Many people, mums included, think that working mothers cannot have it all. The biological and career clocks are in total conflict with each other; you need to choose between a fulfilling career and having a family. It’s true, building a career while raising children isn’t easy and requires a lot of time and effort, but it’s possible. You need a lot of support though. While receiving help from family and friends is essential, employers also have an important role to play.
So if you’re an employee, consider your current situation and whether there is anything you can do that would help you towards one of the points below. Or ask yourself, do you know your employer’s stance on all of the below?
If you’re a manager or a business owner, what options do you have in place to support the working mums in your company? Here are the top things we think employers can do, to help make a difference.
Yes many mothers still bake cakes for fun, but they are also breadwinners in the household. Research shows that the proportion of women in Europe who carry financial responsibility for their family has dramatically increased in the past 20 years: nearly one in three mothers in working families with dependent children are breadwinners. Yet professional women working full-time can expect to earn between 10% and 20% less than their male colleagues. Differences in pay for men and women result from many factors and varies between countries but are difficult to justify when the same job is performed. Offering a fair pay to your female employees not only will help families make ends meets, it will retain mothers with years of work experience and talent and motivate them to achieve more.
Offering as much paid maternity leave as possible is another important way for companies to support mums at work. After six months, it gets logistically and emotionally easier to leave your baby to childcare: the little one is more independent and the mum more confident to leave her or him with another carer. Shared parental leave for the partner is also a great option; It gives working families more choice and flexibility enabling mothers to carry on with their career and fathers to play a more active role in caring for their children.
It’s now increasingly recognised that flexible working can benefit employers but also a company’s success. This includes working from home, flex time, and reduced hours, which empowers and motivates workforce, gives access to a more diverse candidate pool, reduces costs but can also offer working hours that best suit customers. The benefits for parents and mothers are huge! They can decide how to organize their working hours, concentrate on a defined target to be reached rather than a certain amount of time spent in the office (often in never-ending meetings). It also helps overcoming childcare difficulties, especially when children are ill.
Being a working mum is not without its hurdles, and women are more likely to be loyal to employers who have empathy and respect for their responsibilities at home. This means no pressure to work longer hours on a regular basis (unless mutually agreed), and the use of all vacation/paid time off as needed. Mums don’t like to waste their time so they can see their children more. Having their family life respected makes them more eager to finish their assignments within a limited time period, which can result in a productivity boost for the company.
Returning to work whilst breastfeeding can be tricky not only because stress can affect the milk supply but also because lactation facilities are often inadequate. Establishing dedicated breastfeeding rooms and providing a mini fridge in the office to store breastmilk would allow new mums to ease in back to work after maternity leave.
The icing on the cake would be to ensure greater availability of affordable, high-quality childcare. Some large companies have the capacity to offer access to corporate nurseries or childminding’s services. It’s more difficult for smaller businesses. But this would mean more comfort - mums could breastfeed during the coffee breaks for example - and one less problem to worry about.