Day 2 of the Computing Women in Tech Festival brought together a variety of informative, innovative and inspiring women, each of them committed to increasing the proportion of women currently in positions in the STEM sector, which continues to hover around the 20% mark despite major efforts to increase diversity.
Amy Taaffe Evans is Head of IT Controls at DVLA and gave a keynote address titled “I Am Every Woman: Fulfilling Professional Ambitions While Fulfilling Personal Ambitions”.
Taaffe Evan’s role at the DVLA is people-centric, making it a complex, multi-faceted business. It is her and her team’s goal to provide an environment where a growth mindset can flourish, which is a great place to work, and where the talent pool is healthy and nurtured.
In addition to her professional responsibilities, Taaffe Evans is the mother of two teenage daughters and a high-maintenance dog. The difficulties inherent in balancing all of these elements of this equation resonated with audiences. A very familiar-sounding statement was the admission of Taaffe Evans who held himself to extremely high standards.
“It can be hard to be kind to myself and prioritize my needs while making sure everyone else’s needs are met,” she said.
This challenge, to maintain good physical and mental health in the face of the support of everyone around you, is also very relevant. Women as daughters, sisters, wives and mothers often end up absorbing the emotions of everyone around them, especially in times of crisis, and this can have consequences.
Several years ago, Taaffe Evans’ immediate family was hit by two very serious illnesses in a short period of time. It was an incredibly difficult time, as the pressures of caring for his gravely ill mother and brother coincided with the challenges inherent in raising young children – and setting up a quarter complete work. Taaffe Evans traveled endlessly, often overnight between his home in Ireland and Wales for work, but always felt the need to arrive at work with his face intact.
“I felt pressure to be superhuman. It wasn’t because my employer or my own chain of leadership made me feel that way, but I had unrealistic expectations of my tipping point and was unaware of the fact. that you can’ I don’t fill myself from an empty cup. I hid much of what I was doing and its impact. Some closer colleagues could see that I was about to s collapsed and offered me their support – most of which I ignored. What I didn’t do was take time to rest, renew, or take stock. Weeks later , consumed with shock and grief, I crashed.
Unfortunately, this experience is very far from unique. Many women, especially those working at reasonably senior levels, have gotten the message that any domestic incursion into their working day is somehow unprofessional. The pandemic has been a leveler in this regard, as for the first time the families of male colleagues have shown their presence for the first time in many cases.
Taaffe Evans found it a real challenge to come to terms with the immense pressure she had been under, but ultimately the reflection turned out to be a very positive exercise – and not just for her.
“I had the opportunity to think about the type of leader I wanted to be and the type of organization I wanted to be part of and lead. I asked myself, my team and my colleagues, if we lead with integrity and invest in people, not just in terms of professional development, but in terms of learning their knowledge at a deeper level to be able to provide meaningful support and guidance on any subject, be it professional development or personal growth.
“Were we really cultivating positivity and inviting dialogue? We had adopted a positive growth mindset but perhaps weren’t putting it into practice in the way we worked. Were we doing enough to advocate for the importance of wellness and encouraging people to speak out as a way to inform our approach? »
Taaffe Evans’ team developed a series of wellness-focused initiatives and put them to the test with the arrival of COVID-19 in early 2020. The timing was brutal, but the upside was that the team was quick to spot the downsides of the “always-on” remote work model that materialized, as the natural mental and physical breaks that typically occur in the office were suddenly absent from our working days. work.
A number of initiatives and campaigns have been undertaken to encourage staff to maintain balance, and these have since become embedded in the wider organisation. Employee surveys that were conducted in early 2020 and have been conducted regularly since have recorded much higher levels of satisfaction in the four key areas of Leading with Integrity, Investing in People, Advocating for Wellbeing and cultivate positivity.
Nevertheless, finding a work-life balance is not a “one-time-only” task. The elements are continually evolving and Taaffe Evans says she is evolving with them.
“Maintaining balance is an ongoing challenge for me. I have to work and reevaluate regularly, but my awareness of this is key. It’s really important to have honest conversations with yourself about what you can handle, where you can handle it. need to go back and where you need support and ask for that support before the feeling of overwhelm starts to kick in.
“Managing our own expectations of ourselves is essential before we can communicate and manage the expectations of others of us.”
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