I recently read an article in The Irish Independent that approximately 200 babies were born each day in Ireland last year, which definitely indicates we’re experiencing a bit of a baby boom at the moment! In terms of the working world it is also having an effect with a lot of our clients having to source candidates to fill maternity contract backfills. On the flipside, our candidate database has seen an increase in working mums seeking new opportunities or return to work opportunities.
But despite global efforts to reduce gender bias within the workplace, in my opinion a gender gap in the working environment is still very much in existence. In fact, in a recent salary expectations survey that we conducted it was revealed that men are more likely to ask for a salary increase than women. Likewise, a survey by Regus of Irish employers found that nearly two thirds of respondents (63%) said hiring returning mothers can boost productivity but when asked in previous research about their intentions to hire returning mothers, only 34% of Irish businesses planned to do so. Why is this? Why is there a stigma there? Who is driving this thought process?
Having recently returned to work myself following maternity leave I couldn’t help but think about this topic. I read several articles on mums returning to work all giving practical advice to the mother herself. But what about the employer’s point of view? What can they gain from recruiting mothers looking to return to the workforce?
Employers Need To Embrace The Working Mum
In a time when KPIs, output, productivity and profit are key in taking us all completely out of the blasted recession once and for all, it is not unusual for employers to view working mothers/maternity leaver’s as far from the “ideal worker”.
I beg to differ! In many cases mums who return to work opt to come back with flexible working hours and a study by Ernst & Young have shown that women working flexible hours are most productive in the workforce – or to re-phrase that they waste less time in work than other workers.
So what are the merits of a working mum?
Working mothers are constantly multi-tasking and juggling multiple demands at home and they bring those skills to the office – there’s no faffing around with a working mother!
- They won’t be coming in with a hangover or sitting on Facebook all day. They don’t have time for that at home, so will be the same in work
- They have their priorities in check. For example, a working mum in sales is going to be focused on meeting her targets to earn commission for the upkeep of family life.
- They are super-efficient . Working mums will typically have their week planned out. They know what they are having for dinner for the week – organising and getting through their working week is a doddle in comparison!
- Part-time working mums are actually able to squeeze 5 days into 4 – again they are more productive, and don’t waste time.
- They can prioritise like a pro. Baby is asleep…. Will I sit down and read a magazine or do some jobs? Downtime vanishes when you have a baby. Time management and prioritising are key skills you gain when you leave the maternity ward.
- Employers Need To Embrace Flexible Working Hours
There are several stats floating around in relation to females feeling discriminated against in their workplace having made the decision to start a family and therefore requested maternity leave. Similarly, many working mums have had to make the decision to leave their existing roles before going on maternity leave and returning to the workplace in the search for a new employer that offers more flexible working options.
Instead of adding to these stats wouldn’t it be great to see employers shift towards embracing and accommodating the working mum and focusing on the retention of hardworking, committed and loyal staff?
Some of our European counterparts are already taking the initiative on moving towards more flexible working hours, with Sweden having recently introduced a 6 hour work day, reducing work hours yet maintaining the same level of pay for employees. Similar systems are already in place in The Netherlands and Belgium and maybe it’s time for Ireland to stand up and take notice. By offering a flexible work environment that allows Irish mothers to maintain a healthy work/life balance Irish employers should be able to attract and retain highly skilled and experienced staff, which could boost productivity and output for their organisation.
Working mums are busy people. Outside of work, they start early and they finish late. There is a saying “If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it” – need I say more?