The topics discussed were extremely interesting and so were the contributions of many of the speakers invited. One of the speakers in particular gave the most meaningful speech, and her words still resonate with me.
Prof. Dr. Kathrin Altwegg, from the University of Bern, is a rocket scientist. That day she stood up on stage and told us proudly how she was the mother of three, two (grown up now) children, and one special child: Rosina as she called her. Rosetta is an ESA spacecraft, and it was launched on 2 March 2004 on a rocket, its aim was to reach a comet on 6 August 2014, becoming the first spacecraft to orbit a comet. Prof. Altwegg was responsible for the launch and the `mother` of the spacecraft.
In 2004 she was also the mother of two young children who went to school and came home for lunch. She needed flexibility and time for her children, all three of them. So she asked for that, in the form of a part time work arrangement, she asked to be able to work every day from 8 to 12, with the same responsibilities, and to be able to be home with her kids in the afternoon. The industry said no to her request. The boss of her boss said no. But her boss said yes. Thanks to him, Prof. Altwegg was able to retain her team and responsibilities, manage her family, and to be in charge of the launch of Rosetta. She also proudly told us that her best ideas were conceived when she was not working. When her mind was not fully under pressure. When she could count on a good life balance.
So why do we think that a 12-16-18 hours work day should be the norm to better perform? Why so many working mothers are asked to choose career versus family? How much are our careers really in our hands and how much in the hands of our line managers? Are part time or flexible workers really performing less just because they spend less physical time in the office? Should they deserve less than traditional full time colleagues? It does not seem the case.
Here is an interesting TED talk (in German) by Prof. Altwegg.
Let`s make our voices heard and let`s not be afraid to ask. Prof. Altwegg docet.