Feeling discriminated against, shouldered out by colleagues, totally exhausted and completely guilty for not performing to their best at work or as a mum? This is how many women are feeling in the communications industry.
PR is an industry based on conversation and engagement – so why doesn’t this happen at a senior level for women considering having a family?
Our survey from over 550 people in the communications industry showed these concerns in the industry – feelings of discrimination and resentment – 72 per cent of women feared losing their status, 48.5 per cent of working mothers are considering seeking employment elsewhere and 42 per cent were concerned of losing confidence when returning to work.
Running a recruitment business in communications, I appreciate the difficulties businesses face when looking for great talent at mid to senior level – so how can the industry retain top talent – which it has invested in for years and then watch this talent haemorrhaging at account director or associate director level? Should we allow a brain drain on the industry to happen?
Our survey also gave examples of positive attitudes to working mothers – often commenting that women were more focused and organised when returning – skills they learnt at home which could translate to the work environment. But to encourage a positive working environment for women returning to work requires a shift in attitude from both the employer and employee.
There is a need for businesses to wake up to the need for flexible working, in both hours and attitude if they want to retain top talent. To move away from a legalistic point of view and take on a more humanistic approach and embrace what women can offer a business at a senior level and adapt roles, hours, place of work and attitudes to accommodate this.
In return, women need to think not just about their needs but also those of their employer. Talk around entitlement needs to shift to what they can contribute to the business, focusing on outcomes and delivery. One example given by an international bank was that the returning-to-work female puts a business case forward to their employer if they wanted to change their hours or role, focusing on the outcomes and benefits that it would have to the business.
To help facilitate these conversations, an internal “return-to-work” framework should be part of the company staff handbook – to encourage conversations as early as possible and allow for planning. It will encourage a more positive attitude through training and a return-to-work policy. Implementing such small measures could really see an increase in women returning to work and creating a higher quality of workforce within the communications profession.
As a working mother of two I know only too well the strain and guilt that you can feel when trying to be a mum and progress your career. I don’t think you can have it ALL – I have seen people burn out in the process of trying, but with compromises and the right attitude from both the employer and employee, it is possible to have a great career as a working mother!
Alice Weightman is managing director of Hanson Search and author of Getting the Balance Right – a study into the impact of maternity leave on the communications industry and its implications for positive change. To find out more or get involved email email@example.com.