Despite decades of reform and an even longer campaign period, there is growing recognition in the city and wider British business community that gender inequality persists in the workplace.
While inequalities may not be as obvious as they were in the past, when blatant discrimination was both legal and to some extent expected, things like gender pay gaps demonstrate that things are still not quite where they should be.
AM City spoke to Rachel Morris, a highly experienced and certified executive coach, about why motherhood is one of the big issues.
One of the largest research studies, involving nearly 50,000 nurses over eight years, found that even in nursing, a career path with a high degree of female professionals, having children hampered their career progression.
Moreover, this effect lasted their entire career, Morris argued.
“The mothers never regained the ground they lost – meaning they missed out on promotions and pay raises they would otherwise have earned,” she shared with this newspaper today. today.
On the other hand, companies that take a positive and proactive approach to motherhood are proven to create benefits for everyone.
She pointed out that the mother is likely to find the experience more positive, return to work more effectively, and have better physical and mental health long after. And the company benefits by increasing the retention of high-value staff and creating a positive culture that all staff enjoy.
The difficulties of maternity leave
Perhaps the biggest problem is that most people haven’t really understood the impact of motherhood.
“Not so long ago, many companies simply solved the problem by firing the pregnant worker. The cultural expectation was that women became mothers and therefore ceased to be workers,” Morris said.
“The modern equivalent is perhaps to just think of it as a long period of free time. One downside, but essentially the employee will disappear for a few months to have a baby, breastfeed it for a while, then just come back to the same old job,” she added.
But that ignores the fact that for anyone with a child, whether giving birth or adopting, this is a major change that will impact every aspect of their life. Including work.
While work-life balance is seen as important, it seems to have missed maternity leave, where companies may be focusing on their legal obligations and perhaps not considering their broader duty of care. to an employee, Morris pointed out.
“It shows through the specific phases of motherhood.”
pregnant at work
Anyone who has been pregnant at work, or even worked with someone who is, could recognize the time. For the most part, it’s business as usual, the future mother will continue her work. For most, the mood may seem like one of excited anticipation.
“But, in fact, the future parent is likely to suffer from significant anxieties,” Morris noted. “Not just about the impending birth, but also what will happen to their labor while they’re away, especially if they’re involved in organizing their own coverage.”
Back to work
Again, although a return to work can be celebrated, it often ignores the feelings of the mother. Having barely got used to being parents, they will now juggle childcare and work.
“The anxieties of leaving their child with someone else will be compounded by the anxieties of returning to work. What if their replacement was terrible and left him with endless problems to solve? Even ironically, what if they were awesome and everyone wished they could stay! »
What most employers don’t realize is that they will have changed as well, Morris said.
“These changes will have been gradual and unnoticed, but for many mothers the new faces they see, the systems they use or the processes they follow, mean it feels more like starting a new job than take back an old one.”
While some companies have made headlines for offering their senior employees the ability to delay childbearing and freeze eggs, maternity coaching offers a much more effective and practical solution, she continued.
Although a maternity coach is primarily intended for the mother, the benefits are felt much more widely.
They can address issues like company policy or necessary details like transfers and return-to-work dates, but they can also help with things like work-life balance, managing expectations and work performance.
And they’ll address some of the areas more traditionally associated with coaching, like communication or career goals, but from a perspective relevant to impending or recent motherhood.
The benefits also accrue to the employer.
“Women return to work with more confidence and are fully effective in their role faster,” Morris said of experience.
Retention is also higher, a UK company found that post-maternity retention increased from 80% to 94%. While this reduces recruitment costs, it also keeps expertise and experience in-house, creating a positive effect on productivity.
“It even helps in the recruitment of people who may never benefit from the policy, helping to identify the employer as forward-thinking at a time when people place a higher value on the culture and ethics of their employer,” she concluded.