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To get you all to help me with a project re: working mothers in senior roles?(19 Posts)
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IABVU. I know...
Getting you all to do my work for me, and blatantly positing here for traffic (given recent threads aout neglected children) and a no-hold-barred response.
But as I am a working mother of two
neglected children, maybe you'll do it for them, so I don't have to leave them in childcare all night as well as all day or shut them in the cupboard under the stairs again.
I'm currently helping a colleague with an employer brand project he's working for. It's a large, well known .com business which has an issue with a lack of women in senior management roles. A significant one, as there are literally only a very few which is not representative of the organisation as a whole.
My question is, what can a company do, in your opinion, to attract and retain senior women? What can they do to make themselves attractive to working mothers in particular (they have a HUGE drop off of women choosing not to come back after Mat leave, for example) and how might they communicate that effectively?
The understand it's partly about flexibility, but it's more than that, surely...
And I'm hardly in an expert position, having left my senior position in a consultancy and set up my own business, partly because I couldn't make it work for me or my family...
Any thoughts, (aside from that IABU, naturally)
It is about flexibility, but there needs o be a cultural change, whereby leaving the office early and wfh later on isn't frowned upon.
They need to pay enough to make the working/ childcare maths work. If they demand long hours from workers, that means they needs a nanny (the first £60k they earn).
Are men promoting in their own image? Women are less direct about what they want often so do the senior men realise that those women (not just the mothers!) working hard but not making a noise may want promotion? And is there clear info as to how they get it?
I think a lot of this is about letting women feel they are building a career, not just marking time in a job which they will soon have to quit due to financial constraints.
Flexibility - not just in policies but in approach of senior management. The very real benefits of working mothers needs to be recognised in the work place (they tend, IME, to be efficient, focused and energetic about their job - show gratitude to them and you get more committment). A non-presenteeism culture is essential. Recognition that working parents (not just mothers) need flexibility to work different hours to the standard to make it work. Putting the systems in place to permit flexibility - i.e. computer systems that allow working from home. Discouraging a culture of long hours on the assumption that that equals hard work - IMO any job that demands 12 hours a day every day is either one that is being done really inefficiently by the worker or is actually two peoples jobs being dumped on one person. in my workplace it is usually as a result of inefficient use of time and poor personal planning that leads to long hours - and spending too much time having naval gazing meetings!
Having an organisation that thinks outside the normal working pattern will also help - does the work actually have to be done between the hours of 9-5 by someone physically present in the office? if not, why is that the accepted norm in the organisation? so long as deadlines are met and the work is up to scratch does it matter where or when in the day it is physically done? Some jobs are 9-5 and have to be location based but most could be done differently to this standard.
flexible approaches to job sharing and part time working is also necessary. Does a senior manager really have to be in the office everyday? Allowing part time further up the corporate ladder would help - after all many NED's are only part time roles.
if they have lots of women leaving after mat leave - that looks to me to be a cultural issue. Why are they leaving? my workplace has had this issue and the requests for flexible working or part time are really small. The reason? everyone knows that in most departments the answer will be a flat no, no matter how easy it would be for the company to make the accomodation for a long standing good employee. A workplace can have all the policies you like but if the senior managers only want carbon copies of themselves the culture will never change to make it easier. Can your friend approach some of those that have left to find out - on an anonymous basis - why they left? was there some issues with the workplace? is the job just not seen as flexible or part time enough to fit with family? or does the company actually have serious issues with some members of senior management being in a particular mindset? Some will have left as they didn't want to leave their DC, but for most it will be other reasons as well.
sorry if this has been long and rambling - an issue i get on my soapbox over!
I'd start with a serious look at the workplace culture - are employees in general encouraged to work just their contracted hours, empowered to make the best use of their time by remote access working etc ?
Are part timers treated fairly? Are jobs all advertised as job shares welcome? Are they willing to faciliate ft to pt moves of role?
A survey of non returners of what influenced their decision - done by someone who people will be honest with.
In my company, theres a good number of more senior women, and up to a certain level many have children. But at that point the corporate model is to relocate people to challenge them (apparently, nothing official is ever said, but it happens again and again) before promoting them, and this just doesn't work for most women. Also many roles are never advertised, people are just approached about them, so I think women are deselected at that point.
But the only woman I know to have left after mat leave at a senior level left as her manager just wouldn't consider a pt role, which was the only way she wanted to return.
I'd bet my money on the issue with this company being a long hours culture with anyone who wants to work more flexibly being discounted.
Ok, my post will not be as intelligently put as the others but here is an average Jo(sephine)s two pence worth (smile)
I loved my job and was bloody good at it if I say so myself. The reasons I left after Maternity leave were the following:
1.) Despite going in to visit occasionally and receiving the obligatory company newsletter, I literally felt like I had no idea how to do my job any more. I felt I had forgotten everything during my 9 months maternity and the company had changed beyond recognition.
2.) The working hours were very rigid and although the days were flexible, I could not fulfill my role out of hours or away from the office.
3.) My wage did not justify paying for childcare.
4.) Although the company were very accomodating, the busiest times of work were weekends and holidays which suddenly became very important when I had DS
Hope that helps!
I can only echo what the others have said:
1) Flexibility. Part-time work with scope to change days worked to accommodate childcare issues, etc. Lots of savings to be made in people working an efficient 4 days where they would previously have done 5.
2) Respect for what the employee CAN do and a willingness to accommodate that.
3) A clampdown - for the whole company - on working after hours. Senior management need to lead the way at leaving the office on time and not being seen to reward excessive after hours working. Where it's unavoidable - conference calls with international offices, for eg - schedule it well in advance.
4) A childcare vouchers scheme and a high enough salary to cover the cost of childcare.
<waves at DB>
Off topic, but how is your DD settling in at school? We are coming up to decision-making time and I would love to hear about your experience so far. Please can you PM me?
Back to your OP: this is an issue with a lot of firms, so your friend's business is far from alone, and unfortunately it is not something they can fully address in isolation - what we need is a cultural shift which hopefully people are starting to realise, hence the recent push to get more women on the board of listed companies, financial institutions and so on.
A lot of people have mentioned flexibility. This needs to be for all employees, not just women, so men can equally share the burden of looking after their kids. This is how we make it work - DH leaves at 5 everyday so I can work late. If he didn't do that, I wouldn't be able to do my job. So the flexibility in his workplace benefits me/my firm. There may be no immediate reward for just one business doing it, but if enough companies start doing it, we will all benefit from it.
Some of the suggestions made upthread are not entirely realistic in some fields - being in a senior role, I often have to do late calls/meetings, or travel at short notice. Not everything can be planned in advance, and women also need to have realistic expectations of the commitment it represents. As someone mentioned, the pay must be enough to incentivise them to put in the hours and to pay for a nanny. Where flexibility is important, in my view, is in allowing to work from home or work different hours when necessary to allow me to take kids to the gp, visit schools, attend nativity plays or sports days, etc.
Your friends' business needs to make clear/publicise its commitment to promoting women in senior role, and mentor female associates/junior employees to a clear career path to make it happen. Criteria for promotions need to be clear, objective and applied impartially.
They could consider hiring some senior women laterally, so that younger women have role models for career progression.
As a society, we also need to let go of the guilt that plagues career women. No, I am not always home for bedtime. I don't need to be told that 'these years go so fast and never come back, you know', as a male friend helpfully pointed out a few weeks ago. Ironically, he is highly successful in a job that requires him to travel a lot and work unsociable hours! Double standard much? If the roles were reversed, and DH earned three times what I earn, there is no way he would get this sort of comment.
The last bit is not helpful, I know - pardon my rant!
Flexibility is the biggie - letting us move our hours so we can get kids to childcare etc. If they've got a lot of parents not coming back from Maternity that sounds to me like a sign that the company culture isn't supportive of parents (and they need to put it like that, encourage and implement any changes like that - 'parents' not 'mothers' or that'll just lead to resentment from male parents)
I'm in IT, Head of IT level (although at the moment I'm doing my own thing) and I actually find that the higher level posts actually fit in better with being a parent as you don't have fixed hours, you often have to do things in the evenings etc. or remotely rather than the inflexible shift work that you might have at the lower levels. To attract people like me I'd need to see that the company actually does care about their staff, does realise that a bit of flexibility means that you're more likely to retain me, and that retaining me means you don't need to hire/retrain new staff - which easily saves you the money you just spent on providing a creche, or giving members of staff laptops so they can work from home.
And this has to be for both men and women. Happy, contented staff don't leave. If your staff are habitually working antisocial hours you've got something wrong, and fixing it would be good for everyone - parents and non-parents, otherwise you get nothing but resentment all round.
I agree that its about culture - and that starts in pregnancy. I left my Director level job to set up as a freelance because:
1. It was clear that my pregnancy was considered a hindrance to the CEO from day 1. From snorting about risk assessments to directly telling me how inconvenient it was.
2. The organisation had no history of supporting anyone following maternity leave. No visible other mothers and parents around did not set much of an example.
3. I was concerned about my own ability to manage conflicting demands of motherhood and work. There was no reassurance that I would have been able to do this. I got the sense that I had to continue as was, or Fuck Off.
4. The salary did not justify me staying and paying child care. Freelance was better paid, more flexibility.
Thank you all - this is really insightful, helpful stuff. And having reallife examples if really helpful.
I appreciate you taking the time to answer even if IABU...
HI Prima - I'll PM you but it's all good...
As everyone has said, it's flexibility, leadership and culture. My boss is a great example - he is an equal co-parent with his wife and so he leaves the office on time. He kicks people out at that point unless they've got a good reason to still be there. The crucial thing is that he makes it clear that in his eyes, long hours are a sign of failure - either a failure of management to manage the workload and staffing levels appropriately, or a failure of individuals to manage their time properly.
It's made a massive difference to productivity and morale - took a while, but it's really worked. And it meant that when I came back from ML I felt able to leave on the dot of 5 to pick up from nursery and ultimately to ask for a compressed week (5 days in 4.5, my husband does the same so between us we have DS at home with us one day a week without taking a hit on salary). No one clock watches or complains about dentist appointments, staying in for the electrician and working from home for the day or whatever - EVERYONE'S work life balance is treated as important, not just people with kids. I think that's pretty crucial to achieving culture change.
Having childcare AT WORK is incredibly helpful. Some of the larger companies can surely manage this, and it would probably reduce the costs for all parents. You could bring kidlet to work and if you stay late, well, kidlet does too!
this would also reduce the maternity leave, as little kids would still be looked after and you wouldn't feel so out of it when you go back to work. And fathers could also have the luxury of seeing child during daylight hours.
When school time starts, of course that would change, but I think being able to bring your child to your workplace would help a lot of parents.
I will get to do this. I am very excited.
Monsterchild, this may work for some but certainly not all. There is no way I would want my children to commute with me, that would be horrendous. And I want them to be at home in the evening if I need to work late. But I appreciate different set ups work to meet different needs.
I left my senior role for all of the above reasons - despite doing work that (in the main) didn't need me to be in an office, that meant I had to be in Central London for 9am every morning - necessitating almost all of my salary going on the nanny and my commuting costs (am in West Kent) - so at the end of the month I had hardly any money left to show for a very long week. Had they allowed me to work from home and come into the office when required, I wouldn't have resigned. I also know that I was being paid less than my male counterparts because they perceived me to be less committed than they were because I had children. That was a big problem with the culture of the company though, and part of working in a (mostly still) male dominated profession. I had to fight for my promotion - when I made a fuss about my less qualified colleague being promoted over me, they said "oh, we didn't realise you were ambitious in that way, we would have promoted you ages ago had we known". .
Ironically, they called me 6 months ago and asked me to do consultancy for them "from home because we need your expertise, but don't need you in the office". . Annoyingly there hasn't been much work that they've needed to outsource so far!
I think that there needs to be a shift in thinking that if you aren't physically in the office, you aren't doing as good a job - I worked far more productively at home.
The great thing about where I work is how supportive of family/personal life it is as a culture, for the men and the women and for the junior people as well as the senior ones.
It is very important not to make assumptions about what men and women want or are expected to be doing once they have children but to ask them. Even the assumption that a woman who has children will be the one in charge of the childcare rather than her partner can be annoying and counter-productive.
It helps a great deal if there isn't too entrenched and homogenous a culture surrounding senior posts, so that there is only one way to be in those jobs, or one way to do those jobs. When we got our first senior woman a while ago it was refreshing to see how different she was from the men. It made the point very well that it was not necessary to conform to a narrow ideal in order to excel in a senior role.
Yes, all of the above reasons here too. I left Finance after the birth of my second child. There was a culture of long hours, to the extent that leaving on time was considered to be slacking or showing a lack of committment. As I remember it, management posts were filled by men who had wives at home to pick up childcare and household stuff. Lower positions were held by predominantly men in their early to mid twenties, ambitious and eager to impress - and so the cycle of longer working hours would prevail. To compound matters, there was a real hard drinking culture - so colleagues would leave the office and head to the pub, pretty much every night of the working week. Given my circumstances as a working mum I couldn't, nor did I want to, join in with this lifestyle. I was therefore quite isolated. I'm certain that I was good at my role, and I know I worked just as hard if not harder than my colleagues to try to compensate. However, I'm equally certain that I would not have been in the running for promotion opportunities.
That was quite a long time ago, mid-nineties, and I'm not sure if anything has changed. I look back upon that time of my life and remember the awful routine of putting my 5 year old Dd into breakfast club at 7.30am. I would then collect her from after school club at 6.30pm. We were utterly ragged and exhausted, and for what? I called time on it after three years, it was completely unsustainable.
As others have said. It starts with pregnancy and maternity leave.
A decent maternity package which is dependant on a return to work is key. Very few women want to leave their 10/11/12 month old. If you have continued to contribute to the household throughout maternity leave, you are much more likely to return when that finishes, than if you are surriving on SMP.
Once you have sorted childcare etc, you are less likely to resign once your contractual obligation is fulfilled.
If there is a well established precedent for flexible working as well I think most women would return.
Hello. We've moved this to Media Requests now, as that's where it this kind of request really should be <tidy>
It is about flexibility, honest.
You might want to have a look at the Power Part-time Fifty, which is a recently published list of fifty people who were nominated as inspirational examples of part-time workers at senior levels. It shows clearly that if the companies offer flexible working, they get intensely ambitious focussed people who will move heaven and earth to do the job well. If you want to follow it up, there were interviews with some of them in the FT last Thursday (behind a firewall so I can't link), talking about how they make their part-time roles work.
Out of the 50 there are only 6 men. Which I find a bit . It clearly shows what women need to stay in work at senior levels.