Jobs and the 'motherhood penalty': survey on women's careers

Mumsnet Jobs

To mark the launch of the new Mumsnet Jobs site, we asked users about the impact having children had on their careers.

An overwhelming majority (91%) of mothers believe that a 'motherhood penalty' exists, meaning that women's careers can take a nosedive post-children.

65% of those surveyed felt that having children had a negative effect on their own career; they were unable to pursue seniority or promotion because they couldn't commit to long hours and constant availability, they couldn't return to their old job or they were earning less than they had before they had children.

Many women took the time out from the workplace after having children to reassess their career and think about possible new directions. Those who were happy with their job and how it fits in with family life cited flexible working and an understanding line manager as key factors.

See the full survey results below.

 

Thinking back to before you had children, what were the most important considerations when searching for a new job or finding the perfect job? (Please tick your top 3)

Answer  Response percent

Salary

 80%

Location

 59%

Working in a particular sector or area that interests you

 56%

Avenues for promotion and development

 37%

Company culture

 17%

The seniority of the position

 10%

Training

 8%

Flexible hours

 6%

Perks/freebies

 3%

Part-time working

 2%

Maternity leave package

 1%

Benefits (holidays, healthcare insurance, gym membership etc)

 10%

 

And after you have had a child/children, what are now the most important considerations when searching for a new job or finding the perfect job? (Please tick your top 3)

Answer  Response percent

Flexible hours

 71%

Location

 67%

Part-time working

 52%

Salary

 46%

Working in a particular sector or area that interests you

 21%

Company culture

 11%

Maternity leave package

 7%

Avenues for promotion and development

 7%

The seniority of the position

 2%

Training

 1%

Perks/freebies

 0%

Benefits (holidays, healthcare insurance, gym membership etc)

 7%

 

How - if at all - has having children had an effect on your career?

Answer  Response percent

It's had a positive effect

10%

It's had no effect

 16%

It's had a negative effect

65%

Don't know

9%

 

How - if at all - has having children had an effect on your partner's career?

Answer  Response percent

It's had a positive effect

11%

It's had no effect

 73%

It's had a negative effect

13%

Don't know

4%

 

If having children has had a negative effect on your career, which of the following apply? (Tick all that apply)

Answer  Response percent

I feel unable to pursue promotion or seniority because I cannot commit to long hours, constant availability or travelling time away from my family

 56%

I have had to reduce my hours

 45%

My gross take-home pay is less than it was before I had children

 37%

I haven't been able to return to my old job due to the logistics of juggling childcare, the school run, school holidays etc

 35%

I have had to take more time off to look after my children when they're sick

 32%

I now work in a position that is less well paid than the job I did before having children

 28%

I now work in a less senior role than I had before having children

 25%

I haven't been able to return to my old job due to the cost of childcare

 25%

I became deskilled or missed training while having children

 24%

I earn less pro rata than I did before I had children

 23%

I feel that my employer sees me as less suitable for promotion or seniority since I had my children

 23%

My job role is less interesting and/or responsible than it was before I had children

 21%

I missed out on an opportunity for promotion which came up while I was taking leave to have children

 14%

An opportunity for promotion came up while I was taking leave to have children

 8%

I have had to take on major caring responsibilities for a child who has a disability or a health condition

 7%

I was made redundant while I was on maternity leave

 4%

I was made redundant while I was pregnant

 3%

Other

12%

 

If having children has had a positive effect on your career, which of the following apply? (Tick all that apply)

Answer  Response percent

I feel more confident since having children

 54%

I feel like my work-life balance is better now

 49%

Skills gained in looking after my own children have proved useful in my working life

 43%

My time away from the workplace gave me some time out to re-assess my career

 39%

Having children has given me an added incentive to strive for promotion and pay rises

28%

Having children gave me renewed enthusiasm and zest for my career

 27%

I have started a successful business of my own since having children

 25%

My partner has taken the lion's share of the childcare, allowing me to concentrate on my career

10%

Other

10%

Don't know

 2%

 

To what extent would you agree or disagree with the following statements?

Answer  Agree Neither agree or disagree Disagree Don't know - N/A

I work much more efficiently than I did before I had children

 51%  23%  14%  11%

I find that I concentrate harder at work than I did before I had children

 32%  29%  26%  12%

I used the time out from work to reassess my career and think about possible new directions

 45%  16%  31%  9%

I had less confidence when I returned to work after having children

 44%  12%  32%  13%

 

If you are (or were) employed since having a child/children, which of the following comes closest to your view about your employer's attitude towards you over the course of your parental leave and subsequent return to work?

Answer  Response percent

My employer's attitude has been excellent throughout; I have felt supported and valued as an employee and as a parent

 23%

My employer's attitude has been mostly good, although there could be improvements in some areas

 38%

I felt that my employer's attitude was neither particularly good nor particularly bad

 13%

My employer's attitude was a bit poor, and I feel improvements are needed in the way they treat employees who are parents

 15%

My employer's attitude was terrible, and made me feel very unsupported as an employee and as a parent

 10%

Don't know

 1%

 

When it came to returning to work after having your first child, which of the following statements most closely applied to you?

Answer  Response percent

It was easy to return to work; nothing changed

 6%

I had to make a few changes but it wasn't too difficult

 37%

I was surprised at how difficult it was to return to work, because of the cost of childcare

 19%

I was surprised at how difficult it was to return to work, because of the logistics (time off for child illness; managing nursery or school collection times)

 34%

I was unable to return to work, because of the cost of childcare

 6%

I was unable to return to work, because of the logistics (illness; nursery or school collection times)

 6%

I felt unable to continue working because of my employer's poor attitude

 3%

I chose not to return to work

 9%

I could not return to work because of factors outside my control (eg redundancy, illness, caring responsibilities for children with disabilities or long-term conditions)

 4%

Other

 3%

 

When it came to returning to work after having your second child, which of the following statements most closely applied to you?

Answer  Response percent

It was easy to return to work; nothing changed

 9%

I had to make a few changes but it wasn't too difficult

 29%

I was surprised at how difficult it was to return to work, because of the cost of childcare

 14%

I was surprised at how difficult it was to return to work, because of the logistics (time off for child illness; managing nursery or school collection times)

 27%

I was unable to return to work, because of the cost of childcare

 9%

I was unable to return to work, because of the logistics (illness; nursery or school collection times)

 8%

I felt unable to continue working because of my employer's poor attitude

 2%

I chose not to return to work

 12%

I could not return to work because of factors outside my control (eg redundancy, illness, caring responsibilities for children with disabilities or long-term conditions)

 7%

Other

 2%

 

And when it came to returning to work after having your any subsequent children (third +), which of the following statements most closely applied to you?

Answer  Response percent

It was easy to return to work; nothing changed

 9%

I had to make a few changes but it wasn't too difficult

 31%

I was surprised at how difficult it was to return to work, because of the cost of childcare

 8%

I was surprised at how difficult it was to return to work, because of the logistics (time off for child illness; managing nursery or school collection times)

 22%

I was unable to return to work, because of the cost of childcare

 11%

I was unable to return to work, because of the logistics (illness; nursery or school collection times)

 11%

I felt unable to continue working because of my employer's poor attitude

 1%

I chose not to return to work

 16%

I could not return to work because of factors outside my control (eg redundancy, illness, caring responsibilities for children with disabilities or long-term conditions)

 9%

 

How - if at all - did returning to work after having children (first, second or any child) affect your confidence in the workplace? (Tick all that apply)

Answer  Response percent

I felt unsure of my ability to juggle the needs of my family

 52%

I felt out of touch with skills, contacts or working practices

 39%

I felt disconnected from the world of work

 36%

I felt that colleagues had moved on while my career had been put on hold

 32%

I worried about my appearance, or about how colleagues would react to the way my body had changed during pregnancy and child-rearing

 22%

Not at all - confidence in workplace not affected after having child(ren)

 14%

I was more confident when I returned to work

 10%

Other

 4%

 

If you have a paid job, would you say it fits well with your family life or not?

Answer  Response percent

Yes, it fits well with our family life

 77%

No, it does not fit well with our family life

 18%

 

If your paid job does fit with family life, please say why?

Answer  Response percent

I can work flexible hours

 61%

I can work from home

 35%

I work term-time only

 20%

I have an understanding line manager

 39%

I can pick the kids up from school

 26%

It's local/nearby so makes life easier

 39%

Other

 14%

Don't know

 1%

 

And if your paid job does NOT fit well with your family life, please say why?

Answer  Response percent

I can't work flexible hours

 51%

I can't work from home

 46%

I struggle to cover school holidays

 43%

I don't have an understanding line manager

 18%

I can't pick the kids up from school

 51%

It's a long way away/have to travel for some time

 38%

Other

 17%

Don't know

 2%

 

Whether you undertake paid work or not, if you could wave a magic wand to make one change to make life easier for working parents, what would that one change be?

Answer  Response percent

The cost of childcare would be reduced

 24%

I would be able to choose regular working hours that suit family life

 18%

I would have the option to work flexibly

15%

Wraparound childcare before and after school hours would be available

 9%

Employers would be open to me working from home where necessary

 8%

Employers would offer on-site childcare/a creche

 8%

My employer would be more understanding about the realities of juggling family life and work

 7%

Employers would up their game in terms of how they welcome people returning to work after parental leave (retraining, keeping-in-touch days, mentoring, support and so on)

 5%

Other

 4%

 

Which of the following applies to you?

Answer  Response percent

At the moment I am employed but am looking for another job

 20%

At the moment I am unemployed and looking to return to work/looking for a paid job

 8%

Neither of these

 71%

 

And if you're not working now, when, if ever, are you looking to start / return to work?

Answer  Response percent

As soon as possible

 8%

In the next 6 months

 14%

6 months - 1 year

 12%

1 - 2 years

 10%

2 - 5 years

 24%

5 years +

 9%

Never

 7%

 

Thinking about looking for a new job since having children, where did/would you look for the new role? (Tick all that apply)

Answer  Response percent

Via a job site that offers a range of jobs

 43%

Via the websites of the company/companies you wished to work for

 42%

Via word of mouth/recommendations

 37%

Via a recruitment agency that offers a range of jobs

 28%

Via a job site that specialises in part-time jobs

 19%

By speculative CVs and letters to target companies even if vacancies are not being advertised

 14%

Via a recruitment agency that specialises in part-time jobs

 14%

Other

 12%

Don't know

 15%

 

What was the most useful method for you to seek out a role after having children?

Answer  Response percent

Word of mouth/recommendations

17%

Job site that offers a range of jobs

 15%

The websites of the company/companies you wished to work for

 12%

Recruitment agency that offers a range of jobs

 7%

Sending speculative CVs and letters to target companies even if vacancies are not being advertised

 2%

Job site that specialises in part-time jobs

 2%

Recruitment agency that specialises in part-time jobs

 1%

Other

 10%

Don't know

 34%

 

Where do you/would you head to when looking for jobs?

Answer  Response percent

Recruitment agencies

 38%

Word of mouth

 37%

Ex-employers/old contacts

 33%

Newspaper listings

 24%

Total Jobs website

20%

Guardian Jobs website

 19%

LinekdIn

 18%

Monster website

 15%

Timewise website

 2%

Other jobs websites

 38%

Headhunters

 8%

Don't know

 8%

 

Some studies suggest that there is a career 'motherhood penalty' for women in the UK; women's careers can take a nosedive after having children, and their careers often do not recover, feeding into the wider pay and seniority gap between men and women at work. Which of these statements comes closest to representing how you feel about this?

Answer  Response percent

I don't believe there's a 'motherhood penalty'; hard work and talent will always be appropriately rewarded whether a woman is a mother or not

 5%

I believe that the 'motherhood penalty' exists, but I don't worry about it: people can't have everything in life, and women who choose to have children have to take the negatives as well as the positives

 27%

I believe that the 'motherhood penalty' exists and on balance I think it's unfair, and that employees and government should take action to make things more fair for women returning to work after having children

 46%

I believe that the 'motherhood penalty' exists and I think it's a disgrace; it's a huge problem for women, and employers and the government should treat it as a priority

 18%

Don't know

 3%

Survey conducted in May 2015. 1314 respondents - all female UK Mumsnet users with at least one child.

 

 

Last updated: over 1 year ago