Creating an inclusive business for parents and carers

IoD Member and Director of CM Talent, Sally Dhillon, talks to us about fostering an inclusive workplace for parents and carers in the modern working world.

Now, more than ever, it’s important that employers take into account the needs of employees who have parenting and caring responsibilities outside work.

The business case for improving gender equality in the workplace is well understood.  Research undertaken by McKinsey shows companies in the top 25% for gender diversity on their executive team were 21% more likely to experience above-average profitability than companies in the bottom 25%.

Closing the gender pay gap will only happen when more women fill more senior roles.  One of the causes of the lack of women at the top of UK businesses is what is commonly known as the motherhood penalty – it’s the negative impact on a woman’s career and future earnings when she becomes a mother, caused by time taken out of work, additional workload of becoming a prime carer and the difficulty of getting a career back on track due to the lack of flexible working options and lack of available opportunities.

The government have attempted to level the playing field with the introduction of shared parental leave and the Government’s Equalities Office are currently consulting on a host of improvements and protections to maternity leave and the availability of flexible working.  Childcare and flexible working have become principle components of the current election pledges by various political parties.

Enabling more women to continue their careers, despite motherhood and other caring responsibilities, and enabling more men to actively co-parent and take on more domestic responsibility is key to creating more gender-diverse teams.  When women work, economies work.  There will be a £55bn benefit to the UK economy by 2030 by closing the gender pay gap.

Despite doing better in education, women are over three times more likely to work part-time, are less likely to progress in work and generally work in lower paying industries and occupations as well as having lower pensions wealth. This is a waste of talent.  By the time a first child is aged 12, mothers average hourly wages are a third below fathers. Almost 1 in 4 older female workers have caring responsibilities compared with 1 in 8 older male workers.

My own path to motherhood was long and complex due to fertility issues (along with at least 1 in 8 other couples in the UK).  I woke up one day realising the impact it had on my career.  After taking a career break when my second child was young, I tried to find a suitable job where I was able to use my skills and experience with flexible hours but to no avail.  As a result, I partnered within another mum in a similar situation, setting up Career-Mums to help other women like us successfully relaunch our careers. We quickly realised that employers could be doing so much more to understand and make the most of the available talent leading us to establish our second business –  CM Talent – to help employers attract, retain and develop more gender-diverse teams.

Here are five ways you can become a more inclusive business for parents and carers:

  1. Set up a parents and carers network (or focus group for smaller organisations) to bring your parents and carers together to share resources, give you feedback on ways to be more inclusive and support each other. We encourage you to include mothers, fathers, carers and grandparents in this group to get the widest representation.
  2. Hire career returners into your organisation.  Don’t be put off by a career break on a c.v., enthusiasm, maturity and experience will quickly pay off and they’ll be back up to speed in no time.  PwC estimate that there are at least 0.5m women on a career break at present who want to return to the workforce. Consider setting up a returners programme to directly attract experienced professionals back into the workplace with a period of supported work experience.
  3. Support employees taking maternity, paternity, shared parental leave or adoption leave.  Understand that they are experiencing a significant life event.  Communicate well and be empathetic to their individual needs.  Consider offering specialised coaching to smooth transitions from their role and back to work at the end of their leave and demonstrating your support and investment in their return.
  4. Take into consideration the timings of business meetings, networking events and training. Cut out early morning meetings, evening and weekend events as these unnecessarily penalise parents and carers.
  5. Offer flexible working arrangements for all employees, including new hires. Most businesses can organise themselves to accommodate flexible working (and this is likely to reduce operating costs).  The majority of employees in the UK expect flexible working (not just parents and carers) giving a degree of choice over where, how and when work takes place.  Flexible working arrangements can help you attract potential hires to your business and encourage employees to stay with you. Consider how your leaders can lead smarter and more flexible teams for a win/win for everyone.

Creating an inclusive approach to your business is not the preserve of large organisations with significant D&I budgets.  Inclusive businesses can be created with energy fand commitment from leaders focused on creating the conditions for every employee to be their best at work and feel they belong. This will pay rewards through commitment, engagement, productivity and creativity of your employees, positively impacting your bottom line.  Inclusive business makes good business sense.

IoD member Sally Dhillon’s business – CM Talent –  offers a range of cost-effective and practical ways to help employers to attract, retain and develop gender-diverse teams, including returner programmes, new parent transition coaching, setting up employee network events and training to become inclusive business ambassadors. Talk to CM Talent about how they can help you accelerate your inclusive business journey.

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