Mums in the workplace: How to support them

21 November 2021



From putting their career on hold while taking maternity leave to raise children, to balancing childcare and work, the role of a working mum can be very challenging. According to the Women in the Workplace Report 2021, mums in the workplace also do significantly more childcare and housework than men. That means, even if they’re working full-time, they sometimes go home to do a ‘double-shift’ of work around the home.

So, what can leaders do to support mums in the workplace?

Supporting their return to work

Aside from the logistics of childcare, returning to work from maternity leave can also prove an emotional challenge for someone with a new baby. Be empathetic to the needs of a team member re-entering the workplace after maternity leave. Consider offering a staggered return (such as reduced hours for the first month or so). Also communicate clearly any company changes or developments that have occurred while they have been on leave.

Work-life balance for mums in the workplace

Leaders can look at ways of establishing clear work-life boundaries. Try and ensure that meetings are held during normal working hours. If this is not always possible, at least have policies in place that allow mums in the workplace to recoup their overtime as time off in lieu.

Leaders should appreciate that lots of employees – not just women – feel like they are always ‘on’. So, rethink that after-hours email, or make it clear to your team beforehand that you don’t expect them to respond out of work hours. This goes for you too – ensure you are striking a good work-life balance and be a positive role model to your team.

Flexibility with working hours

Have a ‘family first’ outlook. Kids get sick, they also take part in all kinds of extra-curricular activities and are rewarded in lots of different ways at school. Enabling your working parents time out to be there for their children when they need to be will help to keep them engaged at work. So, consider allowing mums in the workplace flexibility with their hours. You could even give them the option to leave work for the school run and then finish the rest of the working day from home, for example.

Enabling this kind of flexibility could help you to retain talent – after all, many companies are now starting to offer this kind of working practice so employees might consider looking elsewhere if you lag behind in this area. In fact, the Women in the Workplace Report 2021 found that 93% of companies now say more jobs can be performed remotely, and nearly 70% predict many of their employees will regularly work remotely a year from now.

Help mums in the workplace to climb the career ladder

According to a recent report, mums in the workplace who work full-time are typically paid just 70 cents for every dollar paid to fathers. That amounts to an average deficit in working mums’ pay packets of $1,500 a month or $18,000 a year.

Why is this still happening?

Some leaders may view working mums as being unable to take on challenging work because they are often stretched at home with chores and childcare. They might also consider any time working from home – to take care of a sick child, for example – as somehow inferior to that spent working in the office.

This might subconsciously (or even, unfortunately, consciously) mean that mums in the workplace aren’t afforded the same opportunities to advance in their career as their colleagues without children.

Ensuring that you have policies in place to mitigate this gender bias when it comes to pay and promotion will go a long way in helping mums in the workplace take their rightful place at the leadership table.

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