Mothers believe the ‘motherhood penalty’ is prevalent in the workplace

A survey by Mumsnet reveals the true impact of parenthood on women’s careers, with 91% of respondents feeling it can negatively affect a woman’s prospects

Mothers believe the ‘motherhood penalty’ is prevalent in the workplace

In modern times, it has become far easier for women to return to work, with flexible working initiatives allowing parents to tailor their work life around their families. Which is why it’s shocking to read that, despite these innovations in the way we work, talented women are losing out professionally just because they have become parents.

New research by Mumsnet revealed that 91% of mums surveyed believed that the ‘motherhood penalty’ – in which a woman’s career stalls after becoming a parent – is prevalent in the workplace. Additionally six out of ten mothers feel that starting a family has had a negative effect on their career.

The survey results highlight the perniciousness of the glass ceiling that women face; of those who have felt the effects of the motherhood penalty first hand, 56% felt powerless to push for a promotion or senior position because they couldn’t commit to long hours. Unsurprisingly, just under half of respondents felt that the prevalence of the ‘motherhood penalty’ is unfair and contributes to the gender inequality in the workplace. This perception is reinforced by the fact that an overwhelming 73% of mothers said that their male partners saw no impact on their career when becoming a father.

“In 2015, we’re still seeing most mothers – but relatively few fathers – suffer professionally when they have children,” said Justine Roberts, CEO of Mumsnet and Elite Business cover star. “It’s a multi-faceted problem, but one way forward is for women to vote with their feet, and take their skills and experience to forward-thinking employers. So we’ve launched Mumsnet Jobs to showcase family-friendly jobs at all levels and across all sectors – because women shouldn’t have to accept career penalties as the price of motherhood.”

Mumsnet Jobs is set to be launched at the annual Mumsnet Workfest event dedicated to women and work. Several family friendly employers have proudly partnered with Mumsnet Jobs to encourage gender diversity and to support working parents. Partners include HSBC, Tesco, Grant Thornton, PwC, Barclays, Bella Italia and Stella & Dot.

For other employers who are keen to tap into the talent pool of working parents, the survey revealed some clear pointers on what family-friendly credentials would attract this group. More than seven out of ten mothers surveyed felt that flexible working would allow them to better manage their work alongside their parental responsibilities. Of those who felt that their current job suited their family life, 35% cited that being able to work from home helped them to achieve a good work life balance.

We can all agree that the pitter patter of tiny feet should be a blessing for working families, not a burden. But clearly many employers have their work cut out for them if they want to incentivise and make the best use of professional parents. 

Jade Saunders
Jade Saunders

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