41% of working mothers held back from promotion

71% of working mothers have had their furlough requests refusedResearch carried out by charity Working Families, to mark its launch of this year’s National Work Life Week (11–15 October), has revealed that 41% of working mothers believe that being a parent is holding them back from promotion at work, while 50% with additional caring responsibilities state the same.

The charity commissioned YouGov to survey 755 British parents with children 18 years old and under, who were either working or on flexi-furlough in August this year. The results showed a wide gap in parents’ and carers’ experiences of flexible, family-friendly working practices.

Nearly half (44%) disagreed that their senior leaders are positive work-life balance role models, while more than a third (38%) said that the people who work the longest hours are the most respected by managers.

However, on the upside, 41% said the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic had impacted positively on workplace culture at their organisation, and 50% noted greater acceptance of wellbeing and mental health conversations than before the pandemic, rising to 61% for carers. In addition, more than half (54%) said their organisation supports parents and people with caring responsibilities effectively.

More than a third (36%) of working parents, and almost half (48%) of carers reported that, now that lockdown is over, they worry taking time off for caring needs will be frowned upon at work.

Jane van Zyl, CEO of Working Families, said it was “depressing” that in 2021 many women and those with caring responsibilities are finding that it is hampering their career.

She acknowledged that increasingly high numbers of managers and leaders are recognising the benefits of family-friendly ways of working, but added that there are still “pockets of resistance” across sectors, warning that “those resisting positive change will find it comes back to bite them.”

Pointing to the importance parents put on work-life balance, Van Zyl said: “Faced with a choice between an employer who puts effort into employee wellbeing and one that celebrates unhealthy working practices, I think we can all guess where the best and brightest talent is going to go.”

She added: “This National Work Life Week, we want to encourage employers to build back from Covid with increased focus on helping their teams get the balance between work and home right, and use it as an opportunity to have some open conversations with their employees about the change they want to see.”