Two in five working mothers feel held back for promotion

·3-min read
Two in five working mothers feel held back for promotion
Many working parents and carers said that the pandemic has brought some positive changes, according to a new poll. Photo: Getty

Two in five (41%) working mothers say being a parent is holding them back from promotion at work, new research from work-life balance charity Working Families has found.

Half of those with additional caring responsibilities for a sick, elderly or disabled family member said the same, according to the YouGov survey of 755 British parents with children 18 or under, who were either working or on flexi-furlough in August 2021.

The report found that being a parent and having caring responsibilities is still seen as having a negative effect on career progression by a significant proportion of working parents. The long-established "motherhood penalty" has become a "parenthood penalty" with 30% of male respondents said that being a parent and having caring responsibilities holds them back from getting a promotion.

One in five (22%) working parents said they have felt they had to hide the fact that they have taken time off from work for childcare reasons from their manager.

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"Outdated cultures and practices still hold sway in many workplaces around the UK," the research found.

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Over a third (38%) of respondents felt that the people who work the longest hours are the most respected by senior leaders in their companies.

Nearly half (44%) of working parents did not think that the senior leaders in their organisation are positive role models for achieving a good work-life balance.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought challenges for working parents with nearly half (49%) saying that home working can be difficult as it is hard to switch off and relax.

However, many working parents and carers said that the pandemic has brought some positive changes, with 41% saying that the pandemic has had a positive impact on workplace culture at their organisation.

Half of working parents said open conversations about wellbeing and mental health are now more accepted at work than before the pandemic, with this increasing to 61% for carers.

Despite this, over a third (36%) of working parents, and almost half (48%) of carers are concerned that taking time off for caring needs will be frowned upon at work now that lockdown has come to an end.

The poll showed that wellbeing was a strong focus for both workers and employers — 85% of working parents said that work-life balance is a top priority that will influence their next choice of job.

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Working Families is calling on employers to ensure that workplace culture and performance management processes used values and rewards outputs, rather than focusing on hours worked or place of work, and actively discourage presenteeism, when people go to work but are unable to be productive because of ill-health.

The charity also wants businesses to provide specific training for line managers in how to support parents and carers, and how to get the best from teams working in a variety of flexible ways and actively work to raise awareness of wellbeing and mental health, and have a range of support available for workers to access.

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