible working arrangement (working three days a week in London and two days at home), the ease with which my arrangement was signed off by HR meant that I didn’t foresee the intense effort involved in actually making it work (and by making it work, I mean keeping my team happy), day by day.
As someone who had spent the previous six years navigating an upward trending career path with confidence, I was naively unprepared for the challenges of being a working mother while trying to maintain career progression. Surely it wasn’t just me?
The idea to launch a network for working mothers in the City came to me whilst I was working at my desk one morning, and by the end of the same day I’d created a limited company and started to build the website – I was impatient to get going!
Now, that network has turned into Cityparents (www.cityparents.co.uk), an amazing, dynamic network of nearly 10,000 professionals and parents in the City and Canary Wharf. As well as organising over 60 events a year to support our members, we run coaching and mentoring programmes and work closely with City businesses through our growing consulting practice. In addition, we’ll be launching two new initiatives later in 2016…watch this space!
I’m a huge advocate for genuinely flexible work. Through Cityparents, I have met so many talented people – particularly women – who have felt excluded from the workforce due to their need for a really deep level of flexibility. It’s very frustrating when you come across talented women with great skills, who aren’t able to use their professional experience because the time they have available doesn’t fit with what’s typically on offer in the jobs market. For many, a traditional ‘part-time’ job is still too restrictive, and I’d love to see the culture of the City embrace the concept of real flexible working and thus make the most of this vastly underutilised talent pool.
At Cityparents, our small team works flexibly, remotely and term-time only. Alongside a part-time day job (I have a management role in finance), I’m now able to devote myself more fully to both my family and this fantastic enterprise. I have two young children aged 3 and 4 and a husband who works very full time – so life is pretty full on. I do all my work whilst my children are at nursery and school, which is roughly 8-2.30pm each day.
I’m trying to be more disciplined and stay away from my blackberry in the afternoons and evenings so I can focus on spending time with my children, but I’ll freely admit it’s tough, and I’m still learning.
Fortunately, through Cityparents, its amazing members and fantastic speakers, there’s no shortage of inspiration and motivation to guide me.”
Louisa Symington-Mills established Citymothers in November 2012, and Cityfathers in April 2014. Over the past 10 years, Louisa has established a strong career in banking and finance, and is now Chief Operating Officer at LPEQ (www.LPEQ.com), an international association of listed private equity companies. Previously, Louisa spent six years as a sell-side analyst covering listed alternative investment funds at Royal Bank of Scotland and subsequently Jefferies. Prior roles were held at M&G Investment Management and a multi-family office. Louisa works part-time and remotely, and has two children – daughter Rose, born January 2012, and son Laurence, born August 2013. She runs Cityparents in her spare time and contributes regularly to The Telegraph online covering women, networking, work and business topics.
Louisa was named one of the Global Finance 50 for 2015 by ICAEW and has received a number of awards recognising her work at Cityparents including:
- Winnner: Great British Entrepreneur Awards 2015 Social Enterprise (UK) of the Year
- Winner: 2015 Inclusive Networks Awards Professional Network of the Year
- Winner: 2015 Efinancial News Editor’s Choice Award for Excellence
- Shortlisted: European Diversity Awards 2015 Campaigner of the Year