Parents call for more flexible working at senior levels

The latest annual survey highlights the challenges working mothers face when working flexibly – and the opportunities it can bring.

Young child planting a tree with father
Over half (52%) of part-time working mothers believe they have missed out on training or career development opportunities as a result of the hours they work. The study of more than 2,300 working mothers also finds 47% think flexible working has impacted their ability to progress their career. The current lack of flexibility in many senior roles currently means many women have had to take pay cuts to achieve flexible working arrangements. Around (44%) say they earn less than before they had children. Just 27% are earning more.

Discrimination, unconscious bias and flexible working

Are you earning more or less than you were earning before you had children full time equivalent?
The job and community site for professional working mothers believes flexibility in more senior roles is a key to easing career progression for working parents.This finding is endorsed by the 73% of parents polled who regard flexible working opportunities in senior roles as critical to career progression.Despite the growing demand for more flexible working among men and women, close to a third (29%) of working mothers report feeling discriminated against for the way they work.
If you work part time, do you feel you miss out on opportunities for career progression (for example training)?
Four in ten identify colleagues’ negative views of their flexible working patterns as a further challenge (41%). This is despite 67% of working mothers say they feel they have to work harder because of unconscious bias in the workplace. Half are also worried their current flexible working arrangements could be taken away from them. 

The gender pay gap and flexibility

While a complex issue, fewer women than men occupying senior positions contributes to gender pay gaps, which more flexible working could help mitigate.Commenting, Gillian Nissim, founder of, explains: “There is a clear link between the availability of flexible working, women’s career progression and the gender pay gap.
Do you feel your childcare arrangements are flexible enough for your needs?
“Too many women are not achieving their potential because organisations just don’t understand the benefits all round of creating good flexible working opportunities. That is a waste of their skills and a loss to employers.”
Read more about gender pay, flexible working and women in leadership:

Flexible working and career progression

The survey shows that many employers are losing experienced women because they cannot accommodate their flexible working requests.
  • 23% of women had had flexible working requests turned down by their employer
  • 19% had left as a result
  • 35% had the request turned down for a reason other than that allowed under flexible working legislation
  • 57% of those whose flexible working request had been refused while they were on maternity leave felt they might not return to work.
Thinking of your last period off work for maternity leave or a career break, how long were you not working?

Workplace culture and flexible work

“It is not enough to retain women after maternity leave or attract them back through returner programmes,” continues Gillian Nissim. “The culture has to be sufficient to enable them to stay.
What are your average monthly childcare costs?
“It is not just women, either. Growing numbers of dads are feeling frustrated at the strait jacket of 9 to 5 and want more input into family life.“A work culture that does not recognise that the majority of employees have or will have families is not a culture that is fit for the future.”

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