We recently read a LinkedIn post about a dad who had taken the afternoon off work to take his young daughter shopping for shoes and dresses on her birthday. This lovely story was celebrated, and he was declared ‘a great dad’ making ‘lifelong memories’. Whilst the story was heart-warming and made for an enjoyable read, we couldn’t help but think – if a mum had posted that story, would it get the same reaction?
We regularly hear feedback from female candidates, where the interviewer has ‘checked’ they have help at home, and whether they are able to work in a demanding job because they’re a parent. We never hear the same feedback from the working dads! Nobody thinks to ask the dads.
At Inspire Selection, we’re a team with a majority of working mums – 66% of us in fact. We know the challenges of trying to balance a meaningful career, contributing our equal share to the family finances whilst juggling the everyday tasks of raising children, managing family logistics and attempting to make some lifelong memories along the way, all without any extended family close by.
We can’t promise that we are the experts, but we are lucky – Inspire Selection is set up to encourage true flexible working. There are no set hours, there’s an uncapped holiday allowance and we’re able to work from anywhere. However, recruitment is a full-time job, and whilst we have the best clients and candidates, we know that in order to connect the best people to the right opportunities, we need to work hard, work long hours to keep on top of the mountain of work, and sometimes that doesn’t always fit in with the demands of a family.
Organisations such as McKinsey widely report that companies with more women executives are more likely to outperform those with fewer senior women, and as working mothers represent a third of all women in the workforce, employers cannot afford to ignore this segment of the workforce.
The ‘double shift’
Decades of research shows that women do significantly more housework and childcare than men – this is often referred to, for women who are employed full-time, as the ‘double shift’.
The change in working and schooling patterns during the pandemic has seen this rise. Some studies have reported that mothers are more likely to be spending three or more hours on housework and childcare than fathers.
It is therefore a fact that working mothers are under a lot of pressure. Time and emotional pressure. And whilst working mothers are widely acknowledged at bringing skills such as multitasking, empathy, people management, organisational, motivation and time management to workforce, above and beyond their career specific skills, employers must acknowledge that the ideal working conditions are not the same for every employee.
How can employers help?
It is not enough to say that a company is ‘family friendly’. Companies need to adopt policies which support this vital part of the working community and help mothers stay in the workforce.
- Normalise flexibility
Both men and women are increasingly looking for flexibility at work. Even before the pandemic, this was seen as the number one issue in the workplace. Employees with young children are more likely to prefer remote-working models and flexible work locations. However, employers need to encourage both genders to participate in flexible programs, so it is seen as the norm and not as a barrier to career progression for working mothers.
- Remove bias
Unconscious and conscious bias can be present during the hiring and the performance review processes. By accepting and acknowledging this and taking steps through training and reporting to address this companies can minimise it.
Simple steps such as changing performance criteria, or expectations of employees can make a huge difference on the career trajectory of a working mother. For example, being accessible 24/7 or responding immediately does not and should not be a measurement of how good at a job an employee is.
- Create opportunities
Working mothers very often have gaps in their employment. This does not mean they are lacking skills and capabilities or even that they are lacking the required experience for the role. Hiring managers need to consider that mothers can return to the workplace without having the gaps questioned.
It feels hard to believe that we are still talking about this in 2022, when world economies and the cost-of-living rises have made it difficult for any family to survive on one salary. But companies who take action, who create opportunities, normalise flexibility for all employees and welcome returners back to the workforce will create a better environment for mothers to stay in the workplace and thrive.
And please remember, just because a female gave birth to some offspring, it does not make her incapable of being a superstar at work with a solid career ahead. This is something we feel very strongly about at Inspire Selection.