Let's for the moment forget all the talk about the 'China century' or the 'India century' or the 'BRIC century'," said Muhtar Kent, the chairman and chief executive of the Coca-Cola Company during a speech to Yale students in the US last October. "The real story is that the 21st century is going to be the 'women's century'."
Finally, a man with vision, albeit one who admits that he has been "managed by women all my life". Still, it is good news that a global captain of industry sees women as the future (even if we don't allow our children to drink his company's products because we fear it will rot their teeth).
But this week, I had to stop and think which century we are actually in after reading a story on the thoroughly old-fashioned topic of working mothers and the fact that two thirds of businesses in the UAE won't be upping their quotas of this demographic in 2011.
Why? Well, they are apparently concerned that we might want to take some time off to have another child or even that our family priorities might be a distraction. Ouch.
The report, based on a survey by Regus, an international office space letting agency (if you are wondering what connection a letting agency has with women in the workforce, you are not the only one), went on to say that experts and employers (sensibly) agreed that "more focus needed to be placed on an employee's skill set rather than gender".
This statement, however, doesn't seem to have made much of a difference to their hiring strategy this year. So what better time than now to remind all employers of some of the fabulous skills that we can - and do - bring to these jobs.
Clearly - and thanks to our other full-time job of raising our families - we bring some valuable attributes to the boardroom table.
Ÿ Multitasking: I am sure most of you agree that mothers are the world's best multitaskers. We learnt this vital workplace skill at home. We can answer the phone, pay our bills online, reboot the computer when it crashes and create a masterpiece with our child. All at the same time. Imagine how valuable this skill is in the workplace and how it could be applied. Keep clients happy, sign off on expenses and put the finishing touches to that all-important PowerPoint presentation the boss is pinning his hopes - and the company's future - on.
Ÿ Office etiquette: OK, so pretty much every playground - and office for that matter - has its very own tantrum thrower, regardless of age. They can be five or 50, but they still act the same. Working mothers know that the best strategy is to ignore them, which is why I won't say another word on this topic.
Ÿ Finances: at home, we are the self-designated chief financial officer. That's right. We manage our family's finances, stick to our budgets and know how to get creative to make it work. This means that your company will always be in the black if we have anything to do with it. And if you are looking for a new CFO, look no further than the (certified) working mum in your company.
Ÿ Diplomacy: from sibling squabbles to playground fisticuffs, we make excellent peacemakers. We are calm and patient, and don't miss a beat when colleagues start doing battle or the office bully comes in to play. It's all about mediation - and we do this at home. Every day.
Ÿ Mentor and role model: we practice what we preach and we are great teachers. We have to be. After all, the children we are raising are our future.
I think it's fair to say that in a man's world, these skills are priceless. So the next time one of your colleagues, who just happens to be a mother, needs to race out for a parent-teacher meeting or pick up her sick child from school, show some understanding. We work hard and give 100 per cent, but sometimes we have to be creative to get it all done. Anyway, perhaps you slept in this morning and were an hour late for work. It's all give and take in the workplace - just like at home.
Are you a working mum or have just started a family and are thinking of returning to the workforce? E-mail email@example.com and share your story with us