2021 We are still challenging the perceptions of women returning to work

Author: Amy Fitzgerald

I work across client services within the creative division so a huge part of my role involves finding candidates that I think are going to be a good personality fit for my clients. Getting to know them, who they are and what they like/do not like.

This is probably one of my favourite parts of my day job, I essentially get to be nosy. People share all kinds of things when they’re job hunting, their frustrations, their hopes for the future, things that went sour in previous roles. I try to use this to build up a picture of a person. As I work internationally, I very rarely get to meet my candidates. So, these conversations are all important in making sure I get it right.

Over the last couple of years, a conversation I have had repeatedly is the hurdles women face getting back into senior level roles after taking maternity leave.

I work with men and women across senior positions and the conversations with men very rarely factor in needing flexible hours to accommodate childcare, or explaining gaps on their CV for parental leave. They are more likely to be steadfast on their salary expectations, a more concrete sense of worth, less flexible on what they will take.
I’ve placed great women in roles where they have willingly taken a step back or salary drop, just to ‘get back into the room’.

I’m obviously not the hiring manager in any of these decisions but what I do know is I have to fight twice as hard to get my female candidates who have taken time off onto the interview shortlist. This is not a new conversation, and neither is my point of view particularly unique, but I would be interested to know why hiring mangers are so cautious to take on working mothers or to see time off as a red flag?

I also (passively aggressively 😊) wonder what the fallout would be if all the talented women decided not to bother being so flexible. But I guess that is not their problem? I think it is all our problem. Understanding that this shouldn’t be a female problem but a family problem seems to be key in this conversation. We may not all have children, and we may not all be women, but we do all have families in some shape or form. Looking after each other ultimately means looking after ourselves surely?

Organisations like Mother Pukka have been making the case for flexible working since 2015, flexible working for everyone not just parents. They have done some amazing work putting forward the case for happier employees, the benefits for employees and working towards the ultimate goal of making it a mandatory offering.

More and more when I speak to candidates, they are looking for flexible working, either flexible schedules overall, one day working from home, an early finish on a Wednesday. It is incredible how many agencies wont even negotiate on it. I honestly find it easier getting an extra €5k on top of a salary offer than a late start on a Tuesday to take the kids to nursery?

Since the pandemic hit, whilst it has undeniably piled the pressure on in other ways it has also confirmed that flexible remote working is an option. A great, successful option for many businesses. I am hoping this will continue to strengthen my argument when acting on behalf of candidates going forward even post pandemic.

I hope I am doing my part by representing these women, stating their cases to hiring managers and continually arguing their amazing selling points. HR love me 😊

By understanding the context for a woman’s absence or gap in her work history maybe we could move to the point where we all benefit from some work life balance, an understanding that life can be unexpected and sometimes will take first priority. And that ultimately a job is just a job.

Amy Fitzgerald

Author: Amy Fitzgerald
Amy is the Director of our Creative business and recruits accross the UK and globally for the packaging & design channel.

Connect with Amy at https://www.linkedin.com/in/amy-fitzgerald-22060643/
Tel: +44(0)1625 446060