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Women are a key part of a growing contingent workforce of freelancers, consultants and part-timers. Despite numerous government policies to attract more mothers back into the workplace, retention is still a significant struggle.
To find out why this is the case, John Williams, Head of Marketing at Instant Offices, explores how employers can tackle retention issues and attract workforce of mothers.
Several data collected indicates working mothers who return part-time, combining professional careers with raising a family, are increasingly frustrated by the type of space they work in. The research shows that the modern workplace often fails to cater for their needs as they face the pressures of combining busy working lives with lifestyle and family obligations.
Blending lifestyle and work for working mums
According to UniSpace, lifestyles and workplaces are blending together, as the working day demands more of our time and technology encourages an “always available” work culture. For mothers, in particular, Office designers have started to recognise the pressure to achieve a lifestyle and workplace balance – particularly for those who are in part-time roles and arguably have to juggle time more than ever before
The data from WorkingMums.co.uk indicates that the number of female workers seeking part-time work, at all levels of the company, is increasing rapidly, but that the number of available opportunities is failing to increase at the same rate.
What do the numbers say?
From a survey of over 2000 women, it shows nearly one in five (18%) UK working mothers have been forced to leave their jobs because a flexible working request has been turned down.
Breaking down the statistics, around 12% said their employer did not even seem to consider their request at all, and over a quarter (27%) said the reason given for turning down the request was not one which is allowable under flexible working legislation.
A further 41% on maternity leave said the refusal of flexible working would mean they might not return to their job, while 50% said they had not even discussed flexible working before going on maternity leave. In fact, a whopping over half of (60%) of women have admitted to changing jobs after maternity leave.
The survey also shows the availability of flexible working is the key career development issue for working mums, with homeworking being valued highly, particularly for those wanting to work full-time. Other barriers included childcare costs – half of women currently on maternity leave said childcare costs could prevent them from returning to work.
The rise of female workspaces
The growth of the contingent workforce has been one of the key drivers behind the move towards coworking. The rise of female-specific coworking spaces is a significant extension to this trend and highlights some of the limitations of conventional space for female workers.
Due to the lack of flexibility, the introduction of female only workspaces such as The Wing, a US based women-only workspace have been created to cater for busy mothers and women by featuring facilities from onsite creches, childminding to gyms, hairdressers and cafes.
While these spaces may initially be viewed as coworking spaces, their ultimate objective is to become networks that facilitate female entrepreneurship and support women at every stage of their journey.
Creating a balanced workplace
Following responses from a survey by Instant Offices, here are some tips that employers should consider in creating a balanced workplace for all employees:
- Flexible Policies that benefit all parents: Offering a number of ‘family days’ for both mum and dad to attend assemblies and doctor’s appointments, etc… would enable a fairer system for all involved.
- Choice of Mobile Working Options: Flexible working with multiple offices/sites and 4G connectivity would greatly help allow fully mobile working for parents who are on the go.
- Work-life by balance and flexibility for all employees: Providing company-sponsored childcare schemes that would include on-site childcare would improve quality and offer a more practical solution. This includes providing more private space to facilitate phone calls to carers, more flexible hours to work around pick up/drop off hours, and a change in working hours during long summer holidays.
Providing integration of workplace and lifestyle elements in the workplace helps to alleviate pressure on work/life balance – and brings to light recognition of the demands the working day places on them.
Research conducted by professional training company Roar Training has uncovered the current state of inequality in the workplace. Evidence-based practical steps from the company aim to combat inequality and help both men and women become better allies.
The study of 600 employees from across the globe revealed that 54% of women believe that their gender has negatively affected their career progression.
In fact, 47% of men don’t believe that women are treated equally in the workplace, and 31% have experienced a co-worker being treated unfairly because of her gender.
The research collated by Roar Training’s founder Kirsty Hulse and Marketing Analyst Sarah Gurbs aims to highlight the issues women face at work and provide evidence-based practical steps for men and women to identify what it means, and how to be a positive ally.
How do women currently perceive inequality in the workplace?
- 54% of women believe that their gender has negatively affected their career progression.
- 51% of women report a general sense of wanting to “be believed” when they discuss or report inequality.
- 27% of female respondents have been actively supported by a male coworker when being treated unfairly in the workplace. However, 56% were not actively supported and 17% unsure.
- 92% of women want an open dialogue, where issues can be addressed together, discussed on a case by case basis.
How do men currently perceive inequality in the workplace?
- 31% have experienced a co-worker being treated unfairly because of her gender.
- 64% of male respondents said that female co-workers are offered the same opportunities as them and 10% believe their female co-workers are offered more.
- A large majority (91%) respond that gender equality is either important, or extremely important to them. However only 71%, actively support gender equality in the workplace.
Commenting on the findings Kirsty Hulse, Founder of Roar Training said
The route to both achieving gender parity in the workplace, and ensuring those within businesses feel their is a commitment to this is undoubtedly nuanced, complex and subjective. This research suggests there is an agreed starting point when addressing the issue of gender equality in the workplace.
There is seemingly no “rule” as to whether sexist behaviour ought to be openly called out, or the role of male allies is to facilitate positive change in the background. This is entirely subjective to the individual, and seemingly differs depending on which stage of their careers they are in. Based on this, the most effective male allies are those whom discuss openly their biases, actively listen to their female coworkers and ask how their female colleagues would best like to address these issues.
- Listen and believe what is being reported. Many women reported that their male co-workers do not “believe” how they feel, which is supported by a disparity between female reporting how they feel in the workplace, and male perceptions.
- Be awareness of bias that may be informing actions and decisions is cited as important for both men and women to begin working towards true gender parity.
- Create an open dialogue so that issues can be addressed according to a specific individuals needs.
Workplace culture was shown to be a bigger issue for female progress than balancing work and family life in a recent investigation by professional training company Roar Training. The investigation uncovered the top 10 issues that are holding women back at work in the UK.
Focusing on everything from ambition being seen as a bad thing to unhealthy company culture, Roar Training’s research shows that the reasons why UK employees aren’t getting ahead are varied, but unfortunately, not that surprising.
Top 10 Issues Holding Employees Back At Work
Roar Training analysed the issues that are holding UK employees back at work and discovered just how much needs to be addressed. Their research uncovered the 10 most common workplace issues.
Studies show that 74% of female employees feel that their workplace culture makes it more challenging to advance their career than men. In fact, the top issue holding UK employees back is unhelpful stereotypes.
- Unhelpful stereotypes
- Ambition seen as a bad thing
- Differing views on satisfaction between genders
- Unconscious bias
- Unequal pay structure
- Working hours
- Company culture
- A lack of career progression
- Minimal training and support
- Lack of role models
Stand out stats from Roar Training’s research include:
- Almost three in four (74%) of female employees feel their workplace culture makes it more challenging for women to advance their careers than men. 42% of men agreed.
- A survey of 4,010 young mothers aged 18-30 showed that 39% had been illegally asked in job interviews how being a mother would impact their ability to work.
- Studies show that women are more likely to be referred to as bitchy, emotional and bossy than their male colleagues.
- Attributes displayed by men are often viewed differently when displayed by women.
- Unconscious gender bias affects workplace feedback and advancement. In an interview environment women tend to be judged on their experience, whereas men are more likely to be judged on their potential.
- Nearly eight in 10 firms, 78%, have a pay gap in favour of men, while 8% of companies reported no pay gap at all.
- British employees work some of the longest hours in Europe. A high percentage of UK workers work more than 10 hours over their contracted hours on a regular basis.
- Women are more likely to be promoted by other women than men. This has been put down to issues such as inherent bias.
- A year-long study by Cambridge University of 5,814 UK employees (54% men and 47% women) found that workplace culture was creating a barrier to career advancement for women. In fact it was shown to be a bigger issue than balancing work and family life.
Commenting on the findings Kirsty Hulse, Founder of Roar Training said
Our findings are just the highlights reel of the large mass of issues UK employees are experiencing every single day.
We seriously need to invest time and effort into listening to our employees and putting steps in place to address these concerns. Fail to do so and your employees will make their thoughts known through absence or taking their skills elsewhere.
Men becoming better allies will also be key to changing organizational culture and making women feel more comfortable at work and allow them to thrive.
The UK Workforce as 100 People
New research highlights areas of under-representation across British industry
A new study by office furniture suppliers, Viking Direct, has visualised the UK workforce as 100 people.
The firm has analysed data from the Office of National Statistics, to highlight under-representation in staff across the country and make the data more accessible. The results have illustrated areas of current under-representation.
When the UK workforce as 100 people is compared to the UK population in the same form, the following points are found:
- Women are under-represented in the UK workforce by four people
- People of Asian ethnicity are under-represented by two people
- Those of mixed race are under-represented by one person
- Muslims are under-represented by two people
- Hindus are under-represented by one person
- Christians are under-represented by one person
- People in bad or very bad health are under-represented by five people
Each of the 100 people in the visualisation represents 269,669 British workers, further illustrating the under-representation revealed by the research. This means that women are currently under represented in the UK workforce by 1,186,676 people.
The full research visualises the UK workforce as 100 people, based on nine demographics
3. Hours worked
Key points from the research have been animated in a video HERE.
The representation was created through analysis of 2011 census data. Population statistics for each demographic were calculated as a percentage of the whole, which was in turn converted to the nearest whole number out of 100.
Claire Porciani, Senior Manager of HR at Viking Direct UK, says about the research:
Visualising the UK’s workforce as 100 people has made it easier to identify areas where people are being under-represented. Hopefully this information will prompt more managers and businesses to assess diversity gaps and representation within their staff. This data visualisation provides a useful measure by which companies can compare their work towards diversity with that of the UK as a whole.
The under-representation highlighted by the research indicates a need for managers to assess diversity in their organisation and try and address any imbalances. Examine whether your workplace is welcoming to everyone. Are their prayer spaces? Is it easy to navigate and use for those with mobility issues? If these elements are missing, it can be off-putting for those that need them.
Enough talk. We’ve heard it all before. Let’s just do it!
These words, a tweet from @LaraOyedele popped into my timeline in response to an article in Diversity Woman Magazine which revealed that, according to research by Bank of America Merill Lynch, “Gender equality can lead companies to make more money.”
This revelation is by no means ground-breaking. Our Knowledge Bank is full of research documents saying the same thing. Yet
Gender pay gap set to last for 36 years
Recent research by Easymoney suggests that the pay gap between top earners is unlikely to close until 2055. The research found that 79% of the 860,000 people earning over £100k pa are men. This has fallen only marginally since 2011, when 83% of the top earners were men.
Academics Geraldine Healy, Queen Mary University of London and Mostak Ahamed, University of Sussex have taken an in-depth look at the Financial Services Sector and identified that women, on average, earn 27.2% less than men an hour, whilst the bonus gap is nearly 50% (and 79% at Barclays).
Moreover, the lack of progress of women in Financial Services is a global phenomenon. IMF chief, Christine Lagarde said at Davos: “The numbers are just appalling … you have 20% of board members and 2% of CEOs who are women.”
2019 Pay Gap reporting reveals poor progress
This year’s Pay Gap figures indicate that far from the pay gap narrowing in the past year, it’s widened with four in ten private companies reporting wider gaps than last year. Surely it’s time for companies to publish Action Plans alongside data and narrative.
The pace of change is slow – let’s change that!
At a recent Lunch, I sat with 3 other women. By pure coincidence we were aged 75, 65, 55 and 45. Our conversation turned to the progress of women in the workplace. We concluded that (1) regrettably there has been much less progress than any of us anticipated and (2) none of us thought at the age of 25 that we’d be saying this 20, 30, 40, 50 years later.