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Flexible working affects mums’ ability to progress their career

17 November 2017 No Comment

Nearly half of working mums think working flexibly has affected their ability to progress their career, although almost three quarters identify flexible work as crucial to getting more women into senior roles, according to Workingmums.co.uk annual survey.

The survey of over 2,300 working mums, sponsored by Nielsen**, shows the impact on women’s careers if they work flexibly – whether part time, some degree of homeworking, flexi hours or some other form of flexibility. According to the survey:

  • 47% of those surveyed think flexible working has affected their career progression with 28% saying it hasn’t
  • 52% of part timers say they have missed out on career progression opportunities or training
  • 41% feel their flexible working is not viewed positively by their colleagues
  • 29% feel discriminated against because of working flexibly

Yet it also shows that mums feel flexible working is vital for them to manage work and family life. In fact 60% of those who work flexibly would like more flexibility, such as more homeworking or more use of job shares, and 73% believe flexible working and flexi opportunities in senior roles are key to career progression.

Moreover, 51% are worried their flexible working will be taken away from them.

The lack of availability of senior flexible roles means many women have had to take pay cuts to get flexibility – 44% say they earn less than before they had children with just 27% earning more. The lack of women in senior positions in organisations is also a key contributor to the gender pay gap.

Far from the stereotype that flexible workers are less committed, 67% of mums feel they have to work harder because of unconscious bias in the workplace.

Workingmums.co.uk promotes best practice in flexible working and highlighting the benefits for all of normalising flexible working. That includes dads who research shows are keen to spend more time with their families. Some 24% of dads work flexibly, according to the Workingmums.co.uk survey, although only 4% of these work reduced hours, a figure that has barely changed over the last few years. Part of the barrier to dads working flexibly is the perception that it will damage their careers.

One woman who has benefited from flexible working to progress her career is Vicky Sandry, General Counsel for the UK and Ireland at Sky, named Workingmums.co.uk Top Overall Employer in 2016. She says: “I’ve worked part time since returning from my first maternity leave in 2004 – first four days a week and then 3.5 days a week. Whilst working part time I’ve had two significant promotions, the first in 2005, to run the Regulatory & Competition legal team, and the second in July to my current role. It has been challenging, but I feel lucky to have the best of both worlds – an incredibly interesting and engaging job, and the ability to spend time with the boys and I wouldn’t change it for anything.”

The survey also shows that many employers are losing experienced women because they cannot accommodate their flexible working requests:

  • 23% of women had had flexible working requests turned down by their employer
  • 19% had left as a result
  • 35% had the request turned down for a reason other than that allowed under flexible working legislation
  • 57% of those whose flexible working request had been refused while they were on maternity leave felt they might not return to work.

Gillian Nissim, founder of Workingmums.co.uk, says: “There is a clear link between the availability of flexible working, women’s career progression and the gender pay gap. Too many women are not achieving their potential because organisations just don’t understand the benefits all round of creating good flexible working opportunities. That is a waste of their skills and a loss to employers. It is not enough to retain women after maternity leave or attract them back through returner programmes. The culture has to be sufficient to enable them to stay. It is not just women, either. Growing numbers of dads are feeling frustrated at the strait jacket of 9 to 5 and want more input into family life. A work culture that does not recognise that the majority of employees have or will have families is not a culture that is fit for the future.”

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