Vast majority of women want to re-enter labour market after extended break
Three-quarters of women felt workplaces were still too inflexible for them to return to after they had taken an extended career break, to have children for example, a study has found.
This is despite “lots of noise and activity going on” around helping women back into the workforce, said Lisa Unwin, founder of She’s Back a new organisation set up to connect women returners and employers.
Further findings from the study, conducted with more than 1,000 women by She’s Back, showed that the impact of cultural barriers were wide-reaching. The vast majority of women (84 per cent) who have taken a break from work are keen to re-enter the jobs market, results showed.
The most popular reason for leaving careers, given by 70 per cent of the survey respondents, was a family-related issue. And a number of respondents told researchers that their workplace was so inflexible that they had decided to leave their jobs in preparation for having children.
A culture of understanding among managers was highlighted as critical for a successful re-entry into the workplace, the study found. Eighty-eight per cent of respondents said a manager who wanted them to succeed was the most important reason for them to come back to work.
Speakers at the launch of the research urged companies to stop paying lip-service to family-friendly working policies.
Unwin, who was also a former director of communications at a big Four firm before taking a five-year career break, said, “It is not good enough to have a flexible working policy if nobody implements it.”
Averil Leimon, director at leadership consultancy and executive coaching firm White Water Group, added, “I don’t think [supporting female talent to return to work] has moved beyond the intellectual at many places into actual behavioural change.”
When asked what she thought about employers publishing data on their staff gender splits, Leimon added: “I think what gets measured gets done and transparency can be fantastic, but I think we’ve got to factor in a whole lot of things.”
Ann Paul, director of organisational development at News UK, said: "I'm delighted that News UK has participated in this piece of important research with She's Back. It has helped us understand what we can be doing to support women who go on maternity leave, at the point that they go off and when they return."
The study from She’s Back comes less than a month after the introduction of shared parental leave, which allows new parents to share up to 50 weeks leave. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills estimated in its impact assessment that take up for the new policy would be a mere 2 - 8 per cent, although this has been criticised by other studies for being too low.
The research from She’s Back was supported by Allen & Overy, AXA, DLKWLowe, News UK and Santander.
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