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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.
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.
It’s about what managers and leaders do everyday
The catalyst for elevating women in organisations comes down to what managers and leaders do every day according to a new study published by talent development and transition company Lee Hecht Harrison. The daily behaviours of the people managers who are known champions of female talent have the greatest impact on an organisation’s ability to get and keep women in their leadership pipelines.
The new study from LHH points to the frustration organisations are experiencing in their ability to address this issue and highlights what’s required to create the inclusive workplaces needed for women to advance. The findings show that 58% of companies believed advancing women is a critical business issue yet 76% of those organisations were unsatisfied with their ability to demonstrate the individual actions, organisational practices and cultural attributes that cultivate gender diversity and elevate women in leadership.
The top five behaviours that people leaders demonstrate to champion female talent that make a real difference are:
- Provide coaching and feedback that builds business acumen
- Support flexibility to manage work schedules or location of work
- Provide equal access to meaningful stretch projects that are tied to strategic business objectives
- Give females exposure and profile to senior leaders and decision makers
- Recruit and promote from a diverse pool of candidates
Caroline Pfeiffer Marinho, Executive Vice President, EMEA for Lee Hecht Harrison, said,
Champions of female talent were twice as likely to demonstrate these behaviours to a very high degree compared to other people managers. We know that leaders shape culture. And when you need your culture to shift, you need to hold your leaders accountable to act in the desired ways.
Pfeiffer Marinho added,
In times of talent scarcity, you simply cannot choose to ignore or even exclude 50% of a potential talent pool – woman. Organisations have been investing in women and in organisational practices for decades, but with little results. Knowing that one of the key catalysts for elevating women is the behaviours of people leaders, organisations now have a clear business imperative to develop more champions of female talent, who shape an inclusive culture, making it possible for women, and consequently businesses, to thrive.
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.
Yes, it’s time to be a bit more Lara – LET’S JUST DO IT!
UK workplace culture stalls women’s careers say three in four women and two in five men reports year-long study involving almost 6,000 UK employees.
Everyday examples of unintentionally gender biased behaviour in workplace culture are stalling women’s careers, according to a year-long study released on 13 February 2019 by Murray Edwards College, University of Cambridge.
Involving 5,814 UK employees, this research sheds new light on the implications of the way people tend to think about the strengths, attributes and potential of men and women. This is not a simple issue. Few people are intentionally sexist. The research found that gender double standards are perpetuated by both men and women.
Almost three in four (74%) female employees believe their workplace culture makes it more challenging for women to advance their careers than men. 42% of men agree. While many studies have focused on women’s perceptions alone, this research also reveals men’s views and the gulf between the two, identifying where focus is needed to ensure equality of opportunity.
These findings are released as part of Murray Edwards College’s Collaborating with Men programme. Delivered through research and workshops with large UK employers, the initiative enables employees across the genders to work together to solve cultural issues in their own workplace. It was launched after a 2014 survey of the all-female College’s alumnae reported workplace culture issues to be a greater barrier to career advancement than challenges relating to balancing work and family life.
Perhaps surprisingly more senior women report greater challenges to career progress. Half of senior female employees say their own workplace culture ‘often’ or ‘always’ presents career advancement challenges for women, compared with 36% of junior female employees. This has implications for career development and promotions.
The research found that the culture of UK workplaces is especially failing women of colour. Over half (56%) of women from a Black, Asian and minority ethnic or mixed race background say their workplace culture ‘often’ or ‘always’ presents career advancement challenges for women. This compares to 48% of white females.
Dr Jill Armstrong, lead researcher and Murray Edwards College Bye-Fellow comments:
Women are well equipped to excel in leadership positions, but they’re not rising from middle management in the same proportions as men. Those involved in the study have been surprised by the gender gulf in perceptions about the effect of unintentionally gender biased thinking. It’s workplace culture that has to change if we are to create equality of opportunity. That has to be done in partnership with men.
The latest study explores seven key ways in which gender stereotypes and unintentionally exclusive behaviour can damage women’s career progression opportunities:
- Women being judged more negatively when they behave in the same way as men
- Men and women being evaluated differently due to stereotypes around strengths
- Informal (social) networks that are important for decision making being male-dominated
- Men having more access to sponsorship from senior leaders
- Women not always being credited for their contribution to meetings
- “Benevolent sexism”, which is well intentioned but still hinders promotion prospects
- Women being interrupted in meetings
Double standards at root of women’s career progression challenges
Women being judged more negatively for behaviours that male colleagues also exhibit is one of the key examples of gender bias for organisations to address, according to the research.
43% of female employees say they have directly experienced being judged more negatively than men for the same behaviour in the last 12 months.
Dr Jill Armstrong comments:
Both male and female employees acknowledge that in many workplaces men get away with behaving in ways that are not considered acceptable for women. Female anger is still particularly unpalatable – we saw that with the uproar about Serena Williams at the US Open. What is perceived as decisive and strong from men, can be caricatured as bossy or aggressive from a woman.”
More than half (53%) of women have seen these double standards affect other female colleagues in the last 12 months. Yet only 18% of men have noticed this happening to female colleagues over the same year, suggesting that while many men are aware women face greater career progression challenges, they rarely notice the ways in which this manifests.
Crucially, the researchers found these double standards are perpetuated by female as well as male bosses. Well over half of the employees surveyed (55% of men and 59% of women) report personally being treated differently because of their gender by a female boss.
Stereotypes lead to women losing out on challenging opportunities
According to the participants’ rankings, one of the other most important issues for UK employers to address is stereotypical views on men’s and women’s strengths. This is likely to lead to biased decisions when filling leadership positions.
Previous academic research has established that traits commonly valued in potential leaders such as ambition, a single-minded commitment to work and risk-taking are frequently associated with men. Today’s study found these assumptions are perceived to affect women’s promotion into leadership positions.
According to two-thirds (64%) of female employees, stereotypical views about female traits, such as building good relationships, attention to detail and strong admin skills leads to them being perceived in their workplaces as good managers rather than good potential leaders. Only 29% of men believe this happens.
Kirsty Peacock, HR Director, Dentons UK & Middle East LLP, who has enrolled teams onto Collaborating with Men workshops comments:
I’ve tried many gender equality initiatives and this is the first one that’s started the conversation in a constructive way. Staff fill in a survey beforehand and the workshop begins by sharing the results. Being confronted by your own colleagues’ experiences is really powerful and the anonymity reduces the emotion that often comes with this subject.
It’s moved the conversations we’re having away from blame and defensiveness towards a positive dialogue, with everyone creating the solutions together. We already have great gender equality policies and processes, but this is enabling us to think about our culture on a deeper level.
Jason Ghaboos, researcher and Murray Edwards College Bye-Fellow comments:
Men can sometimes wonder whether it is their place to give a voice to these issues, and I have heard from male allies that their motives for being involved in gender issues are questioned; by both men and women. It needs to become more normal for men and women to talk about this.
Gender inclusivity is not a ‘women’s issue’. To class it as such is unhelpful and masks the complexity of the issues, and the nuance required of interventions. Often solutions in the past have focussed on what women need to do to improve the situation. In truth, meaningful change can only occur when women and men work together to improve the workplace culture for all.