Mother’s Day may only come around once a year, but if you’re running a business then you might need to be thinking about mothers a lot more often.

Because the statistics around working mothers’ lives make for depressing reading. While around 75% of women go back to work after their first child, that drops to 50% after the second. A 2018 study conducted by MMB Magazine found that one in five women don’t feel confident returning to work after maternity leave. Thirty- seven percent of women considered resigning after they had gone back to their jobs, because they felt so unsupported. Meanwhile, according to the Is Britain Fairer? Report, 77% of mothers have dealt with either negative treatment or discrimination at some point during their pregnancy, maternity leave or on their return to work.[1]

And, of course, the effect on the gender pay gap of women taking time out of their careers to have children is well documented. Some research has suggested that in fact, as other factors that contributed to the pay gap are gradually eroded, the factor that remains is that women have children.[2]

So what’s needed to support working mothers?

The good news is that there are plenty of lists out there of companies with flexible working policies and who promise a work-life balance. Still, it’s only sensible to check that they’re walking the walk as well as talking the talk. Because women often also have the primary responsibility for child care, real flexibility is essential. But it has to come without negative perceptions. As with any other positive behaviours or company values, senior leaders need to show that genuine flexible working or part time hours aren’t a blocker to career progression.

The website www.mumandcareer.co.uk recommends that women ask these questions of any potential employer. But they’re also a good sense check to see if your business is working mother friendly.

– Is anyone in senior positions working part time or flexible hours?

– What does flexible working mean in reality?

– Is there a budget and/or other support for childcare, emergency childcare or eldercare?

– Is there a women’s network?

– What kind of support is there for women when they’re going on maternity leave and when they return?

– Is anyone taking up paternity leave?

Are sisters doing it for themselves?

Of course, the other solution to the problem is that women are increasingly setting up their own businesses. Businesses led or owned by women contribute to almost a quarter of private sector employment. And female-owned businesses are expected to deliver £105bn to the UK economy.[3]

Then there are businesses that specifically help mothers who want to get back to work but need ownership of their time as well as flexibility. For example, Digital Mums offers social media training to help women learn or improve a skill that can become a flexible career. As it’s vocational training, it also pairs women up with businesses that need social media support.

Mother’s Day is every day.

[1] ‘Fewer than one in five women feel confident returning to work’. 26 October 2018. https://www.peoplemanagement.co.uk/news/articles/fewer-than-one-in-five-women-confident-return-maternity-leave. Accessed 6 March 2019.

[2] ‘Dynamics in the Gender Pay Gap for Young Professionals in the Financial and Corporate Sectors’. American Economics Journal: Applied Economics 2 (July 2010). https://scholar.harvard.edu/files/goldin/files/dynamics_of_the_gender_gap_for_young_professionals_in_the_financial_and_corporate_sectors.pdf. Accessed 7 March 2019.

[3] 13 November 2018.  https://www.fsb.org.uk/media-centre/press-releases/women-owned-businesses-contribute-a-staggering-105bn-to-uk-economy-but-some-sectors-remain-elusive. Accessed 6 March 2019.

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