Why do some employers make it so difficult for mothers to return to work?
Mum # 1:
She left an abusive relationship, has two children and wants to stand on her own two feet. Her immediate goal is to support her family without the aid of social services. Daycare hours make it almost impossible for her to get into work at 9 am and she (due to years of forced isolation) has no connections with people who can pick up her children after daycare ends. She is still dealing with court issues, is hyper aware of her safety and knows she will need some training. Despite all of that she is looking for an opportunity to work within the hours she has, to build her dreams and prove to herself and her children that they can overcome. There is no person to call when her children get sick and it will take time to build up friends and know her community better. If we want to reduce dependency on social services and create space for healthy families to emerge then shouldn’t we challenge more businesses to find a way to make employment happen. As an employer are you willing to help?
Mum # 2:
The strain of raising a special needs child can cause marriages to break, hers did. She is now raising her child on her own except when the father comes to spend some hours with their daughter – it’s not often but it helps. She has tried for years to build her own home-based businesses that allow her to bring in extra money while handling the complex 24 hour needs of her child. It hasn’t been easy and she thinks maybe a part-time job during school hours will be the best decision. Nervousness begins along with self-doubt as she questions how she is going to promote herself. Undaunted she puts together a resume (the best way she knows how) starts her search and applies to a store where she frequently shops in her community, I’ll call it LD. LD has multiple departments including pharmacy, beauty, housewares, electronics etc., and because she has past retail experience she figures there’s a fit. After speaking with a woman at the store she was directed to the manager. When he found out about the hours she had available he stated, in a tone that wasn’t pleasant, if he gives her those hours then the people who have worked there for years wouldn’t appreciate it. He didn’t even look at her resume. As an employer are you willing to hire parents with special needs?
Mum # 3:
After years in the corporate world a decision was made with her husband to start a family. They weighed out who should stay home with their children and it made sense it would be her. She loved being a mum but on many levels missed the career woman she used to be. She tried to keep up with what’s going on in her industry, she even took a couple of online courses, but things move fast in her industry. Now with both children in school she is finally able to apply for jobs and even has flexibility in terms of hours through the help of extended family. But, every time she applies they keep asking her about that gap in her resume and whether she is prepared to be back in the game. Despite her attempts to assure employers she is ready and willing she just isn’t getting the jobs. At one point in her career she was the person hiring for those jobs and now she can’t get past the interview herself. As an employer are you willing to take a chance and hire or mentor a skilled woman – placing her back in the game?
Mum # 4:
She started work at a young age, got married and managed to work part-time through most of her years as wife and mother. Eventually she went back to full-time employment. Then her parents became ill and she stepped up to take care of them. Until their deaths she compassionately worked to support and manage not only her own home but her parents too. She’s tired and lacks confidence but wants to be out there again in the world of the living. She would like to have a job even though she’s over 55 now and realizes her competition is younger. As she puts it, “I’m far from retirement and not dead yet – I want to contribute.” As an employer are you willing to hire a mature woman?
I could go on and on with stories of women who have found it difficult to return to work after making the choice to do the hard unpaid jobs like parenting and caregiving. They may have survived abuse or given up on their own pursuits so that others could thrive. These women assumed roles that used multiple skills but those positions are not valued enough to be a checkable box on an application form.
In the 20+ years I have been doing career consulting I have never had a male client face some of the oddest questions, judgements or flat-out rejection that many women have faced because they have taken on the role of being responsible for someone other than themselves.
There needs to be some way for employers to recognize that being away from paid employment is not a sin and that everyone is capable of learning. Flexibility on the part of employers and compromise on the part of candidates can make for better partnerships. When it comes to how and when we work there are multiple choices such as; off-site, job share or work share opportunities. We could have conversations with staff to determine their willingness to be flexible, train or mentor someone with special considerations instead of assuming nobody wants to help. So, with an open mind we can choose ways to support women returning to work.
Hire Mums because they are talented, adaptable and have managed more than they will ever be given credit for!