25. June 2019

Career and family – that’s (not) possible!

Patricia Widmer, Head of the Women Back to Business Programme, wanted to reconcile career and family. She tells us here how she did it and what challenges she met.

Do you know the feeling of bitter disappointment, when you are deeply convinced of something and then reality proves you wrong? I do! Career and family – these two things run parallel for me; I was absolutely convinced of that. After starting my family, I wanted to gradually start back to work again, so I reduced my full-time position in a bank as Client Relationship Manager to a part-time workload for a few months. I didn’t want to concentrate only on being a mother. And no, I didn’t feel guilty about any slack my team apparently would need to pick up on my behalf, as one of my superiors once insinuated.

Nevertheless, I was gradually put on the professional sidetrack, subliminally and without an open exchange. How could such an injustice happen? Just because I had offspring didn’t mean I was suddenly sick. My brain was still functioning excellently. One thing led to another and I decided to quit my job. Today I wonder, though, if I should have fought more back then.

Bye bye Switzerland

Then an exciting opportunity opened up for our family. My husband was able to gain a professional foothold in America, so we moved to the U.S. Later we moved to Germany, and after a total of seven years abroad, we returned to Switzerland. What a great adventure! For seven years, I was almost exclusively at home with my family, because I didn’t have a work visa in the U.S., and I lacked a professional network in Germany. However, I was able to gain some great experience through various exciting part-time positions in volunteer work. Nevertheless, I was still living the typical family-female life. The adventure slowly came to an end, when we returned to Switzerland, bought a house, and I lived happily ever after with my great husband and two healthy children. Well, not quite.

The restlessness within me grew and grew – I felt the need to work again. This wish didn’t seem to be easy to fulfill, even though I had a good network and a great supportive environment. At the same time, I was also struggling with a bad conscience. I had everything and yet I was dissatisfied. And increasingly so, the longer I went without a job. So I was feeling guilty on top of everything else. Couldn’t I just be grateful for what I had? Self-pity olé! With each rejected application a little more.

But this time I wanted to keep fighting. My time abroad had shown me that my desire to work was not abnormal. Mothers work in other countries and nobody classifies them as bad mothers. I also wanted to be a good role model for my children. It struck me that my daughter and son had the classic role models of a man and a woman and thus had the feeling that this was the only right family model.

Back to Business

My goal: My situation had to change! I spontaneously decided to register for the advanced studies programme “Women Back to Business” (www.es.unisg.ch/wbb) at the University of St.Gallen. There, in addition to acquiring exciting management expertise, I also received coaching, where I was able to work on my self-confidence and learn how to position myself and sell myself better.

I even managed to build on my previous career as a banker and find employment at a private bank. Later I changed my profession, and now I am head of the Women Back to Business programme. It gives me great satisfaction to support women who want to restart their careers or reposition themselves professionally – just like I did six years ago.

Happy children

So I finally reached my personal goal. I can share the duties of raising my children with my husband, and I have his full support. As far as the equality of men and women is concerned, I think there is still a lot to do. Unfortunately, we are still far behind here in Switzerland. When I started working again, I had to listen to things like, “Your poor children!” Really? No, I am convinced that my return to work will give my children a new perspective and strengthen their self-confidence. My kids are being socialized in a good way and are not biased by traditional role models.

Executive School Programmes:
Open Programmes

Women Back to Business

The management programme for women on the move.

However, my family model does not have it easy in our Swiss system. Women re-entering the workforce are being punished today. If a mother does not want to start work 14 weeks after childbirth with her previous workload, she is no longer entitled to her job. Or she risks being viewed as a bad mother simply because she’s employed. Is that fair? No, and today I know it’s worth putting up a fight to change the status quo!

About Patricia Widmer

About the author
Martina Müri Martina is responsible for all public relations activities at the Executive School.Before joining ES-HSG, she worked as a PR consultant and communications specialist. She is a graduate of the University of St.Gallen and holds a Master's degree in International Affairs and Governance (M.A. HSG).