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Has the pandemic killed your gender-diversity?

10th Jul 2020
Founder Parent Cloud
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A study by PWC published in May 2020 showed women and young people are the biggest groups being laid off during the pandemic: 78% of those who had already lost their jobs were women and two thirds were young people aged between 18 and 34[1].

Hopefully, two of the initiatives announced by Rishi Sunak in his statement on 8 July - a £2bn 'kickstart' pot to fund six-month job placements for young people at risk of long-term unemployment, and grants for employers that make new apprenticeship placements available - will go some way to help young people, but what about female workers?

Over the last few years businesses have to come to see the value of greater diversity among their employees, particularly the advantages of a more equal ratio between male and female employees. With companies in the top 25% for gender diversity on their executive team 21% more profitable than companies in the bottom 25%[2] it would be a shame – both for women and business – if this progress took a huge step backwards.

So what can employers do to actively encourage their female employees toward career progression?

Perhaps the first step is reassuring working parents that this period of time is transient, that it will not impact their career development, that their development is very much at the forefront of your minds and encourage them to keep that in focus. To think about how to position themselves to still meet their goals regardless of what is going on in the here and now.

At Parent Cloud while we’ve seen a huge increase in those accessing mental health support, while those accessing career coaching - historically one of our most popular services - has plummeted. It’s telling. It means parents simply don’t have the time to think about it right now and this will have a direct impact on your business.

Working parents are falling behind on career progression

Even before the pandemic, the 2019 Modern Families Index found that working parents were falling behind in their career progression. They found the two main causes for this were:

  • Being penalised for working part-time
  • Poor job design – being asked to do too much in the time available

While fathers are taking a more active role in raising their children, it is still mothers who usually adjust their working hours to accommodate their caring responsibilities. 40% of women in employment work part-time compared to just 13% of men. This has a definite effect on their career progression.

  • Part-time employees have a 21% chance of being promoted within the next three years
  • This compares to 45% for full-time employees
  • The average mother waits two years longer for a promotion than the average father

Employers should consider how they can address this situation and better support part-time employees in their career ambitions. Thinking about job design and creating positions that work effectively with reduced hours is essential to make this happen. Building an environment that supports talent rather than those who put in the most hours is also vital.

Tackling imposter syndrome

Part of creating the right environment to support working parents is understanding the pressures that they are under and the fears they face. Imposter syndrome is the fear of not measuring up, not being as good as other people. It was a phrase coined in 1978 after an experiment by Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes studying 150 highly successful professional women. These women had achieved success on every level but still felt like frauds, that they would be found out to not be as good as everyone thought they were.

Imposter syndrome can affect anyone, but women and especially mothers are particularly vulnerable. There is no manual for being a parent, no right or wrong way to do it. Most parents at some point or other feel they aren’t up to the job. The culture of the “perfect parent” that pervades on social media only helps feel these feelings of inadequacy.

Imposter syndrome can be paralysing and prevent people reaching their full potential. 28% of working women say that imposter syndrome has stopped them from speaking up in meetings[3]. Lacking self-confidence can be crippling. Employers need to understand this phenomenon and put measures in place to help address this.

Promoting mentoring for parents

Mentoring can be a really effective method of supporting working parents, particularly in terms of boosting self-confidence. Speaking to someone on a one-to-one basis means they can address all the fears and anxieties that they may be unwilling to share in a less intimate setting. Seeing how someone else has built a career while managing a family shows that it is possible to do. Building a mentoring programme that carefully matches mentors with mentees can have enormous benefits all round. Managers who become mentors often become better leaders and build better rapport with colleagues.

Tips for supporting career progression for parents

  • When creating part-time jobs, think about what is required – ensure the scope is possible within the allotted hours.
  • Create roles in consultation with those with experience of working part-time and learn from their experiences.
  • Involve employees in the design of their role and review on a regular basis to ensure the scope is practical.
  • Ensure everyone in the organisation has regular discussions over their career ambitions to make it clear promotion is an option for anyone.
  • Provide access to career consultants to help working parents build a career path they feel is attainable.
  • Support mentoring and encourage working parents to consider enrolling.
  • Encourage senior leaders who are working parents to share their experience.
  • Embrace flexible working practices and celebrate achievements rather than time spent in the office.

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