Fraudulent activity

You’ll know from my name (and also from the fact that 100% of my readers so far are supportive friends and family indulging me as opposed to far-reaching strangers chancing across my blog) that I am a woman.

I’m going to talk briefly about my career(s) and my experiences as a female so far.

Like these women, I regularly feel like a total fraud in the world of work (not that I think I have much else in common with the likes of Sheryl Sandberg and Emma Watson). I’ve never put this down to being a woman – I simply assumed I felt that way because it was true – I am a total fraud and shouldn’t be given any responsibilities! What do I know about anything?!

When I started my first ‘proper’ career (the one straight out of university, a retail banking management programme) I was painfully aware of my own perceived lack of ability. When I was given the chance to manage my own bank branch I was so desperate to make it through each day I took the easy options wherever I could. It didn’t help that the branch I managed flooded with the upstairs flats’ toilet water once a week. The water would creep nail-bitingly close to my safe holding hundreds of thousands of pounds of cash, and I would often have to keep the branch open late on an evening so that a sewage company could come and suck away all the shit and tampons floating around. It really was the height of glamour.

After a reasonably successful stint in account management I jumped to fundraising… and sadly did not do as well as I’d hoped. Overnight I went from feeling like a fraud to feeling like a failure (but at least I was no longer a fraud!).

OK I was writing that last bit on the bus. It’s now 6 hours later and thanks to a good deal on Hardy’s red in Tescos, I’m drunk (at that point my predictive text actually suggested the word ‘drunk’ before I wrote it) and wondering what point I’m trying to make.

The point is, I’ve often felt like an incompetent idiot floating through various careers. I’m not sure if this is related to my femaleness or simply general low self-esteem and self-confidence (hidden by humourous self-deprecation and facetious shows of big-headedness).

It doesn’t help that compared to my peers I’m still pretty far down the food chain in terms of seniority and salary. This can be attributed to two career changes and a baby. Yes, I said it, having a baby (therefore being a woman, although changes in shared parental leave are slow steps forward) slowed my career down. By at least 19 months. There are braver women than me who will take bigger risks and perhaps less maternity leave to negate this slowing down as much as possible, but I’m not one of them. I couldn’t justify seeking my next career step during pregnancy and waving goodbye to the maternity pay I was eligible for in my then job. Add 10 months of maternity leave and I’m almost two years behind where I could have been. Not that I’m complaining – The Boy is undoubtedly the best thing that ever happened to me. Even if he does get cross with me for not letting him use his own poo as play-doh. I’ll tell you that story another time.

Now I’ve finished maternity leave, I’ve moved on and up to the next step and the feeling of being a fraud is slowly edging away. But it’s still there. And now I think my being a woman (or more specifically, a mother) does perpetuate it. Someone once pointed at my desk picture of The Boy and told me I lived in a bubble. This made me cross because not only is it not true, but also because I spend more time in work, doing my best to get the job done, than I do with my own son. This of course leads to gut-wrenching parental guilt, and what for, with comments like that? Should I remove my pictures from my desk in order for my colleagues to see a professional before they see a mother? Surely not, it’s 2017 for crying out loud!

There’s also the old “You part-timer!” jokes when I leave at 4 for nursery pickup (I get in early, leave early). Hahaha, I laugh along politely. But I’m exercising my right to flexitime. And remember flexitime isn’t just for parents, it’s for everyone. As some wise fundraising bods shared this week, flexible working is key for recruiting and retaining talent. But it will only work when it’s accepted throughout a business. Mother Pukka is doing some awesome awareness-raising around this and I can’t wait to see what comes from her nationwide flash-mobbing and campaigning.

Anyways. This blog post is a bit more opinated than my usual online presence. I haven’t used much evidential material, it’s just a collection of my feelings and experiences. And guess what? I feel like a total fraud writing it! LOLZ.


PS: Advice / sharing of experiences / feedback all welcome. Comment below ⬇ or drop me an email:

PPS: The fluffy thing in the featured image is a kitten. It is entirely unrelated to to this article.


14 thoughts on “Fraudulent activity

  1. louiseoldridge says:

    Love your blog and it’s so well written.
    I share the issues with career changes and imposter syndrome.
    I’m saddened that people accuse you of being in a bubble and comment on the time you leave the office. Someone had a go at me today because I wasn’t at my desk at the precise moment they chose to visit my yesterday, knowing I work part time and that I wasn’t contracted to be in at that specific time!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sonya says:

    Thanks so much for sharing Gemma and including me. It’s ridiculous that flexible working it is still not the norm. Hopefully employers will start looking at retention levels, efficiency, productivity … and realise this is the way forward.
    Looking forward to reading more from you

    Liked by 1 person

    • Gemma says:

      Thank you for reading Sonya! Really appreciate it. I hope it won’t be too long before FW is ingrained into working cultures and seen as the norm for everyone not just parents 😁


  3. Mandy says:

    I’m disappointed Gemma to read about your experience as it’s very similar to mine albeit mine was more than 30 years ago! I had hoped that attitudes would have changed by now. I think there are pockets of change out there but my experience is that whatever the ‘policy’ in the organisation its much more down to individual managers to effect this change and make people feel comfortable exercising their ‘rights’ !
    I also found that colleagues who did career progression first and babies later definitely progressed more quickly than the other way around.
    One of the things I learned very quickly in those days was not to worry about what others thought or said about me (except for the boss of course!) – not always easy to do but makes for a less stressful life and makes you a stronger person.
    In terms of guilt I never quite worked that one out. There were many times I was at work and thought I should be at home and the other way around too – but I and the boys survived 😊
    Definitely leave the pictures it doesn’t put you in a bubble! Many people have pictures of pets or favourite holidays, weddings etc. Some have no personal items at all and that’s all it is a personal preference!
    Keep doing what you’re doing the skills you’re using and the strength you’re gaining from being a working mum – and being good at it – will stand you in good stead in times to come. Xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Gemma says:

      Thanks Mandy, it’s frustrating that some attitudes haven’t really evolved as much as people would like to think. But absolutely my pictures of The Boy will definitely stay. The main comments they attract are ‘He’s so cute!’ or ‘He looks just like you!’ or ‘Your husband looks just like that guy from Eastenders!’
      I know what you mean about the guilt going both ways, feeling like I should be at home when at work and vice versa. But you’re right I know one of your boys reasonably well and he’s turned out pretty well 😉
      Thanks for the comments and for reading! ❤


  4. Gabby says:

    Great blog Gem. And sadly your experiences as a working woman and mum are all too common.
    I’m going through some crap right now as a direct result of having had a baby last year and taking some mat leave.
    Let’s share a bottle of vino soon and I’ll tell ya all about it.
    It sucks we even have to talk about this, let alone go through it, in 2017.
    Ps. You’re not a fraud. You’re a strong smart woman. Own it. Xx

    Liked by 1 person

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