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Inclusion and Returning Mums: Is Your Organisation Truly Inclusive?

To mark this year’s International Women in Engineering Day, themed #ImagineTheFuture, let’s look at how companies that create a truly inclusive culture for their returning mums are changing the workplace for the better. Written by Dr Emma Waltham | Maternity Returners Expert

Do you know if your organisation is a welcoming, inclusive environment for working mums and somewhere they feel at home? Somewhere they will want to stay in the long term?

With Deloitte Insights finding that half of women plan to leave their jobs within the next five years (particularly those working part time), then it’s worth taking five minutes to think about whether your organisation’s approach to supporting maternity returners is up to the job.

So, what is an inclusive culture?

Do you have pregnant women working across your organisation? One of my clients found that in a customer-facing department women were leaving before they started their families, because the working hours and culture didn’t feel like a supportive environment for working mums. They weren’t willing to give it a go, they just went to work elsewhere.

What’s retention like in your workplace when it comes to women returning from maternity leave? When organisations offer flexible working they are more likely to keep women longer term, without that even if they return, they don’t always stay for long.

Are women able to continue on their career pathway? They may well come back, particularly if they can change their hours or work at least some of the time from home, but if the job means working overtime or there is a lot of travel, for example, they might request a different role on their return. This can have implications on career development and gender diversity at senior levels, where it may be easier to progress from a client facing sales role, for example, which is much harder to manage as a working mum.

Is your workforce diverse across the board? Or are there some areas, roles, levels, where there are less women, particularly working mums?

Would you say that your organisation is family friendly and has a good reputation for being a great place for parents to work? When I run focus groups for companies who want to hear from their expectant and returning mums, I typically find that less than half of their employees would recommend their firm to friends or family with children. So, while women return to work after leave, they often clearly don’t feel that their needs are being accommodated.

How good is the wellbeing of your returning mums? Are they able to continue in their role without feeling stressed, with access to support when they need it? In my 1:1 coaching work, most participants need support with their wellbeing, finding the return to work particularly challenging. They often feel overwhelmed and isolated at work, at a time when they are experiencing feelings of loss because of time away from their baby, while many are still having interrupted sleep.

Signs of success

When there is an inclusive environment for pregnant and expectant mums, what do we see

  • Women returning to work across all departments

  • Returning mums help fill vacancies, encouraging friends and family to come and work in your organisation

  • Talented, experienced employees continue to progress their careers after they have a baby

  • Your firm retains gender diversity as employees rise up through the organisation, because your returning mums are in an environment where they don’t face maternity bias or other barriers to participation.

  • Your returning mums feel positive, happy and optimistic about their future in your organisation, knowing they will get the support they need.

Helping you create a truly inclusive culture

If more needs to be done to create an environment like this in your organisation, please get in touch. We can explore how you can create a more inclusive culture, so your returning mums will stay and thrive.

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