Last year’s Rose Report* high-lighted various areas for improvement and, like climate change, everyone needs to do their bit, from government and banks, to employers and women themselves. One of the areas that needs our combined effort is making it easier for mums to stay in the workforce, not letting parenthood stall their careers, so as a nation we don’t miss out on this vital talent pool.
At Something Big, we compete with London’s plethora of agencies, not only for our customers but also for talent and it became very apparent
to me that the experienced, expert talent our customers
need usually means ideal candidates are in their mid-twenties to mid-thirties, so with a fairly female centric industry, that often brings maternities and new mums.
Juggling running the business with being a mum of three myself, it was natural to embrace family friendly policies. There are so many things, big and small, that every employer can do, to make it easier for working parents, here’s my tips:
#1 Offer flexible working hours
Many businesses have become more open minded to flexible working but sadly there are several that haven’t, making it really hard for their staff to juggle family responsibilities with work pressures. Those employers who haven’t caught on to flexible working risk missing out on vital talent.
“A while ago I was offered a role which was soon retracted when
I explained I needed to leave at 5pm on certain days for childcare commitments, now, if I got the sense that a business was not going to be flexible, I simply wouldn’t work there.
At Something Big, for the first time, I don’t feel guilty about being a mum.” Something Big team member
#2 Support dads as well as mums
It may sound obvious but as a society we need to push for equality both at work and at home. Employers need to do their bit by giving dads the flexibility to take responsibility as well.
“I have been able to change my working hours which has allowed me to pick up my son two days a week and let my wife work later, and I get more time with my son and get to cook him dinner twice a week” Something Big team member
#3 Don’t lose touch with your teams during maternity
Maternity leave is a huge transition for women so it’s critical employers help reduce stress levels not increase them! Consider those on maternity as part of your team, keep them in the loop on business changes, invite them to socials and make an effort to help them feel part of the team. Often they’ll be too busy to respond or attend but they’ll appreciate not feeling left out.
“As a first time mum I had fears that leaving a job that I had been in for nearly 10 years would make coming back incredibly difficult. I was scared that so much would have happened in such a fast paced industry. I kept in regular contact and came to quarterly meetings, it was so helpful to see what had been happening whilst I was off. I was invited to join in on social occasions which made me still feel very much part of the team” Something Big team member
#4 Create a fair environment for non-parents as well
Employers have a part to play in driving positive cultures in their businesses, one way to support this is making sure benefits like flexible working arrangements are made available to non-parents as well, this helps reduce animosity that working parents sometimes feel from their colleagues.
“Although my employer has always been open to flexible working, a few years ago it was only ever requested by parents. My own perception was that I didn’t have a good enough reason to ‘qualify’ for not being in the office all of the time. I think it’s key that people without children are considered equally entitled to ‘have a life’ outside of work” Something Big team member
#5 Make post maternity as easy as possible
It sounds obvious but it’s still a really difficult time for many women. Doing simple things or offer an ‘easing in period’ makes a huge difference to women and communicate with colleagues so that there’s clarity over expectations. Make an effort to ‘welcome’ women back to work, it’s an emotional experience so feeling supported instead of intimidated will go a long way.
“The management’s approach to integrating me back into the business was exceptional. I was offered flexible hours for my first month of work, so I eased in with at 2 days a week, it made the whole transition far less stressful.
“For any new mum coming back to work it’s full of emotion and challenges. I was torn between being excited and being sad to leave my baby for a whole day.” Something Big team member
#6 Re-induct post maternity
Most businesses offer great inductions for new team members, sharing information on how the business works, who’s who and what is expected of them. Consider a similar approach for those returning after a maternity, having focused on other priorities it’s common not to remember things like processes and employers tend to overlook the scale of change over the course of 9-12 months.
“I have had two babies since being at Something Big, on return from my eldest they really did try and make it easy for me, but I wasn’t brought up to speed on some of the processes that had changed, which made it harder. I gave my manager this feedback and when I returned after my second child, there was a solid induction plan, like I was new starter, which took the stress away of having to ask colleagues or get things wrong.” Something Big team member
#7 Keep development plans going
Maternity or reduced working hours do not need to lead to less development opportunities or career progression. Sometimes a sense of political correctness or a desire to follow strict HR policies prevent open discussions about an employees’ career plans which I feel is a real shame.
Where possible, open up honest dialogue with your team about their plans, both family and work wise and develop a joined up approach. There’s a tip in here for women too, which is to be open and honest with employers, (and for those who feel that honesty about starting a family would be career limiting then either educate your employer or vote with your feet and find an employer who is more open minded, nothing will change unless we make it happen).
Sadly my sense is this remains an area for significant improvement in many businesses, even when the basics of flexible working hours and support are available, employers are still slowing down development for women during a critical time of their career and this is a key factor in the gender pay gap.
“I was adamant I was going to have my cake and eat it, I wasn’t going to let having a family impact my career. I love what I what do and I have seen too many friends give up on their careers whether it was their choice or not. I was incredibly lucky I had a boss who juggled three children with a busy job so she understood the importance of family life but also of career development.” Something Big team member
* The Rose Review can be found at www.natwestbusinesshub.com
(search Rose Report)