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Motherhood and Flexibility Penalty Persists in the Workplace

A new survey published by PwC to mark International Women’s Day on 8th March found that 82% of women surveyed are confident in their ability to fulfil their career aspirations and 73% are actively seeking career advancement opportunities. 

However, women feel nervous about the impact starting a family might have on their career (42%) and 48% of new mothers felt overlooked for promotions and special projects upon their return to work.

In addition, 38% of all women in the survey felt that taking advantage of work life balance and flexibility programmes has negative career consequences at their workplace. This is concerning, says PwC, as women clearly still perceive there to be a motherhood and flexibility penalty in their workplace.

The survey also looked at what employers can do to help women advance their careers. It found that women need employers to rethink their approach to helping talent balance work, life, parenthood and family care, to prevent potential biases, and to provide organisational solutions that work.

There is currently a move to redesign maternity and paternity leaves and re-entry programmes, but these efforts should be expanded and promoted, and best practices must be communicated more broadly. Flexibility alone is not the issue, the survey results suggest: many people don’t take leave or care furloughs precisely because they believe it will hurt their careers. Employers must recognise that everyone is making flexibility demands – it’s not a life-stage or gender-only issue – and help and encourage their people to take advantage of the programmes in place.

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