I’m really struggling at the moment to understand how working mothers manage to balance bringing up a family and progressing in their careers.
What I hear you say everything’s designed to make it easier!
But is it?
Yes there’s longer maternity leave, flexible working hours, latest gadgets so you can stay and be in touch (leading to the new buzz phase of work life balance and that’s a whole other debate!), partners who are sharing child care, etc.
But here’s the dilemma – a sacrifice has to be made somewhere.
If a mother decides to work flexible hours and still wants to progress up the career path its harder to achieve as she’s at a peak age when most careers really take off but typically require full-time commitment.
If she decides to work full-time to continue with her career she’s judged by some not to be a good mother as she’s not required to work full-time and given that she has a choice feels guilty about putting her career above her children.
And lets not forget the 3rd consideration, the business she works in. They have needs and pressures too, namely to be sustainable.
The majority of them want to support their parent employees as much as they can and hold on to the valuable skills they have, but for some its harder especially if they operate in the service industries, which after all is the largest growth sector in the UK, and where clients expect a high level of service.
So what’s the answer?
Should we encourage women to focus on climbing the ladder higher before they have a family so that they don’t feel or face others without family responsibility over taking them?
Or can business wait until the family has reached a more independent age and then support women to accelerate their career with all the benefits they bring to business?
I think there’s merit in both especially as its accepted that women bring additional skills and insights to business to compliment their male colleagues, and that the answer to getting more women on boards has yet to be found.
What it will take is careful design of a company’s talent management programme to create a fair progression path both for those who are in the business full-time and their working parent colleagues.
And talking of fairness it also means a bit of give and take on both sides.