I was recently the Speaker at a Power Business Breakfast arranged by the brilliant Forward Ladies. As the winner of Business Woman of the Year for Yorkshire and the North East last year I was invited to offer my hints, tips and advice to women in business. I can’t pretend to be an expert in how to set up a business but I gave my insight to what I have experienced and any bits of knowledge that I have picked up along the way and the points that I made did seem to be very well received!
One of the main points that I was asked to discuss were the challenges that I have faced as a Woman in Business and this is where I think I really hit a chord with everyone.
I have recently experienced what I think is one of the greatest challenges facing Women in Business. A few weeks after winning my Women in Business Award I gave birth to my first baby in early December 2016. Having worked right up until I had him I was back at work in April 2017 having taken a four-month maternity leave. I never planned on having a long maternity leave, I adore my son and I love being a mum but I also love working and Temporis is also my baby. I know how lucky I am though that I could return to work so soon. Being my own boss meant that I could pick and choose my hours, as long as it was fair on my team and meant that I could get the maximum amount of work done in a week. When I first returned to work I worked three days per week, increasing this to four days per week from the Summer. I now work Monday – Thursday and have Fridays at home with my little boy, picking up emails and calls as needed. I really do have the best of both worlds.
However, the sad reality is that this is very much the exception to the rule. Flexibility for returning to work mums is a key point of discussion at the moment. According to “Pregnant Then Screwed” http://pregnantthenscrewed.com/ a UK initiative based on making it easier for mums to return to work following maternity leave, “54,000 women a year in the U.K. lose their jobs because of inflexibility and maternity discrimination and motherhood is a major contributor to the gender pay gap. The gap between young women and men is almost nonexistent, but widens consistently for 12 years after the first child is born, by which point women receive 33% less pay per hour than men.”
I have lost count of the number of my friends who have left the recruitment industry due to inflexibility when returning to work from maternity leave. The “old school” belief is that you can’t recruit on a part time basis, or working from home. But why not? The majority of my clients are on the South Coast and I recruit for them from Huddersfield, it doesn’t matter where you are as long as you have a phone and a laptop!
Legal Recruitment is predominantly female focused and I genuinely don’t understand why firms are so inflexible. The same is so true of so many other industries. Employers would rather lose fantastic employees instead of giving them the flexibility that they need to enable them to be a working mother. In some cases female bosses are worse than male and I genuinely don’t understand why we can’t all empower and support each other.
As women we have to support each other so that these statistics become nothing more than history. People say you can’t have it all but why can’t we? Why should we have to choose between being a ‘stay at home mum’ or a career woman? Why can’t we do both? If I have learned anything over the last year it is that you absolutely can do both. Yet so often women are set up to fail. I am recruiting at the moment and I am considering both full and part time hours as well as working from home so as to maximise the applicants that I get, be they male or female. If I was approached by a fantastic recruiter who needed flexibility as they had a family at home or were returning to work after maternity leave it would be a no brainer for me. As an employer, getting the right person with the right skill set is much more important than whether or not I need to be flexible.
It is the 21st century, we can land probes on Mars and create self-driving cars yet we can’t give the thousands of mothers who want to work the flexibility that they need in order to do so. In a very modern world it would seem that, in some instances, we are still very much behind the times.