A new survey of employment trends and demographics by serviced office provider Easy Offices gives a fascinating insight into equal opportunities in the modern UK workplace. The survey focused on women with children, looking specifically at the ease of returning to work after childbirth, and the professional consequences associated with having children.
While women as a whole are subject to a 7% gender pay gap, research has revealed that this climbs to 21% with the addition of just one child. The survey supported this finding, with almost 4 in 10 respondents feeling that they may have been discriminated against at work for having a baby. What’s more, as a result of the difficulties mothers face in returning to work, around half of all respondents felt having a baby negatively affected their career, and a similar proportion backed this up by estimating that they’d missed out on an average of two promotions during time away from work due to having children.
While this is a problem in and of itself, a culture of penalising women for having children is also having an effect on businesses. In 2016, only 26% of FTSE 100 boardroom members were women, in spite of the fact that better female executive representation has been tangibly linked to improved performance. In the Easy Offices survey, around 9 in 10 respondents felt that they’d be in a more senior position if they hadn’t had children, demonstrating that women are too often being forced to choose between family and career.
“It may not be a surprise to learn having a baby changes your life, but we might not realise just how long it takes to adjust to it – especially in the workplace,” said an Easy Offices spokesman in response to the survey’s findings. “The working world moves forward at a fast pace, so it’s understandable mums would find returning to work a bit of a shock to the system. Perhaps colleagues may not fully appreciate this point of view [and]… more could be done to rectify this.”
Discrimination in the workplace
Of course, the issues around having children are just one side of the uphill struggle for women in the workplace. As can be seen in the accompanying infographic, sexual harassment remains a major issue too, with inappropriate words and actions making many women decidedly uncomfortable. Racism is also a major issue, affecting both men and women, and disabled people of both genders continue to find employment more challenging than able-bodied peers. We’ve come a long way in the past few decades, but there’s a lot still to be done in terms of equal opportunities; the data included here is a good starting point for managers and businesses to make a positive move towards a more inclusive future.