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Lifestyle And Wellbeing Parenting and Work

Is It Time To Change Societal Norms For Mums?

We are all well aware, that recent times have shone a spotlight on how well, or not, our work and home lives blend. Research by McKinsey, Pregnant Then Screwed, Mother Pukka and many more has proven just what a negative impact the pandemic has had on women. The research has highlighted how in many cases women continue to be primarily responsible for the running of their homes and families. Covid has indirectly heightened the inequalities that women face in work and at home daily. A societal norm for mums that needs to be changed. But what does the future hold? Has this time taught us anything. Can we change to shift our societal culture for the better, for everyone?

There has been a lot of focus on the impact of work on home life. The fact women still find it hard to climb the ladder because historically flexibility hasn’t allowed for this. However I also feel there is a shift required (which incidentally, is beginning to happen) in our home cultures too.

The Socialisation of Societal Norms

Socialisation is defined as “the process of learning to behave in a way that is acceptable to society” and impacts both men and women. This starts as early as birth – think pink and blue blankets. It then progresses through how we are taught, communicated with, what we absorb from books, TV, movies etc.

Socialisation puts an almost invisible pressure on us to conform to ingrained societal beliefs. Dr Shawn Andrews has found through her work, time and time again, a family’s culture shows as one of the biggest influences of our gender beliefs and gender roles – and seems to be ubiquitous across most races and ethnicities.

We have also all heard of the “mental load”. In the majority of cases this tends to fall to the mum in a heterosexual parent family. The role of “knowing all the things”. The kids schedules, where to be when, the shopping list, meal planning, laundry, making or ordering school lunches, planning and booking in childcare. We even go as far as to say it is the mother’s salary, if she goes back to work, that must cover childcare and ideally more, otherwise her work is “not worth it”.

Why doesn’t the dad’s salary have any bearing on the cost of childcare? It becomes a reason for a mum to not be “able” to return to work. Financially it doesn’t stack up (of course there’s a whole other issue here about the insane cost of childcare in the UK, but that’s another blog!). But what about that mums career, sense of self, achievement and all else that comes with having a career?

Where am I going with this? I am not jumping off on a ranty tangent. I believe we have come to accept that it is a societal norm for mums to assume responsibility for and carry this load. It is a hangover from women not working and men being the breadwinners. Whilst women now can have and want to have careers, we haven’t relinquished the bygone responsibilities. Isn’t it time we changed these societal norms for mums?

Time to challenge the responsibilities of mums!

We don’t have much to thank Covid for. However, I have witnessed a shift in cultures at home. For many, the norm had been for dads to go to work Monday to Friday. Out of the home for the vast majority of their children’s waking hours. This has stopped. Not only has this allowed dads to be more present – it has also allowed visibility of exactly what happens at home!

I am well aware some families already balanced things well, where as in some homes sadly no shift has happened. However in the main I see a huge amount of dads now at the school gates. I see dads doing runs to extra curricular clubs. I know in my house only about 75% of the washing is now done by the laundry fairy (that’s me by the way – and yes it’s a work in progress!). What I also hear from dads is that they are really enjoying this shift. That being present in their children’s lives and being able to share the load more is not only now possible, but bringing them fulfilment.

Don’t be a Martyr!

On the less positive side however, I hear far too much of the “it’s easier to do it myself” dialogue. Mums leaving instructions and lists if they have to leave their husband in charge. Saying things like “I’m too much of a control freak… I’d have to re-do everything anyway. If I don’t leave a list the kids will be wearing pants on their heads and eating Haribo for dinner”. I get it. We know how to run our homes with our eyes closed.

It’s hard to understand how remembering the weekend timetable of various sports activities and sorting food out appears to be so hard for the men in our life. But really? Imagine if you were treated like that at work? Someone waiting for you to fail. Just so they could jump in and make it known what a terrible job you did? Or just never given the chance at all? We have to ask have we just assumed the role and never allowed our partners to learn it?

Are you project managing your home?

If we assume the “Project Manager role” the rest of the household will always assume that too. They will always say “you should have asked!” when we get all shouty. It may often feel like life is the shortest route to done, to do it ourselves. But spare a minute to think about yourself. What does it do to you to always be the doer of all the things? And how sustainable is this if we are home a lot more lines blurring between working and non-working hours? If we carry on holding the load, we are in huge danger of making it worse for ourselves. Being at home more means we have more opportunity to do more of the “things”. If we don’t let go of some of them and pass the baton on to partners or children – we could quickly be in an even more resentful place.

Socialising Future Generations

If our own wellbeing isn’t motivation enough, how about what we are teaching future parents – our children? If we want our sons and daughters to live in a more equal world where families are teams, managing the load together, we must teach them this now to influence socialisation.

Of course one size doesn’t fit all. What works for one family is another’s idea of hell! But as we move into an incredibly exciting period of cultural change, find what works for you. As we gain more flexibility at work it is imperative we take good care of ourselves. We don’t want to end up living in a blurred workplace – family home where no boundaries or team work prevail. We can’t simply just take on more.

The Culture Shift That Needs To Happen Now

So share the mental load, make space to hop on your Peleton daily or have a clear self-care routine. Don’t let these positive changes get thrown to the bottom of the pile as soon as a family need arises. We have the privilege of being able to play an active role in the culture shift of these outdated societal norms for mums. Let’s keep flexible working alive. A societal revolution that future generations will thank us for.

Rebecca Amin is a Career Coach helping parents feeling stuck in their careers, find their paths back to career happiness. Rebecca can be found via her website; Facebook Page and Facebook Group, Career Happy Mums.

If you wish to read more about societal change, why not have a read of what it is going to be like working in a post-pandemic society

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Business Mums Returning To Work Shared Parental Leave

Parental Leave At Nestlé – A New Era?

Parental leave – or maternity and paternity leave as it is commonly known – has been under scrutiny for some time. The introduction of Shared Parental Leave (SPL) in 2015 was a small step towards recognising both parents play a significant role in the first year of a child’s life. However, with only 7% of workers taking advantage of this (You Gov and Winckworth), is there more to be done by organisations themselves?

In theory SPL offers a solution to gender equality. However, it hasn’t created the big shift it intended to do. There are also many more factors to consider as parents. Birth recovery, for birth-giving parents, breastfeeding and bonding with their new child is important. However, often comes the burden of feeling like this extended leave will be detrimental to career progression for mothers. Fathers – who in most cases get the grand total of two weeks off which can suffer with a severely impacted work-life-balance. Fathers miss important milestones with their children and this out-dated, traditional model simply reinforces mum dealing with the kids, dad going to work.

One Size Does Not Fit All

Of course, if this suits your family, there is nothing wrong with this. But what about for those families where this isn’t ideal? Also for same-sex parents and adoptive parents, leave entitlement can be significantly less in some organisations. Traditional parental leave and SPL do not offer the choices some parents’ desire. It is therefore down to the organisations themselves in charge of such policies to take action.

One organisation that has done just that is Nestlé. They recognised the balance of family life and work are of paramount importance to employees. Thus saw the need for change and modernisation. Nestlé introduced their Parental Support Policy.

For Nestlé there are no longer separate policies and entitlements for maternity, paternity, adoption and surrogacy leave. They have done a fantastic job of bringing all scenarios into one policy. Not only is this incredibly easy for employees to navigate, it also encourages a gender-neutral approach. Additionally, employees are eligible for parental leave from day one of employment. As a Career Coach working mainly with mums, I know all too well the stories of “sticking it out”. Staying in a job you aren’t happy in simply because you need the good maternity leave on offer from your employer. With this available from day one at Nestlé, this will no doubt also support their hiring and attraction strategy.

Parental Leave – The Nestlé Way

The core element of the new parental leave policy at Nestlé centres around choosing to take Primary or Secondary Caregiver leave. As Primary, this looks and feels a lot like standard maternity leave (Up to 52 weeks of leave, pay up to 18 weeks with 10 KIT Days). Secondary Caregiver Leave is much more generous than standard paternity leave. Secondary Caregiver Leave allows you to take up to 12 weeks off at any stage within the first year of the new child entering your family. Four of these are fully paid. The key thing is either can apply to you – whether you are giving birth or not.

I shared some of the detail with some working mum groups on Facebook. Some were a little shocked. Why would a mum only want 12 weeks off? Doesn’t she need to recover and establish breastfeeding? Don’t the titles reinforce stereotypes of being a primary or a secondary carer for your own child? My answer to all of this is, “but isn’t in fantastic to have the choice? Isn’t it wonderful to not dictate what should happen in your family because of gender or route to having a child?”

The reality is, since the introduction of the policy just 7% of those taking primary caregiver leave have been male. However, prior to the policy, the option would not have been available in this form – only via the constraints of SPL could they have got anywhere near. We can expect numbers to increase as at present it’s early stages.

Holly Birkett, Co-Director of the Equal Parenting Project at the University of Birmingham, has spoken about the positive knock-on effect. “While at an individual level more time off and maternity pay for women may look positive, actually it can lead to more women dropping out and it affecting their earnings and career progression (negatively) over time,” she says.

Having a choice about parental leave at Nestlé is key

Several of those I conversed with about this policy really saw the benefit. The key theme being the benefit of choice. Many birth-giving mothers may well still take Primary Caregiver Leave. However, for any that would prefer to return to work sooner, there is now a choice.

Nic Hammarling, Head of Diversity at Pearn Kandola says “I constantly hear from men that they want the opportunity to take a more active role in caring for their children. However, many are intimidated by the idea of asking their employer for time off work. In a workplace environment, to be nurturing and caring isn’t often expected of men and. As such, many are wary of the backlash they may receive for asking for time away to be with their children. Increasing paternity leave from two to four weeks, for example, could actually move us further away from equality because it still reinforces that the mother should be the primary carer,” she has said. With Nestlé’s policy not stating maternity or paternity, but allowing parents to choose the role they take is a huge move towards a more equal space.

This benefit was also noted by a mum who works in a senior role within FMCG. She shared “I would imagine, when a father-to-be shares that the baby is on the way, just having this policy in place means a conversation happens. A Conversation at work that asks which type of leave best suits his family. This results in a further conversation at home to make that decision. This can only be positive as it triggers the switch to talk about balance. To talk about who will do what and how involved will each parent be. It allows the father to have a conversation he may not otherwise have felt comfortable raining himself at work. If this was an option for my husband when my children were born, I think we would have gone for it. At least with the second one – with my partner taking Primary Caregiver Leave”.

Nestlé supporting decisions

The mum I quote above is right. Nestlé provide all parents to be with a decision tree to help them figure out which type of leave best suits their family unit. They also ensure parents know that they can take advantage of parental mentoring through the Parent Pal mentoring scheme, join the online parenting community Parent Talk, and use an online parent coaching app to further support their parenthood journey.

There of course is still a long way to go to get this totally right. I doubt as a society we will ever reach the perfect plan for parental leave. As more organisations shift their thinking as Nestlé has, we will begin to see the change we all hope for.

Nestlé and inclusivity

Of course many families will still choose to take the more traditional pattern of leave. This is totally fine – not everybody needs or wants to do anything different. But by allowing choice and recognising all parents equally, Nestlé at least are moving towards becoming much more, truly inclusive. I can’t wait to see the journey at Nestlé and learn more about phase two.

Rebecca Amin is a Career Coach helping parents feeling stuck in their careers, find their paths back to career happiness. Find Rebecca via her website www.rebeccaamincoaching.co.uk; Facebook Page and Facebook Group, Career Happy Mums.

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Child Care Dads Flexible Careers Flexible Industries Lifestyle And Wellbeing Mental Health Mums Returning To Work Parenting and Work Productivity & Flexibility Work Journeys

Working in a Post-Covid World.

March 23rd 2020. The day we heard our Prime Minister say “From this evening I must give the British people a very simple instruction – you must stay at home”. The day working from home, indefinitely, began.

Fast-forward over 13 months. Many are still working full-time from home. Some are gradually finding their way back to the office. There are organisations that have managed things brilliantly and seen this as an opportunity to shape flexible working. Some have managed things terribly and are already making unnecessary demands to fully return to the office, with no clear business need. Some employees are desperate to get back, some are desperate to retain the flex they have had forced upon them.

As we emerge from these unprecedented times, the waters feel muddy. There is little consistency across employers or industries. What is clear is that many of us are feeling the burn out from living at work with little to no break and a year of no holidays.

So how are we planning for the post-Covid future?

Many organisations have hit the press for their positive moves towards supporting employees well-being and flexibility. For example, Dropbox have made working from home a permanent move. Microsoft is moving to a 50:50 homeworking to office working model. John Lewis head office is taking a hybrid or blended working approach. Having spoken to a wide range of parents, the general consensus seems to be a 50% office based role will become the norm.

These approaches make total sense given a study by The University Of Southampton found nine in ten employees feel they had got at least as much, if not more, work done at home as in the office. Employees also shared that they have benefited from the flexibility to organise their tasks and discretion to make decisions about when they do their work from home.

How this effects parents?

Whilst it is clear from this study and many others – such as the research conducted by the childcare provider, Bright Horizons – working parents are overwhelmingly in favour of a continuation of flexible hours and some form of hybrid working. Christelle who works for a large energy company shared:

Having the flexibility to do the school run and eat together at the start and end of the day as a family, has had a huge positive impact on our family dynamic”.

Likewise John, who works for an IT company said:

The time I have had to become more involved in my son’s life has been amazing. If allowed to continue, I believe this will have a life-long impact to our relationship, having been around so much in his formative years”.

It is also clear the general consensus is that the pandemic has allowed us to prove such a model could work. However, more than half of employees involved in the Bright Horizons research thought their employers were likely to be unresponsive to demands for greater flexibility once the pandemic dissipates. Denise Priest of Bright Horizons shared “There seems to be disagreement between some organisations and their workers about what normality should mean”. This is backed up by the research I conducted. A mum working for a large US Bio-sciences organisation is shared her worries that, “whilst all the right things are being done now, will these have the longevity that society needs?”

So what is the right answer?

The only very clear thing in all of this is one size does not fit all. We knew this anyway, but employees, pre-covid, bent over backwards in many case to mould themselves, their families and other commitments to fit the requirements of work. Whilst we have been missing social contact, there is a clear preference amongst the majority of parents to combine office with working from home in the future. Seven in ten (73%) employees wish to adopt a hybrid work arrangement – blending working from home with the communality of the office – and to retain the flexibility and control over their working pattern from which they have benefited under lockdown.

I am hearing of a huge amount of examples of organisations asking their employees what works for them? One FMCG company has even gone as far as introducing a whole new contractual way of working. Allowing some individuals to work on a retained project basis. They are then able to dictate their working hours – fitting work to their lives, rather than fitting life to their work.

All this said, there are some that working from home is not good for. I say “not good for” because I don’t just mean convenience. I mean their mental health is suffering because of the isolation this can bring. If you are younger, live alone or in a shared house environment. If you wish to reap the social rewards of the young, working generation. Many of these people NEED the office environment in order to protect their mental health. This sentiment was clearly shared by one person I spoke with from the Oil & Gas industry, who said:

I have genuine concerns for a single, female colleague who has clearly struggled mentally with the stay at home message”.

Flexible Working is the way forward.

It truly feels the power is shifting. People have proven a flexible model to suit individuals – IS achievable. There are organisations taking this on board and adapt to their staff. Allowing work to fit with life, rather than forcing employees into an unmanageable, unsustainable, unnecessary, unhealthy work pattern. These organisations will be the winners in the long run.

The 2021 Modern Families Index Spotlight points to potential discord ahead. 55% of respondents indicate their loyalty to their employer long term depends on employer’s reaction to the pandemic and beyond. As they continue to attempt to juggle work, child care and care of elderly relatives. Employers who recognise the priority of family life and provided practical support for staff will retain – and gain – talented employees. While those who have not will lose out. John, who I mentioned earlier, working in IT, very honestly shared this with me:

I will seek alternative employment if pushed too far to revert to old ways of working. It is clear this is a preference, but with no clear justification, in my organisation. Which could result in me seeking alternative employment”.

What about well-being support?

It seems many organisations are focusing on what the working week should look like. However, what hasn’t been shared as broadly is what organisations are doing to support the mental well-being of employees.

The University of Southampton Study shared that maintaining working from home during the pandemic, whilst may have been in some ways more efficient, has taken its toll on mental health and well-being. In fact, responses on this area in their study found ranking very low. 47 out of 100 – measured against the World Health Organisation WHO-5 global standard. AXA back this up further. Finding that two-thirds (64%) of those working across the UK and Europe said their stress levels increased compared to pre-pandemic. Of these, eight out of ten (81%) describe themselves as having a “poor” or “low” state of mind.

Given for many the kitchen table has become the office with home / work boundaries becoming uncontrollably blurred. It stands to reason that burnout is a very real prospect.

What are the effects of this?

On the flip side, organisations are planning for future and maybe even dictate what this future will look like. Although it may be that some do not feel ready to commute or be in the office. A mum working for a small start up shared with me:

I am not prepared to return until I am vaccinated. This has already happened for my boss so we are at slight odds around timing. Which is causing a bit of of stress and anxiety”.

Some have been shielding, may have vulnerable family members. Many have adapt childcare provisions and may not easily be able to reinstate wrap around care. Either because it is not available or because they are not inclined to revert back to the old ways. Such as running from breakfast club, to the train, to work, to after school clubs. And various other activities without having a minute for any family member to breathe.

As a backdrop the pandemic has triggered significant emotional, physical, and economic burdens:

  • Social isolation,
  • Working from home while caring for children and other family members
  • Exposure to the virus – personally, via loved ones, or from working on the front line
  • Experiences of long-covid

Mental health care advocates believe Covid can cause many to suffer from something close to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

In August 2020 the CDC published results of a large US web-based survey of more than 5000 adults. In which over 40% demonstrated experiencing at least one adverse mental or behavioural health problem related to the pandemic. Including symptoms of anxiety or depression (30.9%), substance use to cope (13.3%) and considering suicide (10.7%). This suggests a flexible work environment is something employers must consider when working in a post-covid world.

What needs to be done?

Many parents have shared a number of initiatives their organisations are doing to support well-being. These include

  • virtual coffee chat drop-ins
  • no-meeting days
  • access to counselling
  • well-being allowances
  • access to the office for those struggling working from home

but is this enough?

Workers have proved they are highly adaptable in these unusual times. One senior music industry employee shared, the pandemic has propelled flexible working forward by ten years, if done right. However, employers’ focus must now be on well-being. On supporting people through this next phase of transition. Above all else it is our well-being and mental health that has suffered most. I wonder how well organisations will take account of this as a factor of our return? This is a whole new phase. A positive shift hopefully, but one that needs managing with great care and support.

For other insights into this subject, why not have a read on The Real Gender Impact of Covid-19. And the struggles women have faced during and potentially post-covid.

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Diversity and Inclusion High Profile Returners Lifestyle And Wellbeing Mums Returning To Work Professional Mums Work Journeys

Imposter Syndrome – Fix Bias, Not Women

Imposter Syndrome. We have all heard of it. If you are a high-achieving female you may well think you have it. If you don’t, you will know many others that do.  But, what if Imposter Syndrome isn’t real? What if it is a resulting factor of society and biology combined?

The 66% of women ‘suffering’ with Imposter Syndrome (according to a study by Access Commercial Finance) may be shouting “no, it’s definitely real”. Bare with me…

You can loosely define imposter syndrome as doubting your abilities and feeling like a fraud. It disproportionately affects high-achieving people, who find it difficult to accept their accomplishments. Many question whether they’re deserving of accolades.

Where did Imposter Syndrome come from?

Psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes developed the concept. Originally termed “imposter phenomenon,” in their 1978 founding study. The study focused on 150 high-achieving women. They recorded that “despite outstanding academic and professional accomplishments, women who experience the imposter phenomenon persist in believing that they are really not bright and have fooled anyone who thinks otherwise.”

This study, despite it being based on just 150 participants, spurred decades of development programmes and initiatives. These were all in an effort to address imposter syndrome in women. Many high-profile women have shared they suffer with IS. Examples include – former First Lady Michelle Obama and Tennis champion Serena William. If you want to find out how to “overcome” Imposter Syndrome, a quick Google search shows up more than 5 million results.

What if Women Aren’t The Problem?

What’s less well explored, is why imposter syndrome exists in the first place. The advent came with the study mentioned above in 1978, but what about before then? Did it just not happen? Or has something changed in society or with “sufferers” that has resulted in this pandemic?

A theory I subscribe to is that workplace systems and simple biology may have a lot to answer for. Currently, women are almost blamed for having Imposter Syndrome. They are told they are suffering and need to overcome it. They are ‘diagnosed’ with a condition. So, it must be down to them.

Ruchika Tulshyan and Jodi-Ann Burey explored this further. Their published findings, in a Harvard Business Review article, share “imposter syndrome puts the blame on individuals, without accounting for the historical and cultural contexts that are foundational to how it manifests… Imposter syndrome directs our view toward fixing women at work instead of fixing the places where women work.”

Maybe You Are Just Normal!

Feeling uncomfortable, second-guessing yourself and mild anxiety are all normal. These feelings are more prevalent in women at work. Men of course experience similar feelings. However, men are often selected based on capability rather than history. The opposite is true for women. It stands to reason if you haven’t done a certain thing before suddenly you feel out of your depth. As a man’s potential is validated over time, feelings of doubt are reduced. Add on the fact men are easily able to find role models in the workplace. Mentors who are like them and are less inclined to question their competence. It therefore makes sense that these very normal feelings have a lesser impact and are less likely to be labelled.

Women experience the opposite. We question if we have the credentials we need to achieve. We hear “women often suffer with Imposter Syndrome”. In fact career development programmes aimed at women almost always have a session on “overcoming imposter syndrome”. It can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

When women demonstrate strength, ambition, and resilience, they are often described as “aggressive” or “overly assertive”. The idea of imposter syndrome doesn’t take account of workplace dynamics and suggests women need to deal with the “issue”instead.

Men Are From Mars…

It is a biological fact women are programmed to be more risk averse. They are more likely to be perfectionists. Jessica Baker, a Business Psychologist, says we are wired to not step too far into the unknown – left from when we needed fear to protect us, and our young. Also, there are a disproportionate number of men in leadership roles. This means falsely equating confidence with certain traits that are most often demonstrated by male leaders. We then interpret these traits as competence and leadership. Thus, if we don’t have these certain male dominant traits, we question ourselves, decide we lack confidence and diagnose Imposter Syndrome.

Fixing Bias and Society – Not Women

The “fix women’s imposter syndrome” narrative has persisted, decade after decade. Perhaps instead workplaces should focus on creating a culture for women that addresses bias.

In the mid-1990s Clance, the ‘founder’ of Imposter Syndrome suggested the impostor phenomenon could also be attributed as far back as the way girls are communicated with as children. People would compliment girls on being “pretty” and “chatty”. Whilst “Brave” and “intelligent” used for boys. These concepts can define us. It is therefore easier to put success down to luck or being liked. Not individual success.

All this said, I do not totally dismiss Imposter Syndrome as “a thing”. But, I do wonder if

  • we address healthy, normal self-doubt via supportive work cultures,
  • seeing more women in positions of leadership and
  • not using vague feedback like “you need to better develop your leadership qualities”.

we may be in a better place.

Is Imposter Syndrome is a stand-alone syndrome? Or is it a result of complex societal, biological and workplace factors? Either way, it still affects us.

Then how do we deal with it? Ask yourself “where is the evidence that you are doing a terrible job or making bad decisions?”. The fear is irrational. Your current experience of it is often far worse than the negative outcome you are anticipating.

Rebecca Amin is a Career Coach helping parents, find their paths back to career happiness. Find Rebecca via her website www.rebeccaamincoaching.co.uk; Facebook Page and Facebook Group, Career Happy Mums.

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Child Care Dads Flexible Careers Gender Pay Gap Parental Coaching Parenting and Work Professional Mums Work Journeys

Management- Where is the female talent?

A third of organisations globally have no female talent in senior management roles (market-inspector.co.uk).  This was reported before Covid, it has been reported Covid has had a disproportionate impact on the careers of women. A LinkedIn study found that women were less likely to be hired than men during peak lockdown periods. Despite more women being made redundant or leaving jobs. 

There are so many things that may be contributing to these damaging statistics. Are women not applying to roles due to prioritisation of the overwhelming childcare and home-schooling plunged upon them? Are men not doing enough to support women and so they feel they can’t apply for a new job? Do organisations discourage their male employees requesting the flexibility that would allow their female partners to re-engage into the workforce? Or are organisations not considering female talent in the same volume as those from men? And therefore, even if unintentionally, contributing to these statistics?

Given the data recently shared by Find Your Flex, it is clear, that application clicks are 79% female. 47% of their audience is male, this demonstrates there is a wealth of female talent actively seeking high value jobs. 

Sssshhhh… Daddy’s working

Sadly still live in a time where, in many households, women are seen as the parent. That they should do the lions share of childcare and household chores. Even when the playing field of working hours and the impact of the pandemic is equal. I hear endless comments from working mums across the country saying things like “it’s so hard trying to get it all done – the home-schooling and working plus trying to keep them from interrupting daddy all day”. Why can’t daddy be interrupted?! 

Of course it is not my place to judge how households decide to cope during this totally dire time. But if it has just been assumed the responsibility of the kids falls to mum then, please, for the sake of women across the land have a conversation. Plot out what needs to be done – all the home-schooling, chores – everything – and decide who does what. If this impacts daddy’s work schedule then, just like mummy, he needs to find ways to accommodate. (I should say here I know this isn’t the case in all households. Many dads are brilliant at sharing the load. But many just haven’t realised it’s a shared responsibility, or see their job as not flexible… Did they ask?).

It is okay to let go you know.

Women also need to let go. We cannot control everything. I had a word with myself at the start of this home-school period. I couldn’t be the gate-keeper – being the only one that can log onto Google Classroom and hand in work. The only one that remembers to look for supermarket deliveries and figures out what to eat every day. I sat and gave my husband a Google Classroom lesson on day two as day one almost broke me.

I don’t check the work hubby now does with the kids. He and the kids enjoy him engaging with them and seeing their learning. I don’t walk around in a passive aggressive mumbling rage so much as last time. Winning all round! The kids don’t get their iPads if their beds aren’t made and the playroom isn’t tidy. Mums need to relinquish responsibility and trust someone else to do some of what they see as their load. If not we will never have time or headspace to find that career opportunity which is waiting there for us.

Scared to say the ‘F’ word

But back to this 79% of females applying to roles on Find Your Flex. The talent is clearly there. Ready, willing and able to be hired and contribute to organisations. To bring the female perspective and skill set that all organisations need. It is known the roles advertised on Find Your Flex are open and ready to be flexible. I fear this isn’t the case across other sites and those organisations not showing up on this site. I still have conversations with coaching clients about approaching an organisation and asking for flexibility – like it’s a dirty word. Applying through Find Your Flex removes anxiety for those who need to have “the chat” during the recruitment process. 

In my opinion, shifting the balance begins with organisations showing the men of the world Flex is for all. Showing men to see working flexibly or part-time isn’t a negative reflection on their masculinity. Allowing men to be available in their families. Allowing them to grow stronger bonds as equal caregivers to their children. To make room for females to work equally – to not have working gender equality set back 50 years plus.

The job market is tough, but jobs are there and female talent most definitely is. The crisis could be an opportunity. An opportunity for organisations to invest and build more empathetic and flexible workplaces. To retain and attract those most impacted by this pandemic. Nurturing a work environment where women have equal opportunity to develop their careers. And men have equal opportunity to be present in their families.

Rebecca Amin is a Career Coach helping parents feeling stuck in their careers, find their paths back to career happiness. Rebecca can be found via her website www.rebeccaamincoaching.co.uk; Facebook Page and Facebook Group, Career Happy Mums. 

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Career Change Flexible Careers Mums Returning To Work Parenting and Work

The Mum Guilt In Your Career

Mum Guilt – A Fact Of Mum Life.

Feeling guilty for feeding them the wrong food, the amount of screen time they have, for being a working mother, for not sending them to enough enrichment activities… the list goes on. 70% of working women having dependent children in the UK, meaning career related mum guilt is a big deal for many of us.

If you are a mum who is passionate about your career, whilst the guilt of course is still a thing, it is definitely dampened by the fact your career makes you feel good – meaning you are a happier, more pleasant person – mum – to be around. But what happens if the passion is gone? If you are unhappy in your career and need to make changes?

As a Career Coach, I speak to many mums who feel guilty for wanting to make such changes. One mum shared “It feels so self-indulgent taking time to work out my career when I should be focussed on what my kids need”. Breaking that down, what she really said was “I’m not worthy of happiness. I should be ok with feeling desperately unhappy a large proportion of the time. My mental health isn’t as important”.

What this statement lacks is the acknowledgment remaining unhappy at work, where we spend up to 80% of our time, would, without a shadow of a doubt, have a negative impact on her over all wellbeing and mental health which would trickle into her relationships with her children, partner and other loved ones.

Being a mum, whilst being the best thing in the world, is also mentally and physically exhausting, sometimes lonely and often thankless. Layer on top a job you dislike or even hate, I can promise will not have a good outcome.

Time To Crush The Mum Guilt

The perception we can only do the job we have always done and so have to suck it up, needs destroying. I and many of my clients have worked through this belief, crushed it, made changes and are a million times happier as a result – and have not suffered significant financial impact (which is often a major concern in career change). Career change does not mean a permanent significant reduction in income nor is it a reason to feel guilty. Fixing something that’s causing immense unhappiness, stress, maybe even resentment or anger, is the best course of action not only for you, but for your family too.

Getting Back To Career Happiness

So where to start? You have made the decision to make a change (well done), but have no clue what to, or how to find the answer.  Going round in circles for some time trying to work this out is not uncommon. You are not alone – this is the exact state my clients come to me in. The bad news? You are going round in circles because you are looking for something that doesn’t exist in your head. The good news? You can do many things to get out of your head to find the answer. 

Here’s how:

Values

The most likely reason you are unhappy is because of a mismatch in your work values. It is critical to understand what’s important to you – a supportive boss? Being challenged? Autonomy? Work-life balance? Working this out is often the biggest indicator of what is wrong with your existing situation – what it is not giving you. Your career move must fit with your top values. If you struggle to figure this out, this test will help: https://www.123test.com/work-values-test/

Skills

Consider the numerous skills you have (developed both inside and outside of work). Which you want to carry on using? Think about the skills you want to use more of or develop further. Again, this will give indicators of what is going wrong in your current role – are you using skills you don’t enjoy using any more? 

Stop Looking For The Solution. 

Bare with me, I haven’t gone crazy! Constantly looking for the answer is what is keeping you stuck. It’s like trying to put the roof on a house with no walls. You need to figure out what the walls are made of first – what will bring you happiness? As above,

  • What are your work values and skills you want to use?
  • Consider your interests?
  • Figure out your non-negotiables?
  • What do you need to feel satisfied at work?

Once you are clearer on these areas you can start thinking of solutions.

Get New Input. 

When the answer does not lie in your own head, you need new input. Take responsibility to find this. Talk to new people, attend workshops, engage with someone with a different, but interesting, job. Google research is great, but there’s a high risk of getting sucked into a black hole, watching cat videos before you know it! Nothing is better than actual human connection for new input to really make a positive impact. Expanding input will open you up to new ideas you didn’t even know existed!

No Filter!

When considering options look out for “I would love to… but”. Thinking of something and moving to all the reasons it won’t work, you filter, validate and decide in one go, based on assumption. Instead write all possible ideas down – crazy and sensible. Research those you are most drawn to. Once you research and understand what that career change would entail then, and only then, you rule it in or out.

This way you know why you want to do a something and look for ways to make it happen – rather than reasons it can’t. Some options you will decide are not viable, but deciding based on fact – not assumption – is the key. 

Taking Control

Taking control of your career when you are stuck and unhappy is nothing to feel guilty or self indulgent about. The cost of ignoring it will be way higher. You deserve more – and so do your children. You are most certainly worth it! Time to crush the mum guilt.

This process is not easy or quick, but definitely possible. If you need help working it all out, I’m here and happy to chat – here’s my diary.

Rebecca can be found via her website www.rebeccaamincoaching.co.uk; Facebook Page and Facebook Group, Career Happy Mums. 

If you are looking for other blogs on career changes try this one: Successfully Navigate A Career change.

Categories
Dads Gender Pay Gap Shared Parental Leave

Shared Parental Leave

It’s Potential Value To Flexible Working

How Many Even Know What Shared Parental Leave Is? 

How many know how to find out more information about Shared Parental Leave? 

Does it even work for people? 

How many have experienced it?

Around 285,000 couples every year qualify for Shared Parental Leave, but it is estimated that take up could be as low as 2% in the UK. Why is uptake so low and what benefits are there to better uptake?

With Childcare options in the UK being known as incredibly expensive could SPL be the first step to alleviating this pressure?

Why Aren’t People Taking Shared Parental Leave?

What is stopping parents from using Shared Parental Leave?:

  • Lack of awareness of it’s very existence from both parents to be and organisations!
  • Maternity / paternity Leave policies that need updating which will prompt discussion.
  • The lack of enhanced paternity pay available. Many fathers are stuck with the statutory rate (currently £140.98). While mothers on maternity pay often benefit from their employer’s more generous package (enhanced maternity pay). 
  • Fear of the impact taking extended leave above the ‘traditional’ 2 weeks will have on one’s career. We need to move away from the fact that taking a break, be it maternity / paternity / career break does not mean a sudden loss of experience, skills or enthusiasm. It means that for a period of time one wants to allow their focus to change without work suffering.

Better Shared Parental Leave Uptake Equals…

We believe that better awareness will lead to better uptake and a whole host of other benefits to workers and organisations.

Better uptake could contribute towards:

  • Closing the gender pay gap. Improving SPL makes it more attractive and realistic for men. This means more women are able to continue in careers and pursue senior higher paid roles. If we want an equal society then we must allow fathers to have the same access to paternity leave that mothers have.
  • Better parental mental health. SPL can allow people to better manage family and work commitments, thus leading to better mental health. After all, those early days can be incredibly hard. The option to have both parents off at the same time could make all the difference to mental health.
  • Better recruitment and retention of talented employees. Attractive SPL packages, beyond the statutory pay will lead to attracting talent from a wider pool of possible recruits. It also means that employees are more likely to return and stay following maternity / paternity leave. Shared Parental Leave Campaign UK

What You Need To Know About Shared Parental Leave

  • You and your partner may be able to get Shared Parental Leave (SPL) and Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP) if you’re having a baby or adopting a child.
  • One can share up to 50 weeks of leave and up to 37 weeks of pay between you.
  • Share the pay and leave in the first year after your child is born or placed with your family.
  • You can use SPL to take leave in blocks separated by periods of work. Or take it all in one go. 
  • Choose to be off work together or stagger the leave and pay.

Providing truly flexible employment options is a key part of the Industrial Strategy. The Industrial Strategy is the government’s long-term plan to build a Britain fit for the future by helping businesses create better, higher-paying jobs in every part of the UK. (Business Minister Andrew Griffiths).

Going One Step Further

Why not just have ‘Parental Leave’ with the same length of leave for both parents. Should parents have the same amount of statutory pay, regardless of which parent? The encouragement or better still enforcement that any enhanced pay is available regardless of which parent is taking the leave. We feel that Shared Parental Leave has the potential to add great value to flexible working initiatives. But does need some changes in order to be of value.

Stay tuned to see what our surveyed audience said! 

Categories
Mums Returning To Work Professional Mums Work Journeys

The Great Baby And Career Balancing Act

How I Balanced A Baby And A Career

Guest Post By Lyndsey Shankland

As a businesswoman, my whole adult life was dedicated to my career in recruitment. I loved it! Balancing a baby and a career hadn’t been on the agenda. My true passion was my career, my reason for being, and everything else could wait.

But that all changed when I turned 38. Cupid’s arrow struck. Now generally speaking, I’m not someone to jump straight in, but this was it. By the age of 39 I was married. I became a new mother just three weeks after my 41st birthday.

Yep, I might be a slow starter when it comes to having a family of my own. However, when it’s right, it’s right!

I had real problems getting my head around the concept of taking six months off work. I mean, who was going to lead my projects, partner with my stakeholders, source new candidates and help keep those business wheels turning? How would I balance a baby and a career?

Even with years of experience working in American businesses globally and in regional roles, with responsibility for leading teams across EMEA, APAC and AMER I worried.  Would I be cast aside now I was a mother with other priorities was never far from my mind?

With so many women finding themselves ‘surplus to requirements’ and facing redundancy after returning from maternity leave, the days with my newborn were tainted with worry.

And sadly, my worries weren’t unfounded

The Return To Work… Or Not!

I enjoyed six blissful months of maternity leave with my little Oliver. Then on my first day back at work I was hit with a huge bombshell. My role was being relocated to the US. There was absolutely no way I could move.

Not only did I have my husband and son to think about, but my mum has young on-set vascular dementia and needs me more now than ever.

I went through a storm of emotions as I struggled to come to terms with the ‘loss’ of the job I loved. I’d always been the stronger partner in a financial sense. So worries about the mortgage, bills, other financial commitments, an unwell mother and a new baby caused a lot of anxiety.

How was I going to set myself apart from other job seekers in an already saturated market? For anyone who’s ever had an insight into the recruitment industry, you’ll know that recruiters are like gremlins – put a little water on us and we multiply!

How was I going to compete with these bright young things that didn’t have the commitments and family priorities I did?

Taking Back Control

So, I had two choices. Either put on my dressing gown and drown my sorrows in a family-sized tub of Ben and Jerry’s, or get proactive.

I took the latter option. I took control of the situation with the life-changing decision to start my own business.

After all, I had 18 years experience as an in-house head of talent acquisition. I have seen the good, bad and ugly of the recruitment world first hand. So why should I end up on the career scrap heap just because I had a child?

I considered my goals and formed my plan of action. I wanted to be a good recruiter of course, but I also wanted to be a good wife, daughter and mother.

Flexibility Is Key

For my plan to succeed, flexibility was central. Before I decided to start my own business, I was headhunted numerous times. I found however that employers were put off by my insistence on regular home office days and my need to balance a baby with a career.

So, I started out on my own with a business model of working with only a select number of clients in engineering and pharmaceutical markets, taking on just 2 or 3 at a time.

This allowed me to offer a higher quality, fully tailored recruitment service to both the global businesses I support and the talent I headhunt.

Clients And Cuddles

Fast forward to October this year. I’m working on four roles for two different clients. This doesn’t just ‘bring home the bacon’ as you’d say, it means I can fit in a cuddle with Oliver and hubby Iain. I can do so without feeling a crippling sense of guilt that I’m letting anyone down.

We have lunch together, and then I crack back on with the international calls. We’ve flown to a few places together already too: Dubai, Milan, Florence, Hamburg. We are due to visit the US in a couple of weeks. It’s living the dream of being able to keep the career I’ve worked hard to achieve AND feel like I can be a good wife and Mum too!

And it’s on MY terms

It’s still early days yet. Some days the struggle is real, trying to balance a baby and a career – but it’s on our terms as a family.

I’m still feeling really positive about the future.

I can’t say too much right now, but I’ll be taking on a new role towards the end of the year. This is with a business which values my skills. Skills that haven’t changed just because I’m a mother. They appreciate that I need some family time too. I’ve finally found a position that allows me to do the job I love and carry on with the most important roles of all – a mummy, a wife and a daughter.

Mum and baby birthday celebrations

My Advice To You

If you think you’re in the worst situation possible and about to lose your job, I’m living proof that you can regain control of your life. You can continue to follow your dreams without compromising on integrity or family commitments.

I still have to work very hard to keep all the plates spinning, but I’m enjoying it! My skills are still relevant and in demand even though I have a family. I am balancing a baby and a career!

And as a recruitment expert and mum, I should know!

Blog Post by Lyndsey Shankland

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Categories
High Profile Returners Mums Returning To Work Productivity & Flexibility Professional Mums Work Journeys

An HR Journey with Pitney Bowes!

This Mum Can…

I have multiple jobs in my life, (1) mummy to two crazy, beautiful, boisterous boys (2) wife and general domestic goddess 😉 (3) career HR professional looking to change the world! Life is busy, my mind is busy. Lack of time frustrates me, yet I am determined to make it all work. Determined to make a difference.

The Juggling Act

This is all made possible with trust and empowerment, complete workplace autonomy from thought to working arrangements and amazing childcare. Me and the hubby manage nursery pick up and drop off, we don’t have family who can look after the kids, therefore having understanding childcare provision is so important to me.

Getting The Experience

Rewind back to 2003, studying for a degree in HR & Business. Not wanting to be one of those people who ‘just had a degree’, I set out to gain real life experience. Having worked in River Island and New Look in the evenings and at the weekend, I connected with retailers. I asked them to take me on for FREE in their HR team.

I was incredibly grateful to the HR Director, and the team at Faith Footwear Limited. They fully integrated me and gave me fabulous insights, projects and learning opportunities. You’ll be pleased to know that they did pay me too ;-).

From there I went to TUI for a short stint, until they closed their Greater London House office. Then I went to Sodexho. I worked under a superb manager who gave me huge learning opportunities to really find my feet.

The Move To Pitney Bowes

Starting to get more settled at home I made the move to Pitney Bowes. This was closer to home too. Fast forward 11 years and I’m still here. I work with a collaborative, exciting and dynamic leadership team. I’m proud to work with them. They embrace my crazy, quirky ideas and I’m part of their team. None of this exciting stuff would be possible without their engagement, and the support of others in the HR team. I partner closely with my Talent Acquisition partners who have joined me on this journey.

“At Pitney Bowes we recognise the importance of building a diverse and inclusive pipeline of talent. We’re a growing business, almost 100 years old, and we’re currently in the middle of an exciting transformation. Our people play a crucial part in this journey.”

What Do Pitney Bowes Offer?

I’m hugely excited and proud that in 2018 we launched a collection of Family Friendly roles. From a contingent workforce model, school hours, term time to job pairs. With every sales role that we have, we always consider each time – can we make this work differently? Every step of the way we are assessing the effectiveness of these roles, determining ways to engage the talent pool and tell them about our unique value proposition.

Along with our Family Friendly roles, we created our Charter, to help explain our commitment to this space:

“Family life is important. We get it. At Pitney Bowes we recognise the importance of balancing work and personal life. We offer fantastic career opportunities, flexibility, but most importantly, understanding.”

We welcome applications from those who want to be able to care of loved ones, older and younger, and those of the furry kind.  Not forgetting those who want to quit the 9-5 or those who just occasionally are able to connect with their work selves. So basically all those who want flexibility.

At the end of Q3 we will complete a formal review of these roles and the impact that they have had. We want to see the impact on our organisation, our teams and on the lives of those who we have been able to welcome in to the workplace. I’m passionate and I care. Therefore I cannot wait to see how this intervention transforms our employee experience.

Learn More About Pitney Bowes

If you’d like to learn more about who we are, our offering or simply network. Or maybe you want to understand how we can create the platform for more flexibility in the workplace get in touch! Drop me a line at: Angela.holland@pb.com

Categories
Child Care Mums Returning To Work

ShootForTheMoon With Mums Enterprise

Getting Mums Back Into Work

#ShootForTheMoon With Mums Enterprise

In June two members of the MummyJobs, DaddyJobs and FlexIsBest team attended The Mums Enterprise event in Manchester. We were so overwhelmed with the numbers that we plan to have the whole team there at the two day event in London in September. We spoke to so many mums from start to finish. It was so busy there was little time in between chats to even have a nibble of lunch! But what was clear is the large volume of mums who post maternity find themselves in a situation where they feel lost when it comes to the subject of careers.

It is fair to say the day was a huge success, not just for us but for Lindsey, Lucy and the Mums Enterprise team too.

We asked Lindsey how she thought the day went….

Well done Lindsey, Lucy and the rest of the team for an amazing Mums Enterprise event in Manchester. How are you feeling now it’s over?

Thanks so much, we feel relief. These events have grown so much and that has been a conscious decision but it also comes with added personal, professional and financial risk to do so.  With events – the outcome is unpredictable. We do all we can to ensure the day is as awesome as possible and obviously we market and promote the event and get pre registrations. The danger is you could still very well end up with a different outcome than expected. We feel so proud when we see our event busy and bustling, giving us a sense of relief that hard work was worth it.

It must have taken lots of organisation, blood, sweat and tears to get such an event together but the outcome was brilliant and inspired so many women. How many women attended and what’s the feedback you’ve received so far?

Yes it really does, we are in the exact same shoes as the visitors who attend.  We have babies, families, work from home with a remote team and have worked for three years bringing these events to the world.  They exist because I couldn’t go back to my city job after my first baby in 2013. I started an events business first before the idea struck for this in 2015 with the first events in 2016.

Feedback has been amazing. We get inundated with messages of thanks and appreciation that the events are here and that they are just so so needed. We know the talent is out there, which is why we are so confident in taking such huge risks to do what we do.

The events are inspirational. They offer practical advice, useful workshops, a great opportunity to meet like-minded and mums and discover real work or business opportunities. Opportunities many may not have known existed had they not attended.

BUT events are never perfect, we manage our business by conducting live tests.  For instance this event was the first event we kept open until 6pm. We wanted to see if mums would come after work or after school pick up.  Some did, but it wouldn’t warrant us staying open that late again. So in future we will most likely close the event around 4.30pm.

The next London event is another test, it will be the first time we have done a two day event and are trying one day to be a Saturday to see if that helps mums who are employed or can’t get the time off work, or can get help with the kids.

One thing is for certain we must get more employers who are recruiting involved. Being a small team and are limited to the time we can spend actively selling and reaching out to new businesses. We will do more, but I am very pleased to have had over 3,000 satisfied visitors at Manchester. I mean that’s just incredible.

The Mums Enterprise event was all set up to cater for children, with nannies and play areas set up in various locations. How important do you feel this was to encouraging mums to attend?

Ideally we want a full creche but these events cost a heck of a lot of money. It isn’t cheap getting 3000 mums in once place so we do the best we can. This was the first time we had nannies in the workshop rooms as a mid-way option to trying our best to help those with children. We also keep workshops to only 30 minutes with 15 minute intervals – we feel this also helps.

Next up is London on the 1st and 2nd of February 2019, what should we expect from this 2 day event?

Well it’s going to be quite similar to the Manchester event. The same features, content and 5 exhibitors zones across Boost, Business, Flexible Work, Opportunity and Retrain & UpSkill. This time I am considering adding some longer mastermind sessions. Those who already run a business need more in-depth information which can’t always be delved into within just 30 minutes.  But I need to work on the agenda and then decide.

But the London show is again totally free and as mentioned is our first two day event and we are trying out a Saturday for show #7.

I spent most of the day talking to mums from the MummyJobs.co.uk stand. So many mums feel at a crossroads in their careers or jobs now they have a family. So many feel they can’t return to work due to lack of flexibility or refusal to even discuss flexible working. Skills are waiting to be snapped up by employers. Employers must understand that by embracing flexible working they open up their doors to a wider talent pool.

What would you say to the employers who still make the assumption that flexible workers lack ambition?

 

Mummyjobs.co.uk is doing a fantastic job getting more employers onboard to highlight opportunities and careers. There is a huge movement happening. I wouldn’t say that employers don’t find flexible workers lack ambition. I think it is more about a shift and cultural change within a business that is the challenge.  For large organisations especially, such a drastic implementation of change is a huge deal. There must be a diverse array of execs on boards to the traditional man and his pipe in order for that to happen.

There is a huge movement and organisations are recognising that there really is a 4th revolution happening. Not just for mums but for the world the 9-5 will be extinct. It will happen and it’s the likes of Mums Enterprise, Mummyjobs.co.uk and many others who can help make change happen. It’s just going to take working together, supporting one another and not giving up. This is a long game.

#Shootforthemoon

Thank you

Mums Enterprise Events

Unfortunately due to unforeseen circumstances the above event has been cancelled.