Anyone who has taken a prolonged period off work can empathise with the anxiety that returning to work can bring.
Couple that with extreme sleep deprivation, a dramatic change in lifestyle, extra household chores, juggling childcare and returning to work from maternity can feel almost impossible.
But actually, that ‘break’ can be one of the fastest and most impactful times for acquiring new skills and I think it’s so important for women returning from maternity leave to recognise this in order to give them the confidence to pursue the career they are capable of. The most progressive companies we work with have come to this realisation and we are passionate about helping more companies to understand how valuable career mums can be to their organisation.
I’ve replaced the term ‘working mums’ with ‘career mums’ because one of the issues we are striving to overcome is that returning mums are being under-utilised, moving into less skilled positions than they are capable of. This not only means they aren’t fulfilling their potential and progressing their careers, but that companies are overlooking a vast amount of experience in the market. Research by PWC shows 3 in 5 women returners end up in lower-skilled roles than the ones they held prior to their career break. When you consider women make up 50% of the workplace and 86% of women are mothers by the age of 40 (ONS Labour Market Overview) that’s a huge portion of the market.
There are a multitude of transferable skills gained through parenthood which can be invaluable in the workplace. Some of the most obvious include;
Communication, negotiation and persuasion
Once you have learnt to manage and successfully communicate with a 2-year-old throwing tantrums, you can converse with anyone. Effective communication, consultation and negotiation to reach a solution, while drawing on the individual’s unique motivations, helps with everything from internal politics and change management through to leadership and sales. There is never a steeper learning curve in seeing things from another’s perspective than in parenthood.
On a regular basis your eyes are being opened to problems that you didn’t previously know existed. The ability to create innovative solutions coupled with deciding when you need to step in, when to delegate and when to provide your children (/team) with the best tools to do it themselves are invaluable in the workplace. Every company can benefit from good problem-solvers.
Time management, efficiency and organisation
Multitasking becomes key to everyday life when juggling a variety of responsibilities. Every mother knows there are never enough hours in the day, and, with a baby’s routine to work around, prioritisation of tasks, efficiency and delegation skills are paramount.
The most effective leaders are those who mentor and nurture whilst knowing how to influence and motivate a team. Raising a child requires leading by example, copious encouragement and being heavily invested in their development whilst working out how to measure their progress.
Forward-thinking companies are recognising how transferable and valuable these skills are in senior-level positions and unsurprisingly, up to 80% of senior female executives are mothers (source: Joann Lublin, Forbes).
98% of mothers want to work, and that is true for women of all backgrounds, abilities, socio-economic statuses, industries and locations (source: That Works For Me). Reasons they aren’t being retained by companies come down to a host of reasons, ranging from childcare costs to the inflexible ways of working and the pressure of managing work-life balance.
Taking childcare costs and balance of responsibilities at home to one side, I believe there are simple steps and changes in mindset we can make today to get more women back into high-quality work. Career mums need to be more confident and vocal about their experience, transferable skills and working requirements. Recruiters need to be more proactive in acting as the conduit between candidates and companies, pushing for transferable skills to be added to profiles and CVs, and educating employers whose requirements default to most recent experience. Employers need to be aware of bias against the cv gap, and how they interpret candidates’ experience, skills and future potential. They need to develop stronger returner-to-work policies as well as transitional support plans. Flexibility around working hours and location is essential, and decision-making around increased need for flexibility must be made from the top, rather than by junior managers who may not understand the bigger picture.
For anyone who wants to find out how M Introductions can support them from a hiring or searching perspective please visit www.m-introductions/dei
About the author
Emma Salmon has over 15 years experience working in the Financial Services industry in senior leadership positions. Experiencing redundancy whilst pregnant drove her decision to founder M Introductions with a 2 week old baby and fuelled her passion for driving change on the impact pregnancy and maternity can have on women’s careers.