After Andrea Butler returned to work following the birth of her child, she had an unexpected and uncomfortable encounter.
"I was pumping [breast milk] in my office, supposedly privately, when someone let themselves in - I was mortified, I've never felt so vulnerable in my life," says Andrea, who is a senior school administrator with the ANU Research School of Physics and Engineering.
"And that's when I met up with Katherine [Carroll] and she explained explained to me that other people were having challenges with privacy and space. The facilities weren't meeting the needs of the women as they return to work after having a baby."
Soon after meeting Katherine, who is based with the ANU School of Sociology, they began reaching out to others with a shared understanding that services needed to improve. Katherine and Andrea had positive support from their direct managers, but both acknowledge that others may not have had the same.
"As a woman who has just been on maternity leave, you're feeling a little bit guilty about having taken time off, or you've been out of the workplace and things have happened while you've been away," Andrea says.
"That puts these women in a very vulnerable place."
Two years later, the Supporting Breastfeeding at ANU working group - made up of students and academic and professional staff - continues to help ANU build on its support for staff with young children.
"There's been very genuine grassroots funding support from across all the colleges, but there has also been support from individuals through the University," Katherine says.
Some of the major initiatives they have helped introduce include:
- loan fridges that new mothers can borrow to store expressed breastmilk;
- an increase in the number of breastfeeding rooms on campus from 8 to 13; and
- a booklet for new and expectant mothers containing services including parent room locations and flexible parking options.
"This project was very important to us in order to foster a cultural support network for working mothers who are managing the equally important task of being an employee and a mother, which don't always come together easily," Katherine says.
Original article published on 10 November 2018 on ANU News