This Mother’s Day, what many working mothers really want is parity in the workplace. The same opportunity as their colleagues to achieve career progression, equal pay, support from their employer and the flexibility to manage work and home life.
We know how valuable women are in the workplace, with gender diverse boards delivering greater revenue overall, yet many working mothers still find work and childcare commitments an impossible juggle. This causes many to exit the workforce entirely or unfairly put their career on the backburner.
Businesses must do more to support working mothers, if they are to retain this talented pool of employees. Whilst the list is long, top three ways to retain working mothers in the workplace include:
- Understand the impact of the pandemic
The pandemic had a positive impact in some respects, as it showed organisations that employees could work from home productively. This is what parents, and in particular working mothers, have been crying out for over decades. However, the call to “return to the office” and “get back to normal” represented a wasted opportunity for flexible working, leaving many wondering whether anything positive was learnt from the pandemic.
In what PwC describes as the “motherhood penalty”, the pandemic also disproportionally affected working mothers who shouldered the burden of both work and childcare responsibilities. This impractical juggle led many mothers to drop out of the workforce entirely, taking a serious toll on their mental health in the process. In fact, research found that one in three women considered leaving the workforce or downshifting their career during the pandemic due to burnout – double the rate of men.
- Address the pay gap and extortionate childcare costs
According to the World Economic Forum, it will take more than 135 years to reach pay parity. According to the TUC there is a “motherhood pay penalty” too, with women who have children earning 15% less than those who don’t. Quite simply, the subject of equal pay isn’t a conversation we should still be having in 2022. It should be a given.
Coupled with the UK having some of the highest childcare costs in the world, representing more than half a salary for some families, it’s no surprise that some working mothers drop out of the workforce. The system can feel stacked against them. Working mothers, and indeed families, need greater support to manage childcare costs – with businesses working through suitable solutions to help retain talented employees.
- Get men on board
Men are crucial allies in achieving equality for working mothers. Husbands, fathers, brothers, sons – many men will have seen first hand the struggle that working mothers face. Male employees, especially those holding senior positions, need to be speaking up for working mothers. Making sure they aren’t overlooked for promotion, that their pay is aligned with male counterparts, and that they continue to be included in key projects and clients once becoming a mother.
Men should be leading by example, taking their full quota of paternity leave and sharing parental leave where possible. Normalising other childcare responsibilities, such as absence to care for a sick dependent, should also be shouldered by men too. This will help to level the playing field, so that women aren’t disproportionately taking all of the burden.
So, whilst many will be buying flowers and cards for the mothers in our lives this Mother’s Day, or remembering those that have shaped us, it shouldn’t just be a singular day that we give thanks. Businesses have the power to create meaningful change for working mothers, giving them the equal recognition and opportunities that they deserve. Providing greater support and empathy for working mothers would have a profound impact, not only on them personally and professionally, but businesses would reap the benefits from greater diversity too.