High salary or baby?
A recent survey controversially found that 53 per cent of the UK's headhunters think women should forget about having children if they want to be among the country's high earners.
The report, from executive agency InterExec, asked 100 prominent British recruiters for their opinions on women in the world of work. More than half of the respondents believe women who want to be considered for roles paying £150,000+ shouldn't take a break to raise a family.
Nisa Chitakasem, co-founder of careers company Position Ignition, offers her views in response to the report, explaining why she believes employers have to change their attitude on this issue.
What exactly are the reasons for top-paying employers overlooking women who've taken maternity breaks? They could include:
- The belief that anyone who takes an extended career break loses their work capability.
- The fear that workers with children will be more unreliable due to time management and support issues.
- The reasoning that anyone who has already taken a career break to have a child, may choose to do it again, leaving their employer in the lurch.
The truth is none of these scenarios necessarily happen on a widespread basis and employers have to get smarter at managing female employees with families.
Organisations would particularly benefit from recognising and utilising the talents that women have to offer. It's been clear for a number of years that we're heading towards a potential labour shortage, as baby boomers come of retirement age.
There is therefore increasingly a shortage of talented and skilled labour as employer organisations struggle to replace the staff who are leaving to retire.
Focusing on the females
This is as good a reason as any for employers to focus a little more on female candidates. Women are an abundant and equally skilled resource in the workplace.
However, with women being discouraged by the continual high-profile responses to surveys like this one, the labour market is facing even further damage. Similarly, my response to reports like these should not be seen as irrational.
After all, there is evidence that the pay gap between men and women still exists - and not just at the highest level. Research findings from the Chartered Management Institute show that female managers aren't going to receive the same pay as their male counterparts until 2067.
Organisations need to rebalance their relationships with their workers to ensure they don't run aground. It's not just a case of throwing more money at more women, as this will only cause wage inflation. Employers should recognise the value of all employees, including women.
By using female employees in the right way, businesses will be able to balance their workers' talents and specific skills whilst making use of each employee's time effectively. Companies have to meet the needs of their workforce to ensure longevity.
What women want
There has been a big shift in what we as employees want from our work. Female employees in particular want more control of their career. They want their work to be enjoyable and meaningful, brain stretching and challenging.
We need to feel as though we are growing within our roles and getting better at what we do professionally. We also want to feel as though we are part of something bigger than just our job role.
For any employee, including women, it's not just about the wage, even if we feel we are only working for money. Whether we acknowledge it or not, the more our internal needs are fulfilled, the more content, and therefore productive we are in the workplace.
This is why employers should not only value women more in monetary terms, but also in terms of fulfilling their other needs. This should be the case regardless of whether or not an employee wants to take a career break.
Family vs. career
It's not just what we want at work that is important, but what we want to balance the work with. As women faced with the choice between a high salary and starting a family, how many of us will put career over maternal needs?
There is no right or wrong answer here. If indeed, the highest-paying employers are avoiding women with family plans, you still have the power to decide where your priorities lie.
However, it is important to remember that this survey's findings are not set in stone. It is reporting, after all, the opinion of headhunters, not of the employers themselves. There is no reason why a family and a high-paying career have to be mutually exclusive.
It is important to remember that headhunters have to have a very short-term and somewhat unimaginative point of view on working women. And so it falls to the responsibility of employers to interpret these results accurately and consider their staff resources very carefully. Women are the solution not the problem.
Nisa Chitakasem is the co-founder of Position Ignition - a career advice and career consulting company. For more information, visit www.positionignition.com