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MotherBoard – feat. Hannah Butcher, MD of Re:Signal

The purpose of our ‘MotherBoard’ content series is to highlight incredible working mums within tech & data, as well as businesses that are supportive and progressive within their approach to creating more inclusive tech & data teams for women.

As part of this, we caught up with Hannah Butcher, Managing Director of Re:Signal.

< MotherBoard is a community, content & meetup series and charter that has been created to drive positive change throughout the UK Technology and Data sectors. Creating environments that support the inclusion of working mothers offers a significant solution to the shortage of talent across the Technology and Data sectors. We’re here to educate, challenge and create that shift. We’re not here to berate, we’re here to connect, embrace and champion positive change-makers. >

Amber @ ADLIB: For some background information, could you tell us a bit about yourself?

Hannah Butcher: I’m a 32 year old, full-time working mother. I am the Managing Director of an online marketing agency, with 12 years of experience in the industry.

Amber @ ADLIB: Can you tell us about the team at Re:Signal?

Hannah Butcher: Re:signal has recently had some leadership changes, including my promotion to the Managing Director position. Our leadership team is 60% female, 40% male.

Amber @ ADLIB: How have you managed to build a successful career, whilst also embarking on motherhood and what challenges have you faced?

Hannah Butcher: There have been a lot of challenges! When I announced my pregnancy to a previous employer, the response I got back was “Oh, sh*t!*, so there was discrimination from day one. I also struggled with guilt and indecision when coming up to 9 months of maternity leave, particularly as my daughter had a milk allergy and I wasn’t comfortable with the idea of placing her in a nursery setting so young. Even now that she’s approaching school age, there are still sad days and sick days that have to take priority over work sometimes.

Amber @ ADLIB: Can you tell us a little bit about how you found pregnancy, going on maternity and returning to work as someone working within the tech industry and is there anything you wish you had known in hindsight?

Hannah Butcher: I wish I had known my rights, and to have felt less isolated. Pregnancy can make you feel vulnerable, and stress/high blood pressure are things you want to avoid wherever possible. I ended up having a high risk pregnancy due to a health condition which affected my mental health too, and in hindsight I should have had more detailed discussions with my midwives for extra support.

Amber @ ADLIB: What do you think managers can do more of when a woman is on maternity leave to ensure they are kept in the loop with company strategy, milestones, changes etc and to still make them feel part of the team?

Hannah Butcher: Arrange an appropriate means of communication so that boundaries aren’t crossed. Ask what the mother would like to be contacted about, and agree on keeping in touch days if required.

Amber @ ADLIB: How do you balance being a mother and being a Managing Director? And what effect does this have on your personal life?

Hannah Butcher: Sometimes work stress can make me less patient with my daughter, or a poor sleep when my daughter is poorly can make the work day less productive. I’m human, and none of us is ever 100% at everything. Where I can, I reflect and grow, and find better coping mechanisms. For the most part, being a parent has made me a better person, problem solver, multi-tasker and leader.

Amber @ ADLIB: How has going off on maternity as a leader impacted you? How did you manage the handover of work to other colleagues?

Hannah Butcher: Whenever anyone worries about any period of leave from work, I like to remind them that there will always be work and it’s never “finished”. Tasks can be finished but work goes on. And it’s okay to take a break from that without the world ending.

Amber @ ADLIB: How can businesses help women re-adjust when returning to work from maternity? And what experiences have you had?

Hannah Butcher: Flexibility, patience and empathy. Don’t overload a returning member of the team with information or throw them a pile of work to do. Find out how they are, what they need, and the concerns they have. If a mother is breastfeeding or pumping, make appropriate provisions.

Amber @ ADLIB: What do you think the government needs to do to support mums more to make it easier to balance a career and parenting? 

Hannah Butcher: Simply better maternity pay and lower childcare costs before age 3.

Amber @ ADLIB: What do you think are the core benefits of having more mothers in tech & data teams?

Hannah Butcher: Diverse perspectives benefit end users. Plus, becoming a mother does teach patience, resilience, reasoning and perseverance. All helpful skills!

Amber @ ADLIB: Self-doubt is something that comes up a lot when we are speaking to mothers in the tech and data sectors. What can businesses do more to encourage women and make them feel their job is secure when they are going on or returning from maternity?

Hannah Butcher: Communicate better. Nobody wants to feel like an employer is going behind their backs, or to be made to feel like an inconvenience. Make sure agreements are written down and recorded.

Amber @ ADLIB: As individuals what do you think need to be our short term and long-term goals to reach a fair and equal workplace for everyone?

Hannah Butcher: Language usage is important. Calling maternity leave “a holiday” is damaging and demeaning, when it is an exceptionally difficult period learning how to do many new things for the first time – and it’s generally exhausting! Normalise the fact that it doesn’t have to be family OR work, it can really be both very effectively. I’ve had people telling me they want a baby but they’re scared because of X, Y, Z at work. Those factors will always be there.

Amber @ ADLIB: Is there anything specifically in tech/digital marketing that you think should be addressed?

Hannah Butcher: Role models. Many digital marketing agencies have never had a woman go on maternity leave, but a handful of fathers on paternity. It can be scary for someone to be “the first”.

Amber @ ADLIB: What do you think is important for businesses to look out for so that future mums of tech can be fully supported?

Hannah Butcher: Make sure discrimination isn’t happening, and get more women into leadership positions.

Thank you again.