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My Mother’s Career Words of Wisdom: Never Compromise!

My Mother’s Career Words of Wisdom: Never Compromise!
 

I have never felt that being a woman would stop me from getting to where I wanted to be. This might be a testament to my strong-willed personality, but it really reflects how I was raised.

Today, I am the first female Company Group Chairman of Janssen for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. How did I get here?

I often look back on my journey and feel blessed. It wasn’t always plain sailing, but it was definitely worth it.

Like many young girls, I admired my mother, especially for being one of the few women at the time to hold a degree in chemistry. This paved the way for my interest in science, and also fueled my conviction that, as a woman, I could achieve all I wanted to—conventional or not.

As my mother always said: Never compromise on what you want to do!

When I started in the pharmaceutical industry it was a rather—but not exclusively—male-dominated environment. That said, my vocal and straight-talking personality did not go amiss!

Around the same time, I got married, so things were good at home and at work. I had found my niche, enjoyed what I did and gradually began to climb the career ladder.

At first, I didn’t truly understand what my mother meant when she encouraged me not to compromise on what I wanted. But then my first child, Rosie, arrived. Waves of excitement from being a new mother were coupled with feelings of uncertainty about how this would affect my career.

Like many working mothers, I felt the burden of wanting to have it all—to be present for every waking moment of my child’s life, but also never miss a meeting at work. I felt like I had to make a trade-off, but how could I? As an ambitious career woman and a loving mother, how could I justify either one?

With the words of my mother ringing in my ear, I faced one of my hardest challenges. But it ultimately came down to accepting and embracing one simple fact: I can’t be everybody’s superwoman every day. And I refuse to feel any sense of shame or failure about this.

Thankfully, I am in a supportive workplace that understands my family is a priority and gives me the time I need to be with them. I also have a great husband who shares the load at home and is truly supportive of my career, because he knows I do not want to give up work.

After all these years of getting to increasingly senior positions at work and seeing two wonderful children graduate, who says women can’t be successful in both their careers and motherhoods? At least that’s what I tell my team and my own daughter.

It’s by no means easy, but by prioritizing your time and never compromising on what’s important to you, you can have it all. Well, maybe not all of the time—but in the moments when it all comes together, it certainly feels like you do.