Can women with children really change the nation’s balance sheet? The Grattan Institute argues that if workplace participation of women increased by only 6% our GDP would be $25 billion higher. I find that figure both completely staggering and totally exciting. Furthermore, the report states that “female workforce participation can only change significantly if more mothers have jobs” (p. 38.)
I frequently work with women who are mothers either re-entering the workforce after short or long periods, or facing redundancy, or who choose to change direction. Equally, I personally understand the struggle to find the balance between raising children and working. I have previously explored some of the barriers mothers face not just returning but engaging in work – such as flexibility and the stigma attached to part-time roles. Of course, access to childcare and when to return to work are also topics of great debate.
However, I would like to flag a couple of other ideas such as efficiency and value for money, that can directly contribute to productivity outcomes. After my first maternity leave I returned to work in a lower capacity, three days a week and job shared with a fellow employee (an older guy not another mother). I was required to relocate to another office, some 45 minutes further drive. I was never late and rarely took a lunch break. My fellow part-timer and I worked out a system to communicate well and keep each other up to speed on projects and without a doubt I can guarantee we were more efficient and productive than a single employee.
The benefits this organisation gained were numerous and quite quickly it became clear to me that we were efficient, productive and very low maintenance employees. They were getting 1.5 employees for the price of 1.
This raises a couple of questions: Why did they not see the value? (they relocated me and let the other employee go after about 6 months). And, secondly why were we so engaged in a role that demanded a lower skill base in an organisation with a terrible culture and poor leadership?
Firstly, the value issue I find perplexing. I have previously asked this question in relation to organisations gaining value from women with varied and extensive experience in the ‘Stop & Go Career’ piece. Although the added value was very obvious to me, it became clear that the employer did not share that view.
Secondly, in terms of engagement, I can offer a personal perspective. Even in a dysfunctional culture I was engaged for a number of reasons. Firstly, I was grateful. Grateful I was able to continue some form of meaningful work that related to my profession. Secondly, efficiency was the name of the game. I was simply more efficient out of necessity. This was really rewarding and I found it satisfying. Finally, while my skill base was not being developed it was also not being eroded. So aside from the from the significant growth in GDP that can benefit all of us, it seems to me that even organisations that lack inclusive policies and procedures can gain value from employing mothers. All they have do is hire them – it seems a no brainer to me.
Posted by Felicity McLaughlin
This is the latest in a series of articles about career development for women, espcially those returning to work. If you would like to discuss your own career options following maternity leave and/or raising children, or following long-term carer’s leave, please contact Bravo Consulting about how we can help you achieve your career goals.