Around the world there are millions of mums who work to sustain their families. In the very privileged Swiss world, full time working mums are almost mythological characters perceived as overly ambitious women.
I did not realize how hard the mentality was towards ambitious career mums in Switzerland, until I got pregnant. Living in Zurich, surrounded by working women of all kinds, I was following my way in the pharmaceutical industry. At that time, I was blissfully thinking that coming back to work after my maternity leave wasn’t going to be a problem. All mums around me were doing the same. Well, how naïve I was. Realization started at first with my Swiss family, (yes, I stress the Swiss part) not understanding why I wanted to go back to work full time. Then unbelievable comments from some people like “how come you don’t want to stay with your baby?” and “You will feel so guilty leaving your five month old baby at childcare…”: What was this? How could I have underestimated this topic so massively?
I spent some moments during my maternity leave and my first months back at work trying to understand why there was such a gap between me and my surroundings and a certain Swiss mentality.
I was definitely not the first woman in Switzerland having a child and at the same time cultivating some kind of career ambition. So, where was the problem?
At that time, it was time for me to organize some seminars for a women´s business exhibition in Zurich. Bravely I decided to tell my story and share my experience as a new mum with other women. To prepare my speech I did some research and I discovered some very interesting statistics.
In Switzerland 80% of women are indeed working, but only one third are working full time. Looking into the 20% of non-working women, they are in a large majority mums. In some regions like Ticino and Wallis, the rate of working women drops to 60% *.
There are various reasons for those statistics: lack of appropriate or too expensive childcare, the husband´s income is enough to sustain the family, lack of job flexibility in some companies, conservative mentality*… And I could go on with reasons why some women once having children stop working full time. My point is that even if Swiss politics and mentality have made progress towards women and working mums in particular, in the last 20 or so years, there is still some way to go to achieve complete acceptance and stop the comments containing the: “guilt”, “too ambitious woman” and “poor children left alone”.
My head full of statistics and data, I wrote down my speech and I shared my experience with an audience of more than 70 women. It is not always easy to share personal stories, you don’t know how people will react and even if I was reticent for a long moment, the goal to share the concern of a real woman and a real mum was bigger than my doubts. What I got after my speech was amazing. Women approaching me and saying thank you, sharing they own experiences, asking for advice… That day was the first time I understood how important it is to share our stories: we, women, are facing the same issues but until we share them we think we are alone.
It took me two years to make the big step and start this blog.
anajustana.com will try to be the voice of all those women juggling kids, partners, career ambition and trying to stay zen and happy in Switzerland (and why not abroad?).
I hope you are going to follow me!
*Source: Travail des femmes et politique familiale en Suisse, Isabelle Steffen, La Vie économique Revue de politique économique 5-2007. Office federal de la statistique –FSO, Rapport statistique 2017, Les familles en Suisse