Could a more flexible approach to work open doors for mothers?
The pandemic has, by no means, been easy. But there have been some positives to come from the experience, and a new survey from workingmums.co.uk has highlighted how the shift to flexible work may provide women with more job opportunities in the future.
The survey found that many working mums felt that the lack of flexibility in their job roles had held them back in the past, with many feeling their career progression had been limited. But, now, 73% of women surveyed reported feeling optimistic that the fallout from Covid-19 will mean more flexible jobs will be advertised, leading three quarters to say they would be likely to change jobs as a result.
A report published in 2019 by the universities of Bristol and Essex for the Government Equalities Officer found that just 27.8% of women were in full-time employment three years after childbirth, compared to 90% of fathers. In addition, those who did return to work after becoming parents were two thirds less likely to get promoted in the five years following the birth of their child.
While flexible working is unlikely to address the deep-rooted systemic issues that has lead to such disparity, options for remote working and flexible working hours will undoubtedly offer working parents more opportunities to balance their home and work lives, and consider further opportunities. In 2016, a report by the women and equalities select committee identified a lack of flexible working opportunities as the main driver of the pay difference between men and women. Now, five years and one pandemic later, a major shift in attitudes could be on the horizon.
"Our survey results present an interesting snapshot of the potential impact of Covid-19 on work patterns,” Gillian Nissim, founder of VM People. “While there is optimism about the opening up of more flexible roles in response to not just increased demand, but evidence that many jobs can be done more flexibly, there is concern that it is likely to be women who take up this option more, with that having an effect on their career progression.
“Our survey shows that women clearly do want to progress and are more than willing to move on if they don't get what they need and flexible jobs are available. Employers need to ensure that progression is possible in flexible jobs, including part-time roles, if they want to retain that talent and that men are also encouraged to take up flexible options and don't feel their careers will be damaged as a result."
But, in addition to opportunities at work, there is a wellbeing element to the shift, with a better work-life balance often leading to better mental health. And, with a survey by WorldAtWord and FlexJobs finding that 80% of companies offer flexible working arrangements, hope is on the horizon.
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