For mothers returning to the workforce there are countless obstacles to overcome, from the guilt of leaving their children to figuring out how to best balance their work and home life. This is why businesses need to consider the way they work in order to be more inclusive and supportive, whether that’s encouraging women to get back into the workforce or simply ensuring they feel they can leave on time to pick their children up from school.
According to a survey by Harvard Business School, 44% of highly qualified women take a detour on their way back to work post-baby to care for their family. This break can have a significant impact on a women’s career progression.
“The fact that people respect that I need to leave at 5:30 and don’t schedule meetings at that time is a huge difference for me”
Just 16% of Creative Directors are women, which is believed to be, in part, because of women taking time off to have children. Flexible working is something that is often looked to as a solution for working mothers re-joining the workforce and it’s something that has helped mothers in our office feel empowered to return to work.
Supporting parents across the globe
Before the pandemic, Account Director Reena Patel embraced flexible working offered by the company, leaving the office time to pick her kids up and finishing off any work at home, “[it’s about] being able to bathe them but also have the career,” she said.
As someone in Client Services which is a relatively female-dominated sector, Reena has seen people leave high-level positions and even change careers because they were unable to balance their work and family lives.
“Once you reach a senior account handling role, you are going to be in your thirties [and thinking about a family]. You’ve worked from the bottom all the way up to where you are now, and then when you have kids, [some people] completely pack it in. So, it’s really reassuring that [Fishawack Health] know that there’s a population out there who want to carry on with their career and marry up the work life/home balance.”
“As rewarding as the experience of motherhood is, you feel a sudden pause in your career… By companies being supportive and not penalising women for being ‘away’ it provides a sense of self-worth for women returning to work”
Neha Thakur has been with the company for two years and works full-time out of San Francisco, and though she is working remotely, she said her needs as a mother are also supported.
“The fact that people respect that I need to finish my day at 5:30 and don’t schedule meetings at that time makes a huge difference for me,” she said.
“As rewarding as the experience of motherhood is, you feel a sudden pause in your career. Then when you are ready to return to work you feel like you are on a backfoot. By companies being supportive and not penalizing women for being ‘away’ it provides a sense of self-worth for women returning to work.”
It’s this inclusion of mothers in the workforce, and the support as they return, that not only makes a significant difference to the mothers, but also to the company and diversity of the workforce.
Changing entrenched beliefs across the industry
Creating a diverse workplace and encouraging returners is a key mission for Creative Equals, an organization that has made it its mission to drive positive change in the creative and media industries. They are advocating a diverse workforce with a better working culture for all with their Creative Comeback Returners Programme, an initiative Fishawack Health proudly supports. After joining, we made a pledge and went along to a speed dating event where we met prospective workers, we then invited people to interview and offered a placement, with potential for a full-time job.
Kirsty Wear, Global Head of Talent, believes being part of the programme is important as it shows we are not just talking about flexible working, we are actually doing it.
“There are very few senior female creatives and [this programme] tries to tackle that. Once you get to a certain point in your career and go off and have children it’s very difficult to get back in [to your career],” she said.
Julie, a senior designer and mother of two joined the company on a three-month placement as part of the Creative Comeback Returners Programme. She works flexible hours, which means some days she can drop her daughter at school and meet her teachers and other parents.
“Courses like this help change entrenched beliefs that the creative industry has only one work style,” she explains.
As a Senior Designer, she found it difficult to find flexible roles suitable for her level of experience, “people end up looking for jobs that are too junior for them because it’s flexible, which can be such a waste of their skills and time,” she said. “[However, at Fishawack Health] people are much more accepting that people have different lives and work in different ways.”
There is also the habit of working overtime, which means people often start their day early and finish late. Because of this, there is a stigma attached to those finishing work on time.
“I haven’t noticed the rolling of the eyes where people are leaving on time or having to go pick up their kids. [In some companies] there’s this sort of ‘oh part-timer attitude’ but I don’t think that happens here.”
“That broader understanding of the pressures of family life and the importance of being there for your family and children, it’s integral”
Flexibility can be more difficult for those who work directly with clients, though the support of a team can make all the difference.
Nilu Davies a UX Consultant works four days a week in a client facing role and has been able to continue to offer high-quality work to her clients due to a team that is understanding of her circumstances.
“[Without flexibility and support], you’re just shelving someone’s brain, for however long, and that seems like a knowledge drain on the company. That also means the company is going to lose out on that person’s experience and expertise.”
While there are a lot of factors that make returning to work easier, it’s necessary to remember it’s a very individual experience.
Sophie Berger, Head of Marketing and Corporate Communications, works four days a week and believes balancing a busy work and home life will always be a juggle and admits it is sometimes difficult to ‘have it all’.
“I value both my career and my family enormously, both are exceptionally important to me. Balancing work deadlines and family commitments seamlessly is sometimes difficult. Good organizational skills, delegation, paying for afterschool help, being part of a great team and having a ‘hands-on’ and supportive partner, as well as a flexible workplace are all essential in balancing the two often competing worlds.”
Sophie believes that support and understanding from others is absolutely fundamental. “All of the board directors have families and take an active role in their family lives as well as leading a growing and successful business. They understand the pressures of family life and work life and are great role models.”
At Fishawack Health, we support working mothers and have a variety of structures and initiatives in place to make sure employees feel they are getting the most out of their role and have plenty of support. Do you want to join our growing team? Take a look at our opportunities across the globe.