It’s time society recognised the contribution of mothers in the workplace.
With Mother’s Day upon us (in Ireland) it seemed very timely to take some time to recognise the impact that mothers make in the workplace. The truth is that many women face huge barriers when they come back to work after taking time off for maternity. And it’s time this changed. From hours being cut, promotional offers being removed, or jobs being lost entirely – we’ve all heard a million horror stories. Oftentimes it doesn’t have to be something so climactic. Sometimes it can be smaller things like meetings or networking opportunities clashing with school-runs, effectively closing women out from some conversations
According to the 2017 Global Gender Gap Report from WEF, gender parity is roughly 200 years away. In the US 47% of workers are women, and 70% of mothers with children under the age of 18 are working. Mothers are the primary sole earner for 40% of households (this was a mere 11% in 1960). Here in Ireland, the 2016 census showed that 1 in 4 families with children is a one-parent family – 84% of lone parents are women. And in mid-2017, the employment rate of lone parents was 58.5%. There are a huge number of working parents out there, and yet they face numerous challenges.
European Member of Parliament, Licia Ronzulli (an MEP from Italy), took her seven-week old daughter, Victoria, to work at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. This photo was taken as she voted on proposals to improve women's employment rights. #internationalwomensday pic.twitter.com/aWV2fJRGfh
— Kiesza (@Kiesza) March 9, 2018
If we really want to support working mothers, then companies need to look at ways to increase flexibility. Where it’s the chance to work hours that work around their schedule, or creating systems to ensure that employees don’t miss out in meetings, or can work from home when necessary. There are lots of things companies can do to help mothers achieve their work goals, in a way that suits both sides. For many companies, expanding paid leave and including fathers/partners in paid leave benefits can also see huge improvements. Netflix is just one company that has taken this to heart. They now offer up to a year of paid, flexible leave. This allows them to attract, and retain, a skilled workforce who are engaged with the company. And they’re not the only ones to extend their paid leave benefits.
This Japanese politician brought her baby to work to prove how hard it is for working mothers pic.twitter.com/dS66vQNSqI
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) November 28, 2017
This shift in company culture to being more family-friendly can lead to benefits on the bottom line too. With women still carrying the lion’s share when it comes to childcare, a company that is supportive of them will retain great employees. We know that diversity in the workplace is good for business. Why then would you make it harder for trained staff to re-enter the workforce after taking leave. By shifting to a culture that is more welcoming, companies can keep employees engaged, productive and more likely to stay. And this isn’t just hearsay. After introducing paid leave Accenture saw a 40% reduction in the number of mother’s leaving their jobs after birth/adoption. For companies looking to recruit millennial women then this is even more important as company culture and work-life balance are key factors in the job-hunt.
Tech companies paid maternity leave:
1. Netflix – 52 weeks (1 year) !!! pic.twitter.com/z9dtCmiGOU
— 𝗔𝘆𝘀𝗵𝗮 𝗥𝗶𝗱𝘇𝘂𝗮𝗻 (@ayshardzn) February 1, 2018
If we want companies to change, then society needs to change too. We need to stand up and support all working parents. This includes a true examination of gender norms and roles in modern society. But also creating policies which parents are actively encouraged to avail of. It can also be calling out those who fail to support parents. While we are seeing an increase in paternity leave, encouraging men to get more actively involved will help accelerate change. Similarly to maternity leave, the rights and entitlements around paternity leave change from country to country. For example in Denmark, parents are offered 52 paid weeks – 32 of which can be split between parents. Yet in 2013, only 7.2% of fathers took up the shared leave. In other countries, leave cannot be shared, and quotas have been put in place. This has led to an increased uptake in leave. In the UK 40% of fathers don’t take up leave, and in Silicon Valley 76% of men take less than a week off. When these roles are more evenly split, it’s a true win-win and feeds back into a better workplace for everyone.
As a site that champions women, we’ve seen our members struggle when trying to navigate the workplace as mothers. For those without children, myself included, it can sometimes feel like this isn’t our problem. It’s nothing to do with us. But it has something to do with us. If we want to live in a society where everyone is valued then we need to support those who are working hard to build a life for them and their families.