A solicitor who returned to work after having five children has urged women in similar positions to ‘get off their backsides’ and ignore some employers’ old-fashioned views.
Speaking at a meeting of female Law Society members, Nusrat Qureishi, a commercial lawyer and mother of five, criticised the hostile attitudes of some employers to women returning to work after raising families.
Drawing on her own experiences, Mrs Qureishi told the lawyers, in Oxford on Friday, they should not be discouraged from returning to work after a long a bsence and that businesses must adapt to the modern world.
Mrs Qureishi, who lives in Tunbridge Wells and took seven years off to raise her children, now aged one to eight, said: “At first I was puzzled by the resistance I met trying to re-enter the profession. I met people who were very clear they thought I would no longer be capable of doing the job.
“The recurring message I got loud and clear was that I would not be up to speed and somehow I must have actually become less intelligent during those years.”
The 43-year-old, who previously worked in the city but is now based in Brighton, accepts the first point as a legitimate concern for businesses.
She encourages other women to keep up with reading, or take refresher courses before they return to work.
But the second point is wrong, she believes, explaining: “Motherhood and raising children equip you with all the skills you need to get on with a career.
“You are working every day and constantly improving yourself. You are certainly not losing intelligence.
“I kept up to date with legal reports because I was interested. Although 99 per cent of my friends think it’s crazy to juggle five children and a full-time career, it was always part of my plan to return to work.”
The law industry is ‘resistant to change generally’, inertia on the issue is everywhere, Mrs Qureishi claims, adding: “In the professions there is an expectation you should continue with work regardless of whether you are trying to raise a family. “But child care costs can be prohibitive. At the moment they take up two-thirds of my salary, although this is a choice I have made.”
But she is not looking for preferential treatment for women, just a level playing field.
She said: “It’s up to each individual to get off their backside and seek the job they want.
“Flexible working hours instead of a rigid 9am to 5pm would be a big help.
“I want employers to know that if they do not take reasonable steps for returning mothers, they will be missing out on a huge pool of talent.”