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Women Just Can’t Have It All …

A recent survey of over sixteen hundred Mums revealed that half of them on low to middle incomes take a lower skilled part time job upon their return to work; many find that there is not enough opportunity to find flexible work which is well paid commensurately and fits around their family life …

flexibility is the key to achieving work and family balance

Daytime TV interviewed Sally Russell of Online group Netmums yesterday, together with The Apprentice’s dropped out contestant Katie Hopkins. The show highlighted the plight and daily frustrations experienced by working mums trying to balance jobs and expensive childcare and inflexible hours. Almost 50% of mums return to lower skilled and therefore lower paid jobs after having babies. Sally spoke about the survey, highlighting how care and responsibility is often a big concern of Mums who would like to work full time but cannot afford childcare or find a job that fits with their caring needs. Common choice is to work part time with a young family.

In her usual vein, Katie Hopkins’ take was mostly unsympathetic; she said: “You have to recognise that if you go back part time you probably can’t expect to go back to the position you had before or at the same level – employers need continuity in staff, to offer clients continuity of a relationship and that operates at a more senior level. If you go back part time you have to accept a lower level – people often say ”We can’t afford childcare”; you just have to accept that for a number of years you may not earn very much at all, however it will pay off at some point in the future. We have to look at it from a much more commercial not emotional perspective – the job market is running at a massive surplus – if you don’t want that full time job, there are hundreds who do. I don’t need part timers right now, I need full time employees committed to their positions.”

Half of people in the survey were found to be working below skill levels – which has a devastating effect on those missing out on thousands of pounds of earning income – and also on the economy. Companies have to re-recruit and retrain to fulfil gaps. What’s actually needed is a flexible society with flexible working – not necessarily part time, just flexible; this would enable companies to retain hard working and talented mothers and give them the opportunity to stay on their career ladder.

However, Hopkins went on to say: “I can get hard working talented individuals on a full time basis – women need to recognise they can’t just have it all, you have to accept childcare is expensive, therefore your earning incrementally won’t be great – this is the price you pay for wanting a higher skilled job. You have to accept these choices you have to make and not complain and make a dreary picture of yourself that you’re part time, lower skilled, and just say “I’m gonna crack this, I’m going back to compete in a man’s world and I have to get this sorted this out“.

Over and above the financial impact, what about the effects upon an individual’s self esteem and self worth? Yes – it’s a choice to have children, however may I respectfully point out, Ms Hopkins, that if women chose not to do so then before too long the world as we know it would slowly grind to a halt. Women’s role in society should be celebrated and embraced and they should be able to make a choice to enjoy motherhood and then when the time is right, be encouraged and empowered to step back onto their career path and given the opportunity to build upon and use their skills and talents and be remunerated and rewarded accordingly. And if the stepping stones to that path are of a part time or flexible nature then so be it.

The forward thinking employers out there fully understand flexible working hours; they grasp that their talent pool of employees are assets to be nurtured and not merely consumables. Most people are aware of the annual Sunday Times List of Best Companies which has been going for a few years now; being a best company goes beyond the bottom line. It’s about excelling in every area throughout the workplace and an organisation’s commitment to its most important assets – its workforce. Focusing on employees brings real benefits such as, improved workplace engagement, better staff retention, reduced recruitment costs and greater financial performance. There are lots of businesses in the UK with this commitment to their people; I wonder whether, if you’re a business owner reading this – you too embrace this type of culture?

Of course, the other option is not to return to work for someone else and instead begin to tread the path of self-employment; there are many, many opportunities out there and it’s likely that once you begin to work for yourself – to become a mistress of your own destiny – that you will only ever look forward. However – different strokes for different folks and what’s right for one won’t be right for another.

Fortunately there exists in Milton Keynes a fabulous organisation, Woman And Work it isn’t purely for Mums, it’s for all women seeking to start work, return to work or find a new career path. They have a friendly and incredibly knowledgeable team and you might want to think about contacting them if you need some help and advice to move forward – whether that’s CV writing, training courses, employment or self-employment opportunities and a whole host of other resources. (This resource is also open to men facing similar employment challenges, so don’t feel left out guys!)

As well as offering a mountain of advice, Women and Work also offer a recruitment service. So if you’re a local business looking to recruit now or in the future, then you will be making an excellent decision to speak with Dilshad Hussain on +44 (0) 7711 221084 to enlist her help to find a flexible working recruitment solution for your company. Even if you have a preferred supplier identified already, it’s good to have options to be able to make an informed choice and understand the fresh approach offered to businesses and individuals by an organisation such as Women and Work, isn’t it?

To anyone out there who thinks that women can’t have it all, I say “Up the revolution, Wolf-ess!” (with apologies to Citizen Smith). And of course, if you’d like to chat through aspects of your own personal development such as your values and beliefs, performance, confidence and communication issues then I’d love to speak with you. Why not give me a call for a confidential chat on +44 (0) 7932 060360 and let’s start finding your direction!

Be outstanding …

FAZ COLBHIE