The number of women in the top jobs in the boardrooms of Britain’s biggest companies has fallen this year, according to the Evening Standard a few weeks ago. It goes on to say that the ‘motherhood gap is pervasive’.
There is – it seems – never a good time to have a baby for so-called ‘career’ women. I’d argue it’s tough to have a baby regardless of your employment status – or indeed your ambition.
Nevertheless, there are buckets of statistics that back-up the theory that motherhood is a major contributor to the gender pay gap.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) says 77 per cent of working mums in the UK face negative or discriminatory treatment in the workplace. That’s a staggering statistic in 2018 – and surely enough to encourage businesses to instigate plans to support working parents.
For UK PLC it is in their interest to address this. Shaming headlines on gender pay gap reporting, an acerbated talent drain, higher recruitment costs, low morale, and an obvious lack of diversity - which in turn effects financial performance. Furthermore, by April 2019, all businesses with 250 employees or more will need to report their gender pay gaps again. How many will be able to show an improvement on last year?
So what’s to be done? Action is what’s needed. This is a time for deeds, not just words.
Here are my top three tips for what you can do to support working families in your agency or your in-house team.
1. Have a 100 day plan: The first days and weeks after you return from maternity leave are crucial. How equipped is your business to ‘re-board’ you safely? Does your entry pass work? Will your manager be around to debrief you on staff and client changes? Have you got a handover from your maternity cover? Moreover, you need an operational and emotional support system to make this work - so encourage your business to think about creating a proper plan.
2. Line up your toolkit: Chances are you have good maternity and paternity leave policies - and you may even have a few people taking up shared parental leave. But how clear are your policies and benefits – and are they buried deep in a handbook? Has anyone explained how tax-free childcare will differ from childcare vouchers, or how to request a flexible working pattern that’s mutually beneficial? In simple language and in an accessible form your company needs a ‘Working Parents Bible’, to support you from 3-month scan onwards.
3. Create a network: It helps having people around you who understand the stresses and strains of nursery drop-offs and sleep deprivation – as well as balancing your client’s demands for news coverage. If you haven’t got a working families network – create one. Informal or structured, it will make a difference to how you feel about coming in to work every day.
Anna Hollaway is Founder & Director of AHC – a consultancy which devises plans to help businesses alleviate their gender pay gap.
Sign up to her workshop ‘A Guide to Improving Your Gender Pay Gap’ here.