How Sweet it is: Working Mums Grew ‘Green and Blacks’

working motherMany of Female Breadwinner’s clients, despite working to improve their gender diversity, find maternity leave to be a big challenge. Interestingly, the progressive men, often those whose wives work as well, notice that working mothers are some of the most conscientious employees. They don’t have time to waste and are incredibly efficient. A coaching client recently explained: ‘I was considered high-potential before I had children, but I’m actually more productive since I’ve had my second son. I just don’t have the hours to be anything else. The irony is that I know I’m no longer considered a rising star!’

Forward thinking employers recognise it’s well worth the effort to retain a long time employee now on maternity leave. Josephine Fairley, Co-founder of the rapidly growing Green and Blacks, points out the advantages in the misleadingly entitled Telegraph article Maternity leave is a nightmare for employers. Fairley explained: “…In my experience, female employees make up for lost time in the wee small hours to get a job done, if that’s what it takes (and without being asked). I had two fantastic single mothers working for me, Cluny and Gail, when I was running Green & Black’s – and my absolute understanding of the tugs on their time turned out to be repaid hundredfold in loyalty, over the years. I’d like to propose to any employer of mothers out there that a shift in attitude might very well deliver the same willingness and fealty.”

If taken up by men more equitably, we anticipate shared parental leave from April 2015 will make young women less suspect as potential employees.

I Do: Removing Wedding Rings as a Career Aid?

MP900409769Even in this day and age; ambitious women sometimes ask me: “I just got married. Do you think this will reduce my chances of securing a new promotion?” I empathise with the question; when I became engaged 10 years ago, I didn’t wear my ring except at the weekends. My employer knew my boyfriend was in the UK and it would have forced questions as to where we were planning to live that I wasn’t ready to answer.

Many working women feel that being married changes the way their employers perceive them; as if they are about to leave to have children or become ‘less committed’ now that there perhaps is another breadwinner on hand.

Clearly, this isn’t a question I’m alone in answering.  A recent survey in the UK on reasons why women remove their wedding rings showed 35% of women regularly remove their wedding or engagement rings at work, believing appearing single increases their chances of getting a job or being promoted. A further third take their rings off when going for a job interview.

The Telegraph commented on the survey, “The research suggests many women worry that employers or prospective employers interpret a wedding ring as ‘about to take time out and start a family’, making her an “unattractive hire”. Men who wear wedding rings, on the other hand, do not face the same fears.” In fact, we often view married men as the most stable and hardest working. After all ‘they have a family to provide for’ – a 21st century reality we overlook for women.

Have you ever hidden or been tempted to hide an impending engagement or marriage by removing a ring?

 

Newly expecting? What messages should you send your boss

MaternityEmployers are often unsure if and how to fill temporary vacant positions, uncertain if female employees will return to work. On the other hand, many dedicated new parents find their positions threatened by inflexible company policies. There are steps you can take to ensure your boss knows how committed you are to your career. So how can you send the right messages to your employer before you take parental leave?

1. As with most challenges, communication is key – before, during and after an employee’s return. If you as an expectant mother want to return, be very clear with your boss that this is your intention. Don’t fall foul of the assumption you won’t be interested in new opportunities or promotions because of mothering. Too frequently if bosses routinely see women leave after becoming mothers, they assume ‘that’s just the way it is’ and we mentally prepare for her permanent departure. This is particulary prevalent among male managers whose wives left the workplace after they had children.

2. Insist you have access to the company intranet and other industry news. Markets can change quickly and you’ll be up to speed faster if you are kept in the loop. Otherwise, lack of communication can build up resentment on either side, with each side assuming they are doing the other a ‘favour’. To this point, keep in touch with key clients so there is less of a chance of your client book ‘migrating’ in your absence.

3. Whilst on your leave; begin discussions with your boss on how you’d like to return. What’s feasible with the daycare options you have. Choices like a staggered return to work, part-time or remote working, onsite childcare or job sharing are all options worth exploring. While there is no standard solution to the issue, it’s like any other extended absence – the key is in having honest conversations.

Try Not Having Kids!

not having kids, female breadwinnersA similarly child-free friend of mine sent me this witty video  - Try Not Having Kids!

As a 38 year old woman who only recently has started feeling confident enough to tell people I won’t have children, it resonated. It’s a light-hearted look at the ‘side effects’ of not having kids created as a parody of prescription drug commercials. What we love at Female Breadwinners is not that the video pokes fun at parents, but that it shows the highs ‘alleviate daily stress and gain personal fulfillment!’ and the lows ‘mid-life regret and eerily quiet apartment’ of not procreating. We love the ‘safety warning’ of ‘Please tell your doctor if you already have kids before you ‘try not having kids’ as this may result in you being a selfish a***&^*&*”

Statistically, the better educated a woman is, the less likely she is to have children. This makes us wonder how far off the mark BBC presenter and Historian Lucy Worsley was when she controversially claimed: ‘I’ve been educated past my reproductive function.’ Clearly, it’s not an easy choice for anyone debating to become a parent, but we love how the video cleverly uses humour to show there is no right answer – just very different lives.

 

3 Killer Ideas for Recruiting Professional Women

recruiting professional womanFor some of our clients, retaining professional women is less of a struggle than attracting them in the first place. This is particularly true in fields that recruit from the academic disciplines in which women are under-represented; like the physical sciences and engineering. That’s not to excuse those who use the all-too convenient excuse: ‘women just aren’t’ interested in our field’. There’s still plenty of help for them.

Here’s three ideas of how to recruit professional women. 

1. Set a realistic job specification: In discussion with a recruiter friend of mine, he expressed frustration at calling prospective female candidates. He said they explain away their qualifications for a role based on the over-optimistic person specification. He explained: ‘Women don’t seem to understand it’s just a wish-list. So I get inundated with men who have 6 of the 10 qualities, but are pretty sure they could do the other 4 if pushed. What I don’t get is women applying until they can prove they fit all 10 requirements; and that they can claim full credit for those 10! So my clients end up picking over-confident men who have some relevant experience over under-confident women who could do it all.’ His suggestion? Simplify the job description so only the bare essentials are seen as requirements. Don’t list the ‘desirable’ elements, as they are currently still perceived by too many women as requirements. What extra experience or insights people bring, above and beyond the essential, can then help them secure the actual job.

2. Go where the women are: Consistent corporate sponsors of external women’s networks, like Girl Geeks or Women in Banking and Finance, are better able to position themselves as employers who value women. Perhaps not surprisingly, research shows an organisation’s reputation for diversity is considered more important to women and candidates from diverse backgrounds, than it is to white male candidates. It’s the unofficial ‘word on the street’ that affects who applies and who doesn’t. Discrimination cases, bad press and the lack of diverse Board members all send a far louder message than a perfectly written diversity policy or any stock-photo images of women and ethnic minorities on the website. Candidates want to see evidence for how you walk your talk.

3. Play the long game: In our experience, women are less likely to pick up the phone to enquiring recruiters, particularly if they are satisfied where they are. They see speaking to recruiters as a waste of precious time unless they’d leave. Men, on the other hand, are more likely to speak to recruiters to get a sense of their external market value and then use that intelligence to negotiate pay raises at their current companies. Employers aiming to increase the number of senior female employees should view attracting the right women as a long game. One global technology firm with whom we’ve worked used recruiters to identify women from across the UK with the right core competencies they would eventually need in senior roles. The recruiters approached them, not to offer them roles, but to invite them to a series of events tailored to this group of women and hosted by the company. They were clear no jobs were on offer, but the series has been very successful in getting women to engage with a brand many previously doubted. The women expressed interest in future events, and the company has improved it’s image with this highly skilled and in-demand group, which is leading to a greater willingness to consider roles when they eventually become available.

Dads to Share Parental Leave in 2015 is Good News for Working Women

dad's sharing parental leave, female breadwinnersA new bill outlined by the expectant Jo Swinson, Equalities Minister for the Lib Dems, will change expectations that newborn babies are primarily mum’s work. In her speech Swinson said she wanted to change the culture of workplaces to prevent the “conflict” between people’s jobs and family life, making it just as normal for fathers to take on caring responsibilities as mothers. According to the Guardian she criticised the “cultural double-standards” and said it was not right for men to be disparaged for wanting to work less to spend more time caring for their children.

After wrangling over the details with the Conservatives for the past year, parents will be now allowed to take a total of 52 weeks off work after having a baby or adopting. Currently mothers can hand some of their leave over to fathers, but only when the child is 20 weeks old. Under the new rules, a mother could choose to return to work more quickly and hand over her unused allowance to the father. They could even switch back if they chose. Fathers will still be entitled to their two weeks’ paternity leave straight after a child’s birth. We applaud this change as too many new working mothers see their only option as taking the entire leave themselves or putting their child into daycare earlier than they’d like. Modern couples need flexibility to make the right choices for their growing families; whoever is doing the main earning.

Swinson said more must be done to encourage men to take up their rights and questioned a culture in which men who take their family responsibilities seriously are “ribbed”.

“Why does a man who works flexibly and part time get treated differently from the woman?” she said.

“It’s a symptom of how we do have cultural double standards in many workplaces, where for women to take flexible working or leaving early on a particular day to pick up the kids from nursery is deemed to be acceptable but for some reason we treat a man who is making the same choice differently.”

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