The latest statistics show a recovery is under way, with unemployment down and wages rising gradually. But not everyone is feeling the effects. At Workingmums.co.uk, we work with women who wish to work flexibly after having children. Many still see their careers sidelined as a result of working less than full-time hours.
It’s a huge missed opportunity since women who come back to work after having children are often highly motivated. They may want to work reduced or flexi hours, but having faced one enormous challenge — adapting to life after birth — they are often ready to confront another. A growing number are even choosing to start their own businesses.
Some employers are reaping the benefits by promoting flexible working and ensuring it does not mean ‘career suicide’.
Christina Leafe, Director of Land & Environment Consultancy at the engineering firm Atkins, has had a steady career rise at the firm despite working a changing flexible plan – initially three days a week then term-time only for around five years – while her children were young. She says:
“When I started at Atkins it was the first time they had employed someone in my position on a part-time basis, but they were willing to listen and I was willing to be flexible too and make it work.”
SMEs also get a great deal out of employing working mums. When they are building up the business they often don’t need someone on full-time hours, for instance, do their accounts or PR or marketing. By advertising roles on reduced hours they can get someone with years of top-level experience without having to pay a full-time salary and as the firm grows so too do the children of the mums they have hired so that they are able to take on more hours.
Research shows that even women who are just graduating – and the majority of graduates are now female – are worried about balancing a career and family life. Not finding a way to use their skills and experience effectively if they need to work flexibly to achieve that balance is surely a wasted opportunity for both employers and employees.