Rise of the Working Mum
How taking a more flexible approach toward working women could unlock a whole world of business benefits.
It’s no secret that boys and girls are different… very different!
In business, this regularly presents itself in the way we develop new ideas or solve problems, which when brought together into diverse teams, often helps increase innovation, widen customer appeal and ultimately grow profit.
Of course this is nothing new, but common sense is not always common practice.
Too often we continue to hear about the ‘glass-ceiling’ preventing women from progressing to leadership and board roles.
I’m not sure how true this really is, but if equivalent numbers of men and women go into business and work equally hard, there is a problem to solve when we have such a big gender divide at the top.
It seems there is a ‘snake’ amongst the career ‘ladders’ and women are slipping down around the time they begin to start a family.
Take a moment to consider whether, in your organisation, you believe it’s possible for a new mother to continue progressing her career as quickly as a new father? Why is that?
Well the reason I ask is, for more than a year, the UK’s flexible working laws have been changed.
Whether people know it or not, every employee with over six months service has the right to ask for working hours and patterns that suit their lifestyle, regardless of any employment contract.
Of course employers don’t have to grant these wishes, but they do have an obligation to give requests ‘reasonable’ consideration provided they don’t generate extra cost, affect quality and performance or damage the business due to a reduction in activity.
Rather than becoming lost to the world of work when they have children, for women with young families, there is a lot to love about this idea.
For businesses, there is a choice between losing employees with valuable expertise and experience, and embarking on a journey to develop independent-minded staff that are committed to their cause.
Simply put, priorities change for people when they have children and to get the best out of them you need to understand their motivations.
Many companies are switched on to the benefits maintaining a diverse workforce will bring. They are willing to make the leap from hours worked to impact made being the true measure of success.
Flexible approaches include everything from part-time, annualised, compressed and staggered hours, to job sharing and working from home.
Of course there is a need for women to drive themselves forward rather than step away from business when they have children, but by offering the opportunity to create a better work-life balance, companies can hold on to valuable staff, reduce the level of absenteeism, increase commitment and productivity and become a more desirable employer; giving them a wider talent pool to choose from.
I believe we all have a responsibility to help women continue to excel in work, regardless of the way their working hours are scheduled.
Unfortunately, many employees still believe taking advantage of flexible working will have a negative impact on their career and, until this becomes the norm, they will shy away from it to protect future progression.
With a growing economy in danger of stalling due to skills shortages, now really is the time we should be opening our eyes to the talent that is in front of us.
While mothers returning to work may not be the ideal recruitment solution you had in your mind, it can bring with it so many benefits with the only extra cost being a little bit of flexibility.
Yes, it may appear challenging to implement at first, but with trust, clear objectives, accountability and a good IT infrastructure, the long-term benefits could be a better company culture and an engaged and happy workforce; and as we all know: “People are a company’s greatest asset … a company is only as good as the people it keeps”.