2018 is looking to be a good year for working mums. Sexual harassment is starting to be seen as unacceptable in the mainstream and more organisations are serious about flexible working.
But, if the top jobs are not accessible to working parents, women will remain underrepresented at senior leadership levels. We need innovative new approaches to support parents to stay on the leadership pipeline. The Leaders Plus Fellowship Programme, which I founded, is one of them.
New parents need more support to stay on the leadership pipeline
As one parent put it to me recently: “I feel I either have to choose between being a good mum or achieving my career ambitions.”
Women make up the minority of leaders across sectors. Only seven FTSE 100 companies are led by women. Even in female-dominated sectors such as teaching only 36% of secondary head teachers are women. Having a child is one of the biggest reasons why women drop off the leadership pipeline, which results in women with children earning up to 3% less per child on top of the 18% gender pay gap.
On the other hand, men often feel pressurised to be the breadwinner. All too often, they are discouraged from flexible working. This reinforces gender inequality, having negative impacts on both parents.
The fact that mums in leadership roles are often portrayed in the media as ‘perfect have it all’ or ‘falling apart evil career mum’ doesn’t help as most of us can’t identify with either of these extremes.
Yet, every parent leader I spoke to said they had become a better leader by having a child: more compassionate and more focused.
We will close the gender gap only if we do things differently
It’s time we supported parents not only to stay in work, but to continue on the career ladder when
that’s what they want.
All too often, the time when we first have a baby is a time when we think deeply about our identity and our future so it is essential that we offer ambitious parents support to think about career development at the time when their children are still young.
Having spoken to more than 50 organisations, not a single one of them is currently measuring how their parent employees are developing on their career ladder compared to their child free counterparts.
According to the World Economic Forum, it will take exactly 100 years at the current pace to close the gender equality gap.
If we as a society are serious about making the change, then we must go beyond current support mechanisms.
Fellowship Programme for Leaders with Young Children
That’s why I founded the Social Enterprise Leaders Plus. Our vision is to support new parents who are ambitious at work to continue to develop their careers. More than that, we will enable leaders with young children to grow into a global movement for change.
We’ve designed an innovative fellowship programme including a House of Commons event with inspirational role models, senior leader mentors and workshops on how to develop your leadership career and balance that with being a parent. Because balancing work with a new family is challenging, we offer a session with a sleep consultant too. The fellowship is open to men and women and starts in March 2018. Parents are welcome to bring their babies along to all sessions.
*The application deadline is 11th February 2018. Find out more here.
**Verena Hefti is the CEO and Founder of Leaders Plus, a social enterprise supporting parents with young children to continue to develop their leadership careers.