“Women are the largest untapped reservoir of talents in the world” Hilary Clinton
We know it, we recognise it and we agree with her comment….or should I say, us women do, and many mothers are living as part of this “untapped reservoir of talent“. As a women with my own business and a mother of a primary aged child, I feel proud and privileged to know the range of talented and skilled women that I do. If you were to harness the abilities and qualifications of mothers in the school playground, you could set up and successfully run a number of hugely profitable high powered businesses, and I’m talking state school here. However, I feel there are three key pressures that stop mothers doing what they really want to do, and using their talents to their best advantage: financial considerations, job security and expectations of others.
“In this day and age women can just as easily be the main breadwinner as men. Why should they have to give up their careers when they have children?”
Ben Foden fronting the Government campaign for shared parental leave.
The most important one that batters this talent into submission is financial issues. Traditionally men have earned more than women, and as women give birth, it was always felt they should stay at home and bring up the child in those important early years, plus if we’re talking traditional, men weren’t allowed in the hospital and were outside smoking cigars! However, in today’s society a high percentage of women have high powered and well paid jobs which are challenging and engaging. Their wages make a significant contribution to the household, and so many, when they become mothers, need to go back to work financially. They may need to work less hours, find they have a reduced or different role in the company, or end up applying for less skilled jobs, in order to balance financial need with childcare consideration, and so feel de-skilled and that their talents are unfulfilled.
The recent change in paid maternity leave and how it can now be divided up between both parents, may make financial considerations less of a concern, but only if fathers are willing to take on this role.
The second issue is job security. A National Childbirth Trust survey published in 2014, commented that:
“Around half of new mothers have to cut short their maternity leave because of fears they will lose their job if they stay at home“
The study quoted nearly 45% of women as feeling they are being forced back to work sooner than they wanted after giving birth, due to concerns over “job security”. There are still great issues in some companies over asking for flexible hours, yet remaining in the same role in which your talents were utilised. This may not always be the employers fault, but also due to their financial considerations as well as staffing issues, yet the “job security” issue for women remains! It can see them taking a sideways position in the company when they come back from maternity leave, or trying to balance work and childcare considerations to such an extent that both suffer, and it is all they can do to get through each day. They are too exhausted just trying to keep afloat and get through the daily tasks to show initiative and flair.
The third key pressure, is the idea that women can and should have it all, and most importantly want it all. Society and other women, make it sound as if it can be nothing but a great thing! Nicola Horlick was hailed as a superwoman for balancing her extremely successful and high powered finance career whilst raising six children! This is a fantastic achievement, but does every woman and mother want it, or do they feel under pressure to show they too, can act this way? I know I did!
My neighbour and I had a really interesting discussion about the pressures on mothers to return to work, and how much of that anxiety was generated by the women themselves and the media. My neighbour told me she made a conscious decision to give up work and be at home with her four children as she felt it was important “that I bring up my children my way. The way I want them to be brought up, with my values”. She felt women shouldn’t have to apologise for wanting to be stay-at-home mums and choose to nurture and raise their children, but should feel confident in the choice they’ve made.
Will the much needed change in paid maternity leave see more fathers taking paid time off to share the childcare, and allow mothers to go back to their same challenging careers, and perform well because they are able to? Or, will companies still feel mothers are a liability and gradually squeeze them out of their positions, into a more mundane role? Lastly, are women their own harshest critics and feel they should be able to do it all, and that their failing if they choose to stay at home with their children?
Where do you stand? Are you at the point of returning to work, or having to make career decisions?
Do you feel you can return to work and still perform at the same high level, or do you need a confidence boost and skills audit?
Alternatively email me for a free and confidential chat about whether coaching can help you utilise your talents me. firstname.lastname@example.org