POWER MUMS: Emma Gilpin-Jacobs, global comms director at the FT

Driven mother of twins Emma Gilpin-Jacobs reveals the secret to managing a media empire without sacrificing a home life.

Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

Emma Gilpin-Jacobs is global director of communications at the Financial Times Group and on the board of the Financial Times itself. She is 44, has three year old twins (a girl and a boy) and a team of 14 based in NY, Hong Kong and London. She is responsible for corporate communications, public affairs, internal communications, events and all other communications related to the FT Group. She works full-time and commutes for three hours a day.

Tell MT about a typical day?

I get up at about 6am, have a shower, get dressed, get the kids up at 6.30am and we play for a bit. I walk to the station for exercise, which takes half an hour. I've got used to my commute, which is about three hours a day. I read all the papers and I do all my emails, I often do conference calls with Asia, so sometimes I come by taxi to allow me to multitask in peace. If I come into the office, I arrive at 8.15am-ish but I often have breakfast meetings, which keep me out of the office. To avoid working evenings, I usually try and schedule meetings for during the day.

I do work from home occasionally, maybe twice a month. I really enjoy those days because it means I can cook dinner and lose all those hours of commuting. I would like to do it more as I think I get twice as much done (I have an office at the bottom of the garden - if I need to write, it's really useful).

I also do yoga two evenings a week at home after the kids have gone to bed. It’s an incredible luxury but worth it.

How do you make it work?

I have a lot of help. I think any woman who has a serious job and kids needs a lot of help.

We live in Caversham near Reading and my husband is based very near the house so is the first port of call if the nanny is sick and he cooks every night. We have a full-time nanny every day, 8am til 6.30pm and on Saturdays - that's the only day I can catch up on everything. She is very bright, very experienced and amazing. I really trust her and I delegate a lot of stuff to her. I also have an amazing PA.

I work two or three evenings in the week but I like to put the kids to bed at least twice in the week and I see them every morning.

You were 40 when you started a family. Would you recommend having kids later in your career?

When I had my kids, I had already established myself, which in some ways made it easier but it was physically harder. Having children makes you question who you are and who you want to be. I earned a bit more and could afford choices like nannies and I feel lucky about that. But I’m not sure I’d advocate waiting that long. Not that you can always plan these things; you don’t know where your career will be.

Is your company supportive?

Many on the board have young children. My boss is very understanding. I have to be honest, I don’t take a lot of time off and if the kids are ill my husband stays home not me. I used to think about stepping back, working more locally and making it easier but I realised that I love my job, and I Iove the media. I don’t want to give it up.

Do you feel judged by others?

There is an enormous divide between women who stay at home and those who go back to work. I think we need to put aside the judgment - I have a lot of respect for women who do stay at home, it is a very difficult job. And I do quite enjoy elements of the house thing but I don’t enjoy the drudgery. That is how I see it.

Do you ever think you're cramming too much in?

It is a bit crazy that I work so hard and then spend ALL of my money on this small community of people who make it all work. I have had bad times: my son went through phase of waking us up three or four times in the night and it was really difficult. In the end we had to get a special nanny to come and help. Within two nights he was much more settled. You have to outsource to make it work. We have to take the stigma out of it and stop with the guilt. If you are successful and you can pay others to help then why not, there is nothing wrong with it. Our nanny is better and more patient and knows more about development than we do!

Ultimately, none of this is easy. It is bloody hard work when your kids are ill or when something is going wrong. When you can’t be there it really sucks. But you make a decision and you have to stick with it because nothing is perfect.

What have you learned along the way?

Julia Hobsbawn of Editorial Intelligence gave me some amazing advice: when you are with your kids be 100% with them. It is better for them and for you. I also know now that I don’t have all the answers, I have to be flexible. When school happens I guess I will have to reevaluate how this all works.

What advice will you give your daughter as she grows up and thinks about her career?

I will tell her to do whatever she wants regardless of gender. My mum was an academic and a role model. You can have kids and a career and explore all the facets of who you are as a person. You don’t have to stick to just one thing. If you are willing to work hard, you have the opportunity.

What could or should the government do to help?

There needs to be some sort of tax break for childcare costs. Ultimately women have the kids and they have to make the big decisions about childcare and how to pay for it. So tax incentives are a simple and straightforward way of improving things. I’d love to see more businesses with crèches but I don’t think that is going to happen.

I also believe that quotas would be a good thing. There isn’t a level field and, until there is, quotas are necessary to move us forward. I don’t think this is a popular view but we need more women in senior positions to create opportunities and to be role models for younger women.

How has being a mum changed you?

My patience for bullshit has dramatically decreased. You become so military about time. I am also more accepting, more open, less judgmental. I feel more capable. I see things on more levels and am more empathetic. It’s like seeing everything in colour rather than black and white: an extra layer that is more meaningful.

Meet the other POWERMUMS from the series:

POWER MUMS: Sara Bennison, director, Barclays UK Retail Bank

POWER MUMS: Nicola Rabson, partner at Linklaters

Christine Armstrong is VP of research agency Penn Schoen Berland.

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