The cohort of young women entering the workplace today earn 93% of what their male counterparts do, which means they are closer to pay equality than any previous generation. However, past data suggests that as they get older the pay gap will get wider. More than half of young women expect that parenthood will limit their professional opportunities, suggesting that we still need to do more to make workplaces mother-friendly.
For too long, both employees and employers have seen parenthood as an unfortunate barrier to professional success. In reality, the opposite could be true. New research from Microsoftindicates that motherhood actually enhances women’s performance at work because of the skills they develop through raising children.
46% of mothers reported improved time management and 27% claimed that they became more organised. This echoes what many of us know instinctively, that having more to do can prompt greater efficiency. Many of us work better when facing deadlines, and there’s no deadline more pressing than a hungry baby or the end of the school day.
Employers at Microsoft were also involved in the study and reported improvements in women’s team work, multitasking and interpersonal skills.
What should employers take away from these findings? Perhaps it’s time to ask yourself whether you are merely tolerating the requirement for workplace equality or whether you truly embrace the women on your team. As Sheryl Sandberg highlighted in her bestseller Lean In, the glass ceiling still exists in insidious ways. Women often feel less welcome or are less included in social activities. This is especially true if workplace socialising always takes place at the pub after work when mothers have to be at home with their children. Consider organising lunches instead of drinks or, even better, organise a company event for the whole family.
Additionally, it’s important to recognise the changing nature of the workplace, which Arianna Huffington highlights in her book Thrive. The old way of doing business depended entirely on women remaining at home, freeing their husbands to work longer hours. Today, mothers (and plenty of fathers too) need a more flexible schedule, that allows for remote working, flexi-time and sudden changes of plans.
This can be frustrating but be patient and accommodating and it will pay off. Happy worekers are better workers and develop greater company engagement and loyalty. What’s more, technological developments have made it easier than ever for parents to work flexibly but just as effectively. Allowing employees to work from home is an uncomfortable prospect for many bosses, but the risks can be offset by establishing clear guidelines and requirements and building up strong relationships of trust.
Any savvy businessperson will recognise that the tide has turned when it comes to women in the workplace, but many still don’t appreciate the opportunity it presents to create a better way of doing business, one that’s more focused on well-being and contentment. Rather than attempting to resist the change, I advise you to actively explore the ways that employing parents could be good for your business.
Till next time,