My Flexible Working band-wagon by Suzanne Borrell, Flexible Working Fanatic , mumandworking.co.uk and What’s On 4 Director
Daily in the UK, mums in their droves are ditching careers and wasting a wealth of qualifications, skills and experience to be unemployed or underemployed due to a lack of affordable, flexible childcare, rigid, ‘traditional’ working practices and insufficient rewarding part-time opportunities.
Add into the mix ‘guilt’, ‘pressure’ and a mother’s own desire to be there for her children whilst enjoying a career and the result is around a million women are ‘missing’ from our workplace*, impacting not only on family life and women’s earning potential but also on our own economy which could, by 2030 benefit by a massive 10% of GDP if only we could harness women’s qualifications and skillsets better.*
So why is it still a choice of motherhood or a career for many women?
Why should it be exceptional that a father can trade an extra evening working in order to watch his son as a sheep in the nativity or his daughter win the Cross-Country or to be late in or absent because of a sick child?
And how is it right that parents are increasingly taking their annual leave at different times in order to provide cover at school holidays? Will we end up a generation devoid of shared family memories? Will our over-riding recollections be of being pulled in every direction and of how bloody hard it was to manage the juggle when the kids were growing up rather than cherished family time?
Last month nearly 200 shining stars of flexible working and champions of the importance of family-friendly working practice came together at RBS, 280 Bishopsgate for the 2015 mumandworking awards (MWA2015). These awards are a fabulous showcase and testament that it is possible to enjoy a satisfying career around caring for and being there for your family. It was deeply rewarding to see these happy, fulfilled working parents being celebrated in this way. Annabel Karmel MBE VIP Expert Speaker at the mumandworking Awards 2015 rightly declared that ‘Having children doesn't mean a full stop at the end of your CV’ but unfortunately, in the traditional business world, for many women this is still the case. Baby Alice could have been the ‘full-stop’ to ‘What’s On 4’ Founder Sam Willoughby’s career after her employer refused to discuss the possibility of flexible working, post maternity leave. So, Sam set up a dynamic, multi-award winning online business, which she ran around her daughter, which is now operating in multiple countries, supported by a team of committed parents all enjoying flexible working. (Oh, and ‘Baby Alice’ just started Secondary School!)
It could be said in this instance that this employer - an international financial services group - missed a trick, (maybe multiple tricks) with Sam and potentially hundreds of other talented employees whom they had recruited, invested in and then allowed to walk away……..
So……..as business leaders and company directors, we need to think with our hearts but more importantly think with our balance sheets, bank statements and books! We know the value in attracting and retaining committed, high quality team members for the long term. We need to be that forward thinking employer and enable and empower #happystaff
And to our politicians, struggling with our economy now, putting measures in place to support our future economic development and sustainability - this isn’t rocket science. We all know the importance of getting people back to work in lucrative, satisfying and secure roles, empowering business owners, growing our SMEs and supporting them and their workforces. I know as a Co-Director of an SME myself, however that it’s not that straight-forward and businesses need government support to help make this happen in order that we can collectively reap enormous benefits for the UK economy moving forward.
I don’t think I’m asking for the moon on a stick. For each year a mother is absent from the workplace, her future wages will fall by 4% (2). By the time a mother returns to work full-time, her male partner is typically earning 21% more than her (3) and at retirement, her typical pension pot is just over half of a man’s average. (4)
I want to be able to be the best mum I can be. I want my children to remember I was there for the pickups and the drops offs, at the nativity, drinking dire coffee in the cold at sports day, trying not to swear from the sidelines during the tag rugby, struggling with the homework. I want to be a role model to both my children. I want a good, satisfying, lucrative career where I can make a difference, make a living and be proud of what I have achieved. And when my kids are climbing mountains or away at Uni or living their dream – whatever that may be – because I have told them that the world IS their oyster and it’s all out there for them – I want to be able to utilise those years of flexible working to continue to progress my career because, starting again, as a 50 year old woman, after a 17 year career-break is a challenge I can do without.
And I want this for everyone that wants it, that’s including the thousands of mums who have signed up to find family friendly jobs on www.mumandworking.co.uk every year since 2006.
(2)The Fawcett Society
(4)Pension provider LV