An interview with Clair Hodgson, EMEA Director
Tell us a little more about your working background.
I started my working life as a graduate trainee in audit at EY. Even at that time, considerations about having a family in the future and wanting to maintain a career as a mother influenced my choices. I purposefully choose a career that provided me with a professional qualification and the possibility to work flexibly.
However, on qualifying and having done some time in Corporate Finance as well, I took a secondment into Human Resources to manage graduate recruitment for EY’s South Region and never went back. I quickly realised I had found the right area for me. I progressed through a variety of HR roles at EY including time in National Learning & Organisational Development which is where I met Debs who I work with now.
Roll forward 12 years, a job change and a Masters in HR Management later, I was HR Director of two joint venture companies between Bank of Ireland and the Post Office when I became pregnant with my eldest daughter, Alice. I took one year’s maternity leave and returned to my role working flexibly, 3 ½ days per week plus a mix of working in the office and home. The transition back from maternity was tricky but after 6 months my confidence increased. I really enjoyed my role, worked with a great bunch of people and was managing the juggle of a job based in London whilst living in the Cotswolds.
However the arrival of my second daughter, Emma, combined with a restructure at work, and a change in my husband’s work meant I had to think carefully about the choices we had made. I decided to leave my role and to work for myself. Debs had already started talking to Virginia about bringing HDYDI to the UK and asked if I would work with her to do that.
Joining HDYDI was an amazing opportunity to work in an area I felt passionately about. I would have really valued a programme such as the ones we provide when I returned from my maternity leave (I was the only woman in a director team of 14). Throughout my HR career, I have always had a focus on developing and supporting employees and their line managers. Now I get to do that every day that I work and support parents through a huge transition from being a working person to a working parent.
How do you/how have you managed the juggle between career and family life?
When I had Alice, I didn’t think it was going to be possible to return to a role in London, a 2 ½ hour commute, with a young daughter. Six months into my maternity leave and some great advice from a friend, led me to sit down and really think about what I wanted. I thought about what was important to me, the role I wanted to play at work & home, the time I wanted to spend on each portion and how my husband and I would work out the juggle between us.
Having planned it out in some detail, down to who would get a phone call from nursery if Alice was sick on certain days, who would do drop offs and pick up, I had a conversation with my boss who was open to my plans and agreed to give them a go.
I outline this background as I think the most important bit of managing the juggle is getting clear on what you want and how that might work. It means having a plan, talking about it with others and using ‘what if x happens’ conversations to test it out. It is also working out what your boundaries are and where you can be flexible e.g. I have core days of childcare arranged but can flex those if work requires it and I have notice.
A second key factor for me to manage the juggle has been ongoing, honest, open and constructive communication at work and home. I can’t say this is always easy but due to this the people I work with and my family understand what my juggle is.
A third key factor is being open to changes/ being flexible. From my experience so far, parenting is a series of phases and your requirements change. My work pattern has shifted over time depending on the needs of my family and also my work.
Finally it is building the right support networks around you. I am lucky to have the support of grandparents but also a great group of local parents who help each other out. If a train is delayed or I have to work an extra day, I know I can get practical help and I can also provide it to others when they need it too.
I don’t want this answer to appear as if we have got it all right! We have days that go really well and some that are really awful with the whole spectrum in between. Luckily doing what I do gives me some perspective on this. I have two happy girls, my husband and I have managed to stay married and we are both doing work which we enjoy.
What are your hopes for working parents in 2025?
I would like it to be that both mums and dads are seen equal in career terms, equal in parenting terms and so able to make personal choices about what they want accordingly. I would like to see a diverse range of parenting role models at all levels in organisations. I would like to see flexible/ agile working cultures adopted across all industries as well.
What are your top tips for working parents?
Get clear on what is important to you and your family unit. Develop a plan based on this about how work and family is going to work for you. Communicate what you would like to have happen and how you want it to happen to as many people as possible. Review how it is all working on a regular basis and don’t be afraid to make changes. Develop a support network around you and ask for help if you need it.
What‘s your advice for managers working with working parent employees?
Have open conversations with your team. Don’t make assumptions about what an individual wants but ask questions of them to understand. Be flexible and open minded to new working arrangements. Be willing to try out new ways of working and be honest where arrangements are working or where they are not. Check in on a regular and ongoing basis as to how it is working for your team – many managers focus on the period immediately after an individual returns from a period of parental leave e.g. maternity, paternity but actually the challenges of juggling work and home can pop up at many points along the parenting journey.
Describe your typical working day.
There isn’t one as there is so much variety in the work that I do but also in my involvement at home. With a child at school and one at preschool we have several different family routines depending on the day which do also determine how my working day looks.