Meet our TEDxAberdeen 2022 speaker: Alex Whyte
Speaker: Alex Whyte
Talk Title: The career mother gear
This year’s TEDxAberdeen event is fast approaching, with our fantastic lineup of speakers currently in the process of turning their incredible ideas and experiences into inspiring, thought provoking talks that will be presented on stage come November.
Among our lineup of ten speakers is Alex Whyte, an ambitious career woman and new mum with a passionate talk around the challenges and inequalities faced by women like her. Her speech is centred around the extra ‘gear’ of strength, energy and determination working mothers have to find within themselves, and why we need to make radical changes towards gender equality.
We caught up with Alex to find out why she is so passionate about her chosen topic, the highlights of her TEDxAberdeen journey so far, and what she hopes people will take away from her talk…
The title of your TEDxAberdeen talk is ‘The career mother gear’, how would you describe this in a bit more detail?
“I had my son in 2020 and had all the joys of managing motherhood with the pandemic, before returning to work in January 2021. Like many new mums who are very career driven and work very hard to get to where they are, I was keen to get back into the workplace, but found there was very little acknowledgement for this huge adjustment in my life.
“My journey from that point has been this state of wondering ‘how do I balance this insane situation of trying to be the best mum possible and look after my son, but also be the best version of myself at work and be the best employee I can be.’ I had to find this place, this gear, that basically allowed me to do both, and deliver at that high level in both of these huge areas of my life, because it’s not in my nature to sacrifice.
“It’s the same for so many people as well – every working mother I know just has to dig deeper. We just get on with it because we feel that failing is not an option. So this is where the whole idea of the career mother gear came from.”
What has made you so passionate about your chosen topic?
“When I got back into the workplace, it seemed like I had to do all the ground work I’d already done to prove myself up until the point of having a baby. This appeared to be an exclusive issue for women. When I looked at male colleagues and peers returning as new fathers it was clear this wasn’t an experience they shared, and I really felt the impact of this inequality. It felt like a real injustice, and one that my male colleagues – who were returning to work as new fathers at the same time as me – weren’t impacted by.
“The external factors of how women are made to feel in the workplace have also made me very passionate about this. The opportunities you miss out on, both while you’re on maternity leave but also when you’re in that period of childbearing age, are huge. As a working mum you take off whatever time you do, for whatever reason, and there’s judgement based on ‘that’s far too long and you’re not committed to your job’, but when you’re trying to work it’s ‘you don’t care about your kids.’
“I’ve found that it’s just a constant battle to find that balance and I think it’s very slanted towards a woman, even though it’s a family choice which is made as a couple. So where is the failing in society? Where is the failing in these large organisations? Where is the failing in policy or lawlaw that actually allows this to continue to happen?”
Why is it so important for you to share this topic with a wider audience?
“I wanted to do this because it feels like it all goes on behind closed doors and there’s a general lack of conversation. I speak to friends about it and there are some amazing groups and advocates, but how do we get this out farther and support career-driven mothers who are really trying to push the boundaries of what they’re doing in their job but also support their children?
Another factor of why this topic is so important is the illusion of apparent choice when it comes to childcare; women choosing to leave the workplace or taking extended time off to look after their children. For many this isn’t a choice, it is a financial necessity. Often families cannot consider the uptake of UK government funded paternity leave as the statutory support would leave many families in financial difficulty. This is particularly true now when you consider the cost-of-living crises we are living through. Looking at families that have multiple children you also then need to consider the gender pay gap and its impact on women returning to the workplace.
The World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report that was released in July highlighted that with the current rate of progress it will take 132 years to reach parity – that is a worsening of 32 years in the two year period since COVID.This is predominantly down to women taking the majority of the childcare duties during the pandemic and this is heavily influenced by our culture and society norms towards typical family gender roles. It’s 2022 and this system is still so archaic. This isn’t just a female problem; this is a collective problem. We should all see the value in support and have equality that we can be proud of.
“Because we are tending to have children later in life, the financial implications of leave and the fact that there is not a strong culture in the UK supporting the uptake of supported paternity leave, means that choosing whether the woman or the man goes back to work is often not a in reality not a viable choice at all.
“Because we are tending to have children later in life, the financial implications of leave and the fact that there is not a strong culture in the UK supporting the uptake of paternityof for supported paternity leave, means that choosing whether the woman or the man goes back to work is often not a in reality not a viable choice at all. I was very clear on what I wanted and what I would like to see in terms of shared leave; however shared parental leave offered in the UK isn’t a real financial option for many families and this meant I was the one in our household that would need to take the majority of the time off – the case for many females when we start to consider the gender pay gap as an additonal factor .
The World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report that was released in July highlighted that with the current rate of progress it will take 132 years to reach parity – that is a worsen of 32 years in the two year period s Since COVID.This is predominantly down to women taking the majority of the childcare duties during the pandemic and this is heavily influenced by our culture and society norms towards typical family gender roles. , that’s increased by 130 years due to the childcare duties which often had to be taken on by women. It’s 2022 and this system is still so archaic. This isn’t just a female problem; this is a collective problem. We should all want to support and have equality that we can be proud of.
What do you think people will gain from listening to your talk?
“I think there are a lot of rose tinted glasses when it comes to working mothers. I hope I can shine a light on what it really is like where we are today and highlight the struggles that us working mothers are still facing, as well as the lack of support that we have. I also hope my talk can empower females to look at what options they have, try and understand their rights more, and effectively challenge their partners and workplaces a little bit.
“Ultimately, I think we all need to take ownership for this no matter what your gender is, so I hope that everyone who listens to my talk will take away a strong desire to change things radically and quickly. Why are we not addressing these cultural problems or acknowledging that they can actually exist in the first place?”
How has your TEDxAberdeen journey been so far?
“It’s been amazing! I think I have a little bit of impostor syndrome because I’m a big TED fan and I’m not an academic – this isn’t my area of specialty, it’s just what I’m living through right now. However, when I met Derrick, Bob and the other speakers, it was just wonderful. We’re all just normal people who have topics or experiences we’re really passionate about and want to speak about, which I think made me feel more comfortable.”
What are you most looking forward to? And what do you wish to achieve from presenting your TEDx talk?
“I think for me, I have a clear understanding of what I want to get across, but I also want to have a slightly deeper understanding of some of the legal elements of this subject too, and understand how I can get more involved in it. It’s so easy to just sit and do nothing and look to other people for change to happen, but I want to challenge myself to be more involved and help.”
What does being part of TEDxAberdeen mean to you?
“I just have a huge sense of pride. I’m Aberdeen born and bred, and it’s absolutely incredible that there’s a TEDx event here in my home city. I think we have a very important voice in this part of the world, it was once the oil capital of Europe and we’re now going through huge changes and challenges today.
“We’re giving a platform to people to spread their voice far and wide and potentially change or rock people’s perceptions – and that’s all happening right here in Aberdeen! It’s humbling – I’m very proud and excited to be part of the heritage of TEDxAberdeen.”
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In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organised events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TED Talks videos and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection. These local, self-organised events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organised TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.