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"Balancing Acts: How to Empower Working Mothers in Corporate Environments"; an interview with Nela Quintana Hurtado

Written by
Olgica Mitrevska
Published on
May 28, 2024

Nela Quintana Hurtado is a professional with a solid background in corporate finance, market access and pricing within the pharmaceutical industry. She currently acts as a Market Access and Pricing manager at Organon for its Eastern and Central European division. Nela has recently also embarked on a deeply personal adventure as a new mother. She has therefore shared insights into finding the balance and success as a working mother in the fast-paced world of pharma.

What are some key challenges working mothers face in balancing their professional responsibilities with family obligations in today's corporate landscape?

Speaking as a Czech mother raising our child in the Czech Republic where maternity/parental leave can be up to 4 years, I would highlight two challenges. Firstly, employers don’t often count with the employee coming back earlier than in 2-3 years and don’t offer part time job or other flexible arrangements. Secondly, the state support in daycares and kindergartens for kids younger than 3 years is minimum or almost non-existing & grandparents are still working. So, if you are lucky and you are offered a part-time job, you still struggle with placing your kid for few hours to daycare. And vice versa, if you do find a spot in private daycare, you are not offered a part-time job. Not to mention, private daycares are quite costly so often you are put in front of a personal choice whether to work instead of being with your child and offset your salary with the monthly tuition. Makes all sense right?

As a successful professional and a mother, what strategies have you found most effective in maintaining work-life balance?

Honestly? Find the right baby daddy, ask for help and save money upfront for nannies. My work-life balance is not only about work and the baby but also about “Me Time” as we call it with the girls - a precious time for myself.  Between the everyday hustle you might forget about your mental health and wellbeing. So, when my husband or family cannot be with our son, I call the nanny and I truly recommend it!

How can employers better support working mothers in navigating career advancement opportunities while accommodating family needs? Do flexible work arrangements play a role?

Referring to my answers from the first question. Employers should definitely offer more flexible work arrangements. Combination between part-time & work from home where possible is essential to mothers. Some companies even have daycares for their employees with kids or special dedicated meeting/playroom where you can bring your kid to work! That’s a very nice initiative. But what is also crucial is the trust and honest communication between employee and employer. I truly value my relationship with my manager at Organon because from day 1, she was very supportive, encouraging and understanding. As a professional mother aka hustler, my manager knows I will get the job done – and trust me, sometimes the job is done at 5 am or 11 pm. 

How do societal expectations and stereotypes surrounding working mothers impact their experiences in corporate environments, and what can be done to challenge and overcome these barriers?

Thank you for this question, great one! I think these stereotypes differ country by country and go in hand with the local parental leave set up. As already mentioned, Czechia actually has one of the longest leaves in EU. What that means to me? I am constantly under societal attack why did I return to work so early, where is my poor baby, who takes care of him when I am not there, what type of mother am I, why am I choosing my career over my child and so many other non-sense comments. Something no one would be asking if I was in the US, right? So, what can be done? Well, to start with, a simple respect and minding your own business could help 😊. But now really, we need to educate the society and create awareness that some mothers also want to be part of something else than to be caregivers and that it is completely normal to have other ambitions. I know there already are some dedicated organizations to working moms like MUMDOO and I truly love seeing the growth in the past years. It means we as a society are getting better, so let’s keep it up!

Can you share any personal anecdotes or experiences that highlight the importance of fostering a supportive workplace culture for working mothers?

I am actually a very lucky individual because I work for Organon, pharmaceutical company dedicated to women’s health. So as a woman, is there any better company to work for? But really, Organon’s supportive workplace culture is one of the many reasons I am in the company for more than 3 years now. New parents are entitled to 12 weeks of fully paid maternity/paternity leave which gives a unique opportunity also to fathers to be with their newborn and create the connection since the very beginning (and to help the mamas postpartum of course). Apart from 5-week vacation, Organon also offers 10 days of so called “care leave” dedicated when caring for a loved one or for other personal matters. With a kid, any extra days are golden! Lastly, I am very honored to have wonderful & understanding colleagues around because not every day is a great day and I have to reschedule some meetings last minute or my son joins Teams meetings in the background. 

In your opinion, what actionable steps can both organizations and individuals take to ensure that working mothers feel empowered and valued in their careers?

Be honest to each other, communicate openly and set the expectations from the very beginning before leaving and after returning from maternity leave. If you wish to return earlier than 3 years, you need to speak up and ensure that this is something you want. No one will read your mind. Even if the plans change along the way, keep communicating! The employer should listen and hopefully come with a proposal for suitable work arrangement. Motherhood is not a disease, it only makes you stronger and better in whole set of skills including communication, time management, problem solving, negotiation, crisis management, prioritization and so many others. Both mothers and employers should keep this on their mind! We are a true talent pool!

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