Australian working mothers cry out for flexible working arrangements
More than half of all working women in Australia say they have been discriminated against purely because they are a mother, according to new research conducted by FlexCareers.
The research reveals that workplace discrimination is rife in today’s businesses and is creating an often untold burden for women at a time of their lives when they should be celebrating motherhood, rather than battling for their rights to either work or take time off to settle into this phase of their life.
More than 400 research respondents opened up about the issues they face trying to juggle motherhood and work. The online survey was conducted in December by the platform that links females with progressive employers offering flexible work, www.flexcareers.com.au
Working mothers revealed hundreds of stories of discrimination in the survey, including being overlooked for promotion, been made redundant, that a maternity leave fill-in had been placed permanently in their position and career opportunities already in the pipeline disappeared.
“I don’t get given the interesting work because full-time employees ‘need it more’, which means I can’t progress my career because I don’t have quality experience. It’s a vicious cycle,” one respondent to our research revealed.
“One company wouldn’t give me a permanent contract because I worked part-time, even though my team leader advised them he’s rather have me working four days than a less efficient person working five,” another working mother said.
The research also found that almost half of all the working mothers surveyed said that a flexible work arrangement is the most important factor in their career choice, followed by remuneration and a passion for the work.
“The top reason talented mothers are not working is because they cannot find the flexibility they need to make life, motherhood and a career actually work. And sadly only 11% of those currently working said they had the ideal flexible work arrangement. This presents a huge opportunity for Australian businesses to embrace flexibility to attract and keep talented working mothers,” FlexCareers CEO Nikki Hobin.
“However, this needs to be offers of genuine flexibility, not the perception of it. Genuine flexibility requires understanding, not judgment. Employees that benefit from flexible working environments can be made to feel that they always have to justify themselves, or pay back for the ‘privilege’ of having a flexible work arrangement in other ways. This needs to change.
“Employers who successfully create a culture of flexible work, shift perceptions of what flexibility means, as it is not only part-time, and focus on training leaders to manage diverse teams, will be the winners at the end of the day”.
“Women told us they want employers to introduce flexibility for both incumbents and new hires and clearly communicate what flexibility means for each role. This may be as simple as saying that you’re willing to consider reasonable requests for flexibility from outstanding candidates,” Hobin explains.
She also encourages working women to openly discuss flexibility with their employer and explain what that would actually look like for them, and propose a trial period to test if it works for both employer and employee.