Speaking uncomfortable truths (at BrightonSEO)

Lanie Bayliss at BrightonSEO

The last time I attended BrightonSEO (before the pandemic hit) I listened to a talk by Amy Hopper about Imposter Syndrome and Digital Burnout. Her talk stood out for a number of reasons. Firstly, here was a strong woman who had founded a company, who was taking the industry by storm, talking about mental health and the stigma surrounding it. It was refreshing, and it was the first talk I had ever attended at the conference that dealt head-on with such topics and themes. Secondly, she shared with us a personal story about a raw moment in her life, where she nearly lost her life and explained to us how it had impacted her approach to achieving a stable work/life balance.

Amy’s talk has paved the way for many women to take to the stage to discuss uncomfortable truths about our industry, to raise awareness and to really humanise the way in which we operate in digital marketing and SEO. She made it feel okay to publically talk about the struggles, challenges and ‘failures’ in working life, rather than always focusing on career success.

In fact, she inspired us so much that we featured her in the second issue of SOCIALight Magazine when we were just starting out!

Following in her footsteps

On the 7th of April, I myself took to the stage at BrightonSEO to deliver my talk “Returning to a career in digital marketing after having a baby/taking a break.” I’m a self-professed introvert, so the idea of getting up in front of a room of people to deliver a talk was daunting, but I felt passionate enough about my topic and I feel strongly it’s something people should know more about. Whilst it wasn’t a talk about something more technical, or even about SEO at all, it very much focused on what it’s like to take a break from a career in the fast-paced, high-pressure world of digital – and more importantly, about how to make a return.

Just as in Amy’s talk, I shared a personal and real account of something I went through that changed my life forever and had me begin my journey toward trying for a baby. I’d always thought – as a career-minded woman – that I’d be able to choose when I have a child. That I’d have a baby when I was ready, when I had decided to. But a medical condition forced my hand and it was a case of, try now, or not at all.

working mother

The Motherhood Penalty

Whilst I (finally) succeeded in getting pregnant and having a baby, and I was supported throughout by a company that made me feel valued and cared about – a little bit of research and digging had me find out that whilst my experience should be the norm for all women… it isn’t.

54,00 women lose their jobs every year, simply for getting pregnant.

Pregnant Then Screwed

When I stumbled across this figure on the Pregnant Then Screwed website I couldn’t believe my eyes. 54,000 women – every year. Then I read about the founder of the organisation Joeli Brearley, who was sacked (over voicemail) when she was just four months pregnant. She had informed her workplace just two days before of her pregnancy. Pregnant Then Screwed are one of a few organisations tackling what they call the motherhood penalty.

Once I had started searching for more information, it felt like the floodgates had opened. I was finding article after article, report after report and study after study confirming what I think I probably already knew – that there are huge inequalities in motherhood.

Evidence from a variety of countries reveals that the longer new mothers are away from paid work, the less likely they are to be promoted, move into management, or receive a pay raise once their leave is over. They are also at greater risk of being fired or demoted.

Length of leave can be a factor in the perceptions of co-workers as well – women who take longer leaves are often seen as less committed to their jobs than women who take much shorter leaves.

This trade-off undercuts a major goal of legislating national parental leave policies: ensuring that women don’t have to choose between motherhood and career success.

Harvard Business Review
mum working at home

Preparing for a career break

Whilst it very much feels like the world is against you when becoming a Mother, it isn’t all doom and gloom. After sharing the facts and figures of the things stacked up against parents and in particular, first-time Mum’s, my talk gave some clear guidelines on how to prepare for time out of a career in digital and I shared some useful resources and tools to use.

Whether you’re preparing for maternity leave, taking a career break, are in between jobs or are taking time out to focus on your mental health and well-being… there are a lot of ways that you can prepare so that your comeback won’t be as overwhelming.

Before my maternity leave even started, I reached out to my connections and network on social media to ask for advice, top tips and recommendations. Using the feedback I received, I was able to put together a list of resources I could tap into.

Useful Resources

As you can imagine, there are plenty of ways to keep up to date, stay in the loop and prepare for time out of a busy and ever-changing industry. However, it’s really important to acknowledge that sometimes it’s okay to dip out of the rat race, get back to nature, turn off your devices and go off-grid.


Apps such as Peanut were a brilliant place to meet other people that were also pregnant and to discuss all the topics that pregnant people discuss. It’s a bit strange at first because it’s like Tinder for Mum’s where you swipe up to ‘wave’ at them or swipe down to move to the next profile.

Here I found a group for business mum’s who were discussing their return to work, with tips tricks and ideas on how to go about it.


I’ve always been a fan of Google’s official blog, The Moz blog and SemRush but other brilliant blogs and websites I was recommended include Hubspot’s official blog, Search Engine Journal and Women in Digital. All of which I now have bookmarked.

A blog specifically for working mum’s include workingmums.co.uk which has news and articles related to being a Mother in the UK as well as job listings.


I wasn’t recommended any books for marketing or SEO – and I am kind of glad for that as I haven’t been able to pick up a book since becoming a Mum, but I was told to buy the book titled ‘The book you wish your parents had read – and your children will be glad that you did’ by psychologist Phillipa Perry. I’m not often one for reading self-help style books or similar but this book I have highlighted to pieces and I constantly refer back to it the older my son gets.


There are plenty of podcasts out there but I was recommended Marketing o clock, Search Off The Record, Marketing Scoop and The Women in Tech SEO podcast.

Social Media

LinkedIn’s newsletters and Twitter’s lists have been invaluable to me keeping up to date with changes and news in the industry. They were also the easiest ways to keep up to date – I could scroll through them whilst the baby napped on me or whilst I had two minutes to myself whilst waiting for the steriliser to finish up its cycle.


The other thing I highly recommend is joining a community of like-minded people talking about the things that matter to you and that you can relate to.

I’m lucky because I am the founder of an amazing community called SOCIALight

Although this is a shameless plug for the magazine I run, it is an online hub and print magazine for people just like me. We talk about a range of topics from mental health, solo female travel and finances through to career progression, motherhood and women’s health. It’s built up of a community of people that care about the same things.

I joined the Women in Tech SEO community a few years ago and have found it really helpful in terms of being kept in the loop but also having access to a network of people that are navigating the SEO industry. I’ve found that no question is a stupid question and there is absolutely no judgement – making it a really nice place to be.

The Real Challenge

Whilst you can do a lot to prepare for time away from your career and plan your big comeback, the real challenge lies in employer attitudes and the need for a mass culture shift towards more parent-friendly flexible working.

Parents bring a lot of great attributes to the workplace – including a long list of strengths that add to a workforce in a positive way. Working parents are often sidelined as either being too wrapped up in their families, or too dedicated to their work… it can be tough to strike a balance.

But it can be done, with a flexible approach.

There’s still an established perception that we’ve inherited from previous generations, a bias in fact, that being successful within your career will, and even sometimes should, be in direct conflict with motherhood.

We are tech women


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