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Not guilty - women in business and at work

04 May 2015

Meg Garrido

Running in behind Meg Garrido’s (above) new business are “the best spreadsheets you’ll find anywhere in business”. The impression you get from this mother of two speaking about her new business venture, Playroom to Boardroom, and the world of opportunity it has opened up for her, is there’s no time for idle boasts.

As a former CFO and COO, this accountant, who’s had a lot of experience with spreadsheets and business, surprised herself by leaving her well-paid, stable corporate accounting job to set up Playroom to Boardroom a little over six months ago now.

The business delivers events, information, workshops and networking opportunities for mums who run their own businesses, or who are in corporate life with children, or who are planning to return to work, or who are planning to be mums and can’t see how to fit it all in the mix.

Planning and staging events, marketing and sales, these are all new skills to Meg, who says the extent of her skills in sales and marketing consisted predominantly in “arguing with Sales and Marketing people about how much money they’re spending”. Her accounting skills on the other hand have helped with business perspective as well as on an organisational, record keeping, and administrative level.

Sales and marketing are way out of Meg’s “accountant comfort zone”, but she’s enjoying finding out how “good I can be and how terribly bad I am at other things and then calling on people who I know are good for advice on why or how I should approach a task and what I should do in a particular situation as against another”.

Meg’s learned quickly and a little painfully not to fall into the trap of giving tickets away: “It undersells the idea and devalues the business. No one ever built a business on nothing. I also understand people often need more information, a little convincing to join in. After all, it’s not their dream it’s mine, but I can sell it.”

In a corporate setting, Meg knows she probably would never have experienced such a vastly different area of the business so positively and that the only way for her to get the exposure she has was to run her own business.

“Playroom to Boardroom is symbolic. I am saying it is achievable as a mother to go from the playroom to the boardroom. It’ as much about challenging your own beliefs and the guilt that might be stopping you from achieving what you want as much as it may be about the obstacles we find in others and our workplaces.”

So what flings an accountant at the top of her profession - who’s never even entertained the thought of branching out into her own accountancy business - somewhere so new?  

“After my children were born I was constantly amazed by what people said to me, how they judged me, or implied my children were losing out or suffering because I worked. People would ask things like: “Oh, so motherhood wasn’t for you then. Nobody ever asked my husband since he worked a fulltime job: “Oh, so fatherhood isn’t for you then”.

She also encountered when she approached her work about the feasibility of creating roles that had a fit with school hours, and opening themselves up to a whole pool of talent, the argument: “We know what mums are like. The moment a child is sick they won’t be here”.

The urge to create a network of mum’s in business and support them to succeed grew and, as Meg says, it’s in her nature not to want to die wondering.

“Why, put aside a big thought just because I have a comfortable job and a great salary. Trying it out was not going to be a huge risk. I’m an accountant. I can work in any industry, every company has to do accounts. I could be back in a job by the end of the week if it failed.”

In fact Playroom to Boardroom is a re-education piece, says Meg.

“Some of our presenters are women who’ve navigated the motherhood-and-work course. They’ve come out the other end with their kids and themselves intact. Nobody’s gone off the rails because they worked,” confirms Meg with a wry twist.

“If women are to contribute more in the workplace,” she asks, “then men have to contribute at home and that means flexible work practices must not just apply to men but be accessed and used by them. Men see themselves as a failing if they’re not at work and as the weakest link if they take a half day for a family activity when there is a work commitment. Women take it the other way. They feel terrible guilt if they don’t go to the event or if they can’t be at home for a sick child.

“No one,” as Meg points out “would ever say, oh don’t employ him he’s a dad and he’ll take off the moment his child is sick. Why shouldn’t he take time off when his child is sick? It’s his child.”

Meg’s most recent events have been a hugely popular breakfast with motivational speaker Michelle Bridges. She’s also had anti-violence advocate and author Rebecca Poulson speak with a focus on personal resilience.

Coming up for Mother’s Day she’s been so busy she hasn’t thought much about it and has turned it over to her two girls: “They are the best networkers. I don’t know how you can be 4 and almost 6 and have networks like that. No doubt, they will have sorted out something they want to do.”