It seems that we have a long way to go in understating the true impacts of home working on gender equality. There is certainly evidence to suggest that working mothers are feeling significantly more impact on their roles in work and at home following on from the Covid-19 lockdown and subsequent restrictions; but how do we make sure that everyone is supported and encouraged to take equal responsibility at work and at home in this new world? We need to make sure that practises are both sustainable and equitable.
I recently attended an event “Back to work or Back to the 1950’s?” hosted by Ruth Miller from RM Associates and the GEC to talk about the challenges of returning to work and the impact this may have on gender equalities. This is such a pivotal question right now, as we may be heading back into another lockdown situation when we will be asked to work from home, and potentially have children out of school again at the same time.
The panel (Ruth Miller: Training, Consulting & Projects on Management Development, Talent Acquisition, Diversity & Inclusion; Cat Wildman: Co-Founder @gendercollect, BIMA100, WHRD Diversity & Inclusion Leader 2020, Telegraph Woman of the Year ’18; Rhoda Phillips: Leading business transformation and culture change for Westminster City Council; Jess Heagren: CEO & Cofounder of That Works For Me) answered some key questions around flexible working, returning to work and how proactive businesses are being around flexible working. The most interesting topic for me however was the extent to which flexible working was being targeted primarily at mums.
What does this do for gender equality and does this see us sliding back towards a 1950’s view of the roles of women and men?
Parents, especially mothers, are paying the heavy price of lockdown according to these studies…
“Mothers combine paid work with other activities (mostly childcare) in 47% of their work hours, compared with 30% of fathers’ work hours.”
“Mothers are more likely to have moved out of paid work or reduced the number of hours worked to support childcare.“
1 in 4
“1 in 4 women are contemplating downshifting their careers or leaving work completely.“
Returning to the office
The panel highlighted that there is a lack of clarity around the rules for returning to the office and how it is actually going work. This can lead to fear and resentment. This also highlighted the potential risk an impact around diversity and inclusion for the future as flexible working has been perceived to be for working mothers, this can disadvantage career progression they are in the office less. It can also be a disadvantage for men wanting to take up a more flexible working pattern to provide support for childcare.
Flexible working & proactive businesses
The great news is that data is starting to show that productivity is increasing with home working; but a recent survey by Blick Rothenberg suggests that 60% of employers want staff to return the office. So how can business support a model of mixed working practises which is also gender equal?
The panel discussed the need for clarity around rules and a shift in mindset to focus on output rather than hours worked and talked about some examples of proactive businesses who are working towards this.
The panel also gave some of their top tips for getting back to work, after furlough, redundancy or working from home.
Here are my top 3 picks if you are looking for a new role:
- TIP 1: Don’t undervalue yourself: My interpretation of this is to focus on your strengths, think about what you are good at: what are your key skills and experience? How can you apply these in your work? Some of these resources will be local to you, look at your local authority website for access, utilise social media, use your network.
- TIP 2: Be Human! It’s ok to ask for help from your network. Be authentic and have an honest conversation, get out all your fears and concerns with those you trust. Dare I say it.. ‘be vulnerable‘, it’s not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. It is only by being open and sharing your challenges that those around you can offer support and, you never know, options may appear that you would never have considered.
- TIP 3: Getting back to work. What does ‘a good result’ look like for you? When considering other organisations, look at their culture, their values and priorities and the opportunities for individual growth as well as the roles they offer. Where are you looking for roles? Job platforms will often focus on a role type or level or a specific industry. LinkedIn is an invaluable resource and there are organisations like That Works for Me and Timewise that are focused on flexible working. The key point is to get your information out there, either by posting on LinkedIn or sharing your CV across your network.
When I look at the evidence and listen to the experts, it does seem that we have a long way to go in understating the true impacts of home working on gender equality. There is certainly evidence to suggest that working mothers are feeling significantly more impact on their roles in work and at home. What is important, especially at this massive time of uncertainty is that we gain more understanding around the rules, especially flexible working and that organisations like the Global Equality Collective continue to work with employers to demonstrate how they can retain a focus on gender equality and inclusion.
If you’re thinking of going back to work after a career break or looking for a new role, but your confidence is low and you don’t know where to start then try our online, on-demand course focused on helping you get back on track and ready to hit the ground running or contact us for help and advice from one of our coaching experts.
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