Mums Who Lead: Reneta Trendafilova
Women’s liberation has come a long way since the 1960s, but still in the year 2022 we have fewer working mothers in leadership positions than fathers. There is a bias that being a mum can be a liability to a company and that perhaps she isn’t able to be as dedicated to the company as her male peers.
Ironically mums have this super power of calming irrational tantrums, getting everyone in line on time and taking on the mental load of organising family schedules while still advancing their career. So if you need an efficient project manager, an empathetic negotiator and a strategist, mum’s your word.
This month we are breaking the bias by featuring some phenomenal working mums in leaderships positions to find out how manage the being both the ‘ideal worker’ and the ‘good mother.’
They share with us how they process mom guilt and aspire to professional excellence.
Reneta Trendafilova is a Senior Manager for Product Development and Strategy in the Global Ocean Freight team at DHL Global Forwarding. She is also a mum of two boys under the age of 5.
What have been your challenges as a working mum in a leading position?
I took on the leadership role in July and there has been a very steep learning curve – a lot of different topics to handle, organizational changes. Normally to cope with the workload I would have put some extra hours into the job, but with two little kids at home that is just not possible and also not something I want to do.
The biggest challenge for me is to get the job done within the available hours that I have in the day and to have the discipline to say no and decline meetings. This means also battling with the over-achiever in me and also making sure I set very clear priorities for myself and for the team.
Have you ever had to prove yourself better than your male counterparts?
Due to the nature of the industry I work in, I am very often the only woman at the table – I try not to think too much about gender – in the end it is about the value that we bring to the table and the results we achieve. I am more conscious about proving that I can be just as good while working 80% and taking care of 2 kids as my other colleagues who are working full time and have more flexibility in their days.
Do you struggle with Mum guilt?
I struggled with mom guilt after my first child was born, but I realised it was not something I felt internally, but rather a projection ofwhat other moms were telling me. In Germany it is still common that moms stay at home until the children are at least 2 and then work significantly reduced hours. I received a lot of comments, “Oh your child is only 1 and stays a full day in daycare – poor thing”.
Nowadays I am confident that I made the right choice to balance my own ambition and the needs of the kids. I prioritize my children and also make it very clear to my employer that I am not available during certain hours of the day which are devoted to the family. (This is typically from 16:30 to 20:30) Of course as every rule this works only in 80% of the cases and on exception I take calls in these times. It helps to have clear boundaries.
How do you manage work-life balance and home responsibilities?
I am lucky to have a husband with whom we fully share home responsibilities – this makes it a lot easier. I will not lie, though, it is hard. Whenever possible we also try to hire help or we ask for help from family. It is still on my list for 2022 to try and carve some more “me time” and “us time” – let’s hope by the end of the year I am closer to the goal.
What would be the ideal work culture or organisational structure for working mums?
- Results are valued more than presence and time spent in office
- Working hours are flexible
- Organization values collaboration and diversity and makes sure there are different voices on the table
Did you know that in Germany, there is a term for moms who work: Rabenmutter? It means ‘raven mother’, or mother who is absent. Only 22% of leadership positions are held by women, and most mothers wait until their children are old enough to attend kindergarten before returning to work. Women like Reneta are part of the growing wave of change to allow more women to reenter the workforce and even take on leadership positions.
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