The IT channel needs to do more to help new mothers get back into work after having kids, according to leading channel women, who claim resellers could be missing out on top talent as a result.
In 2010, 29 per cent of mothers held full-time roles of 35 hours or more, according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS). This increased in Q2 of 2013, when the ONS found that 72 per cent of married or cohabiting mothers with dependent children were in work (either part time or full time), whereas 60 per cent of single parent mothers were in work.
But Sarah Gray (pictured right), senior director of channel and retail marketing for Jabra, said she thinks that companies are losing out on "great talent" by not doing enough to encourage more women to return to work after maternity leave.
She said: "For people returning to the workforce after maternity leave like I have done, we need the right support and facilities to make that happen. Women are having to make a choice between family and career. Some women almost feel like having both is not available to them. I've always been fairly ambitious and wanted to find a way to juggle things but for some people it is not as easy.
"I think that is where there is that imbalance [between men and women], but it is not a deliberate situation. It is just born out of the circumstances of returning to work and juggling childcare. Women have to make that choice, whereas men unfortunately do not."
"Women are having to make a choice between family and career"
Gray said that companies should build support networks for returning mothers to make the choice to go back to work easier.
"Organisations need to encourage and build the right support network so that it doesn't become a difficult choice," she explained. "[We need to show that] it is an easy progression to make, and you are not making any sacrifices to your career. It is about having the right culture. Jabra has a strong family culture, so it really starts with that.
"Then there is the practical stuff, making sure they have the right facilities, to work from home and have flexible working. We need to make sure we aren't losing great talent in the workplace simply because they want to have a family."
Sarah Shields (pictured left), executive director and general manager for Dell UK channel, agreed, adding that women in the channel need to support each other by making sure companies are set up in a way that they can support women in every stage of their lives.
She explained: "[We need to show] that having babies and working in the channel does work. You can come back. Not only can you come back, but you can come back and thrive. I've had more success in my career since I've had my children and I have been supported every step of the way. One of the key fundamentals women in the channel can do is make sure companies are set up to support female employees through every step of their journey."
Joint parental leave
A study by Harvard Business Review from 2005 found that 43 per cent of highly qualified women with children in the US were leaving their careers altogether or for a long period of time, with only 74 per cent of those women re-joining the workforce in any capacity. Only 40 per cent of those women returned to full time positions.
Shields said that having the right support and policies in place is key to getting women back into the workforce. But she stressed it is not just women who take parental leave, so she thinks only focusing on mothers is wrong.
"It's not just women - it's the blokes too," she explained. "It takes two people to be parents so giving all the dispensation to women is the wrong thing to do. I look at my team and I have got guys who share the parenting and that's fine.
"Having flexible working and the right policies and support in place is a key part of encouraging women into the channel. The question I get asked is how do I manage my work-life balance. I don't know why I get asked that more than blokes because my challenges with work-life balance is the same as any good dad."
Joy Gardham (pictured right), head of Western Europe for Brocade, said that within her territory sit some Nordic countries including Denmark, which she views as the most forward thinking she has experienced in terms of parental leave.
She said: "If I look at Denmark, they are so forward thinking about parental leave. It is not just about women, it is about parents in the workplace. Fathers can take maternity leave as well as mothers, so they can share that responsibility. The way it works here is women have to take a year out, and then they can personally feel disadvantaged, because the workplace changes a lot after a year. We most definitely should be looking at programmes where perhaps women can come back part time; still be in a working environment but be close to their children or share parental leave with their partners.
"We definitely need to do a lot more. I think we lose incredible skills and talent when our young women go to have a family. I know from myself, it is the greatest job I have ever had, being a mother, and those skills have been transferred into the workplace. Shame of us if we don't make mothers feel welcome back in the workplace, or make them feel like they have to be demoted or downgraded."
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