'Employers need to stop forcing parents into a five day week' - Catherine Thomas

Meet the international divorce lawyer at Inspiring Women in London on November 19.

Last Updated: 01 Dec 2015

Who has inspired you in business? 

My godmother, Ann Eliot, who paved the way for women in senior positions in the companies she worked in and dealt with all the challenges that brings. At one point she was the only woman in a pool of 400 managers. She has worked extraordinarily hard and has achieved great things, but it hasn’t hardened her - she is one of the most generous people I know and goes out of her way to help others with their careers.

What has been your biggest setback and how did you overcome it? 

I have been lucky not to experience many setbacks (yet!), but one of the biggest blows, at least initially, was being told by my teachers that I would be wasting my time if I applied to.  As I went to a comprehensive school I would never get in, according to them, and they refused to help me apply.

I was deeply upset by the idea that my whole future could be restricted when I was still a teenager, but, following my mother’s mantra to ignore anyone who tells you that you can’t do something, I spent three very happy years at Oxford studying law.

What is the biggest challenge still facing women in business today and how should it be solved? 

Avoiding having to make the choice between a family and maintaining a challenging career. Employers need to stop trying to force new parents into a five day week if that doesn’t work for their family. The expectation on mothers to lurch from being with their babies every waking moment to barely seeing them in the week has been designed by middle aged men who didn’t have to worry about childcare and it’s unrealistic.

What piece of advice would you give to your 18-year-old self? 

Stop worrying, you won’t care about any of it when you’re older.  And stop dating that boy…

Hear more from Catherine Thomas at MT's Inspiring Women conference in London on November 19. See all the amazing speakers and discussions we've got lined up in the programme here.

Book now and get a 20% discount with the code IW20.

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