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Tomorrow, Saturday March 8th, is International Women’s Day. This, of course, is the annual global event created to raise awareness of gender inequality and seek solutions to those issues. Incredibly, International Women’s Day has been in existence since the early 1900’s and while enormous progress has been made in many areas, as we all know, there are still huge challenges to overcome.
The theme of this year’s event is “Inspiring Change” and that is meant in all possible ways – global, local, personal, professional – by challenging the status quo, supporting diversity, and being in relentless pursuit of positive change for the better advancement of women, to the benefit of the greater good. As a passionate proponent of diversity and a woman business owner, I embrace this notion entirely, and have done so for many years.
One area I have particularly focused on is seeking to provide flexibility for working mothers. I know through personal experience and seeing it first hand as a company CEO, that one of the enduring challenges for women remains balancing a successful career with motherhood. I strongly believe there is a huge need for businesses to step up and apply some fresh thinking to their role in this dynamic and examine new ways of enabling women with children to thrive in their careers.
The reality is that women – at times – necessarily have a different approach to their careers than men. But we need to get smarter at providing routes back into the workplace and viable, sustainable roles once there. Not to do so means we are locking out a huge amount of intellectual worth, which just doesn’t make sense.
Perhaps one reason that this problem is ongoing is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution for this. It is immensely challenging but is is a problem wholly worth facing. It really is about finding solutions tailored to best fit your company and employee needs – and being prepared to review and adjust on both sides over time.
So if you’re looking for ideas to support back-to-work new mothers you might consider some of the following:
1. Reviewing job structure to re-assign tasks and flex workload. On one level, this is a form of job-sharing, and I have found it has the added bonus of growing the skill-sets of the wider team and gives team members the chance to learn new areas of the business.
2. Being flexible on location. Skyping, conferencing calling and simply emailing all make working with employees in remote locations so much easier.
3. Creating and maintaining clear communication flow, and setting clear expectations. Excellent communication is key to flexible working arrangements. Being laser focused on the outputs required ensures everyone understands what is required of them and when. Having access to calendars and shared ‘status’ documents helps keep everyone on the same page.
4. Flexible working hours / compressed hours. As a frequent traveler, I’m used to working “odd” hours to get work done when away and to keep in sync with the main office. This principle can easily be applied to allow employees to get work done on time, on their time.
I truly believe that taking a more flexible approach and making it much simpler – and fairer – for women with children to take their place as a vital part of the working community is key to sustainable growth not just for business but for our society in general.
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