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Déjà Leonard is a copywriter and freelance journalist based in Calgary.
The pandemic has further exacerbated the challenges that working mothers face. From shouldering the majority of family caregiving responsibilities while working from home, to dealing with disruptions in childcare and school routines, it’s gotten to the point that many mothers are considering opting out of the workforce. According to McKinsey’s 2020 Women in the Workplace report, done in collaboration with LeanIn.Org, one in three working mothers in North America said they were considering downshifting their careers or dropping out of the workforce entirely.
On top of that, working moms face what sociologists call a “motherhood penalty” – biological and cultural-based disadvantages in pay, perceived competence and benefits.
There are a variety of existing approaches to further support working mothers, and ensure they have equitable opportunities in the workplace. But many of those supports often put the heavy lifting on women themselves to organize and advocate for each other.
For example, a lot of companies have created employee resource groups (ERG) for women and mothers. Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) has a robust network of ERGs that focus on attracting more women, helping them advance their careers and providing them with a wide range of opportunities to network and get involved with diverse communities. According to DBRS Morningstar data, on average, women form 35 per cent of the executive teams at Canada’s six large banks. RBC is sitting higher than average, at 46 per cent.
There are also professional associations like Moms At Work, Canada’s first professional association for working mothers. Moms at Work began as a small Facebook group and has since grown to be a community of 10,000 moms that rallied together to advocate for mothers’ rights in the workplace.
The association is now working on a job board for working mothers that will be one of the first in Canada to require pay transparency. And before the group became a professional association, a group of them met virtually with the federal government to discuss the Canada Child Benefit and how they were affected by the pandemic – an incredible nod to the effectiveness of grassroots movements.
There’s no doubt these programs can have a positive impact, but they may only be one part of the long-term solution in ensuring working mothers can be successful.
New solutions like Maturn, Canada’s first official maternity leave program, have recently cropped up with an interesting approach. The company offers working mothers and organizations a comprehensive program to support the full maternity process including the transition to and from work, career goals and mapping, and more.
When it comes to finding solutions for the “motherhood penalty,” perhaps we need to think of these programs and resources as being complementary to each other, rather than trying to determine a one-size-fits-all approach to a complex challenge.
By creating more options for mothers – some formal, some grassroots – we can ensure more working moms have the network, tools and support they need to thrive.
What I’m reading around the web
- No one loves yearly performance reviews; even if you’re an overachiever with a great bonus potentially on the way. Read this article in Harvard Business Review to get a better idea about how these conversations have evolved over time, and why more companies are adopting a different approach to performance management.
- Do you get the winter blues? As we move into another winter season with many of us still working from home, it’s important to understand how we can combat the effects of seasonal affective disorder so we can have a healthier work and personal life.
- According to Simon Kuper, working only four days a week could help us save the planet. “Each additional hour’s work produces more CO2 – through our commute and, above all, through the stuff we create and consume,” he writes in a piece for the Financial Times.
- Whether you’re still conversing over Zoom or you’re headed back into the office, this refresher on how to have great conversations might come in handy. Watch this video or read the transcript to discover 10 useful rules for having better conversations that can use at work and with your peers.
More opinion from Globe Careers
Six ways to better understand influence and persuasion Robert Cialdini wrote the modern book on influence in 1984, offering six universal principles for marketing, negotiating and dealing effectively with colleagues. Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein nudged that effort ahead with ideas from behavioural economics that encourage others to freely act in desired ways. With Influence and Nudge, both books coincidentally being updated this year, columnist Harvey Schachter says it’s a good time to deepen our understanding of their methods for persuasion and give some attention to what has been added to their thinking.
Virtual socializing still matters, especially for new employees In the world of virtual onboarding, we have to make extra effort to provide a welcoming experience for new employees, writes columnist Eileen Dooley.
More from the section
Should my employer be paying for my COVID-19 tests if they’re making it a new requirement of the job? In this week’s NinetoFive advice column, a reader asks if they’re on the hook for a newly instituted policy that requires staff to submit the results of an antigen test for COVID-19 every week
Leadership Lab is a series where executives, experts and writers share their views and advice about the world of work. You can find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab and guidelines for how to contribute to the column here.
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