Here’s an open letter, written on behalf of many women, to anyone feeling the pressure & wondering why all their efforts don’t seem to be paying off.

Dear Mr CEO

We know you’re under pressure to have more women in your organisation. And we’d like to be there. We can help. Here’s what we need from you.

  1. Give us Time. We’re busy people. Yours is not the only job we do. So you know when you talk about “flexibility” it’s not just where and when but HOW MUCH. We’re efficient. We get stuff done. You can trust us (we’re bringing up your children for heaven’s sake). Give us the flexibility we really need and you’ll be amazed at the results.
  2. Scrap your Diversity Programme. Must be costing you a fortune. We’ve been to the events and while we know you mean well, we don’t feel that our needs are always exactly the same as the other equally needy groups lumped together in the same pot. And it seems to us that most of the decision makers are off somewhere else, running the business, because “diversity” is a side show.
  3. We’re not the problem: stop trying to fix us. Don’t get us wrong. Those women in leadership programmes are great fun, we get a lot out of them, We love having mentors too, when they’re really committed. But wouldn’t you be better focusing on the problem? Line managers who just can’t hang onto the women in their teams? Areas of the business where working mothers see their careers dying every year? Maybe send them on a training programme instead. We’d happily act as mentors too.
  4. Give us a break. We know it’s annoying. Women having young children. They’re such a burden, take up so much time, demand so much attention. But you know what, having young children is a temporary condition. Don’t write off a twenty year career just because we need might to step back for a little while. Sheryl Sandberg was right – women’s careers are more like jungle gyms than ladders – at least they should be. Let us step back, and then find ways to let us step up again. Build routes back. Keep in touch if we have to leave for a while – it’s not forever.
  5. Stop thinking “Women” and think “People”. The things we want? Balance in our lives, healthy work environments, time to spend with people we care about, the opportunity to do more than simply earn a living. Other people want that too. Design the type of work environment that we want, that millennials want, that future generations will want – one that’s healthy, balanced and which will thrive in the long term. Not only will you end up with more women, but the overall profile of your teams will begin to look different. Dare we say, fewer white men willing to give up 80 hours a week to work until they retire. And that’s a good thing. Isn’t it? (And if profits are your thing, we believe that in the long term it will be more profitable too).

Our book She’s Back: Your Guide to Returning to Work comes out later this year. It’s there to help women who have stepped back to step up again. They are there, willing and waiting but they need your help and support to find the work that will fulfil their potential. And take the pressure off you and your diversity targets.

We have a thriving Facebook Group where women and men discuss these and other relevant concerns. You’re welcome to join. In the meantime, if you have any questions or need further information please do not hesitate to ask.

Yours sincerely

Lisa Unwin, She’s Back and the Team


  • Lisa Unwin

    CEO & Co-Founder of the Reignite Academy

    Lisa Unwin, CEO & Co-founder of the Reignite Academy, helping women have long term, sustainable careers. Supporting returners. Banging the drum for women at work. Writing, consulting, speaking, changing things. Mother. Reader. Cyclist. Skier. Co-author of She's Back: Your Guide to Returning to Work