Recent study reveals attitudes to pregnancy are hindering women’s career progression.

Young Women’s Trust, a charity supporting women aged 16-30 on low or no pay, commissioned YouGov to survey UK employers with one in five admitting that if a woman is pregnant or has children it impacts decisions about whether to promote them.

Worryingly, one in eight employers also said that women are taken less seriously in their workplace when they return from maternity leave. (Note to self: must not insist on starting morning briefings with Hey Duggee’s “The Stick Song”.)

This survey further supports findings from Young Women’s Trust annual survey, conducted by Populus Data Solutions, highlighting the challenge faced by mothers in the workplace. The survey of over 4,000 18-30-year-olds revealed 43% of young women with children had faced maternity discrimination at work.

A primary example of maternity discrimination is an assumption of inflexibility in female employees with children – but what about the flexibility of the organisation to enable their employees to perform to the best of their abilities?

It also seems strange that flexibility of male colleagues tends not to be used as a stick (“stick, sticky stick” – sorry, I’ll stop) to beat them with. If a male employee is unable to adjust his working pattern at late notice or join the team for the weekly social because he needs to get home to his family, his paternal commitment is respected; whereas for women they’re deemed unaccommodating.

As well as being rife among women in the workplace, the recruitment process can also reveal the hidden depths of maternity discrimination. Job adverts that describe a “fast-paced” working environment or suggest a “vibrant, work hard play hard” mentality are often alienating to women with families.

Echoing the words of Young Women’s Trust chief executive Dr Carole Easton OBE, maternity discrimination in the workplace is “shocking”.

“Tackling discrimination would benefit young mums, businesses and the economy as a whole. Employers should value young mums’ contributions to their workplaces and do more to accommodate them, including by offering more flexible and part-time working opportunities.”

 

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