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Juggling work and family

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WORK LIFE BALANCE

Who says a highflyer can’t tend to the home? It’s all about holding on to your values, says Kamel Hothi

All this time women were aspiring to the circus act that is juggling a successful career and family life. But ask any living wonder woman and they'll say it's not about keeping the balls in the air, but rather keeping them balanced.

Kamel Hothi can testify to that. By day she's the Head of Group Asian Strategy at Lloyds TSB, by night a dutiful housewife to not only a husband and two sons, but an ever watchful mother-in-law: 'I guess you can call it a Jekyll and Hyde complex, but I'm happy to do it. I think as long as you truly accept both roles and carry them out to the best of your ability, it's not so hard.'

Jekyll and Hyde maybe a bit strong, but Kamel's responsibilities are worlds apart.

She comes from a strictly conservative Punjabi Sikh family, which discouraged her from pursuing any career ambition. But following her mother's stroke, she got a job as a bank cashier. At 19 Kamel entered into an arranged marriage, but her new family weren't so keen on her status as a working-woman: ‘It wasn't typical of someone my age to be working, and they were a little iffy on the idea. But after seeing me come home everyday and showing respect, they came round to the idea.’   

Years later, Kamel's career has taken off. In addition to her titles as first ever Asian Bank Manager in TSB, she's the brains behind the first ever strategy to improve communications between the bank and their Asian customers. If she's not in the office managing a 2000+ workforce, she's travelling the country harvesting sponsorships for her campaigns.

Yet as always, as soon as she steps inside the door, she sheds the robes of business and commerce and turns into the domestic goddess her traditional upbringing ordained her to be: ‘I lead a very sexist lifestyle. In the office I'm managing men, but at home my husband is number one.’

This all sounds a bit too hard to swallow, but it's her secret to success: 'Coming from an older generation, we're taught that family is important. So whatever my achievements are, I make sure I stay respectful to my husband and mother-in-law, just so they know where my values lie.’

It's not always been easy to balance a public and private persona. Kamel remembers having to hide her traditional side from colleagues for fear of cultural prejudices, 'up until 5 years ago people used to think I was married to an Englishman with a nanny to look after the kids'. But she was soon invited to give a personal speech at the Ethnic Minority Network and then at the annual Government Race for Opportunity conference: ‘It was so hard to talk about intimate details but it struck a chord with the audiences and I got a standing ovation from both English and non-English members.’

Despite the accolades Kamel has no time to take stock of her career milestones. With her hours being 6am-12am she now dedicates her time to mentoring staff members and giving consultations to clients.

It sure sounds like a life of endless sacrifice, so what's left for Kamel as a person? ‘I live my life through my kids. I'm giving them things I never had. My eldest studies and works part time in the army, while the other plays for Slough Town football. When I see how happy they are, I know my job here is done!’

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