How many times have I listened to politicians and business commentators state with passion and conviction how important it is to recruit and retain women in the workforce. How as a nation we are missing out on so much talent and how women are going to be our economic rescue. I so wish I could believe their perfectly written and delivered speeches but sadly I can’t… Why?
Well what we do know, for sure, is that, not only are women not entering the workforce they are choosing not to return after having children and many are leaving corporate jobs due to lack of flexibility and parity, lack of alignment with personal values, lack of progression, impossible work patterns and hidden discrimination to name a few.
But the biggest killer of anyone’s motivation and incentive must be the lack of reliable and/or affordable childcare for the under 5’s. I am astounded at the cost. In my home town, a decent nursery place, if you can get one, for one child can cost anywhere between £10-£14k a year. Are you kidding?? Where is the incentive to work if it costs this much to put one child in a nursery for a standard 8-6pm day? As a working Mum the guilt and military style organisation necessary to get back to work is stressful enough but then to know that your childcare is costing as much as your mortgage is not exactly making you feel like you have made the right choice or that your employer values your return. It would be interesting to see how many men would work at the same punishing corporate intensity if we docked their salaries by £10k a year??
Yet we expect working Mums to be fully engaged, 100% motivated and just as willing to work out of hours, go the extra mile for promotion and travel as the guys, who in 95% of cases do not accept the same level of responsibility for said child. Are we mad or simply deluded?
There are now more women working in Germany, France and the Netherlands than in the UK. This is a complete turnaround from the eighties when exactly the opposite was true. So, ask yourself, what are they doing that we aren’t? Better childcare and better work conditions for working parents – it’s that simple.
It is time for a rethink people. We cannot simply write off working Mums, our economy needs them. We have to accept some women, in fact rather a lot of women will, at some point in their journey give birth, it is the natural order of life, they should not be penalised for it. In order to recoup the investment we need to encourage them back to work, be it as employees or entrepreneurs and to make this a more realistic and frankly a more attractive option, we need better, more reliable and more cost effective childcare along with more flexibility in working patterns and more feminine leadership styles. Until we do this, as opposed to talk about it, the rescue is on hold!