When the Gender Pay Gap Reports are submitted on the 4th April next year it is predicted that we will see companies backsliding. This is backed up by an abundance of reports* showing that women are significantly more likely to be furloughed, lose their jobs or leave their jobs.
In our executive coaching work with working parents we are seeing a proportion of women in dual career households choosing to step back from work and prioritise family and their partners’ career, even when they were the higher earner before the pandemic. Stepping back might mean playing smaller and not going for stretch roles or it might mean leaving the workforce all together.
At this time of uncertainty why would working mothers be considering leaving their jobs?
One of the reasons is a belief that the higher care burden they carried in the first months of the pandemic will have impacted on the measurement of their performance and subsequent career progression opportunities, so what’s the point of trying. Another reason is due to burnout where the continuous stress of the past 8 months and continued uncertainty about childcare provision and schooling is leading to exhaustion and a lack of motivation.
What can you do to mitigate flight risk?
- Sensitise line managers to the risk. Encourage them to have conversations that may dispel beliefs held about the negative impact on career advancement and to notice where a working mother may be playing small when they were once ambitious.
- Think about how to factor the pandemic’s impact on working mothers into performance reviews. How will you judge less visible employees? How does this impact on promotions, pipeline planning and redundancy?
- Track the data to identify trends early. Are women leaving at higher rates? Are performance reviews suggesting bias? Have promotion rates for working mothers changed? Does this vary by department or management level?
- Provide coaching support for working mothers either one-to-one or in groups to provide the opportunity to work through assumptions and beliefs about their future work, process the experiences of the pandemic and come back to work purposefully and powerfully.
Whilst the requirement to report on the 2019/20 Gender Pay Gap was suspended due to Covid-19 this will not be the case for 2020/21. Now is the time to shore up support for working mothers to avoid going backwards.
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