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Flexible working affect mums' ability to progress in careers

COMPLICATED: 41% of mothers feel their flexible working is not viewed positively by their colleagues

NEARLY HALF of working mums think working flexibly has affected their ability to progress their career, although almost three quarters identify flexible work as crucial to getting more women into senior roles, according to Workingmums.co.uk annual survey.

The survey of over 2,300 working mums, sponsored by Nielsen**, shows the impact on women’s careers if they work flexibly - whether part time, some degree of homeworking, flexi hours or some other form of flexibility. According to the survey:

- 47% of those surveyed think flexible working has affected their career progression with 28% saying it hasn’t
- 52% of part timers say they have missed out on career progression opportunities or training
- 41% feel their flexible working is not viewed positively by their colleagues
- 29% feel discriminated against because of working flexibly

Yet it also shows that mums feel flexible working is vital for them to manage work and family life. In fact 60% of those who work flexibly would like more flexibility, such as more homeworking or more use of job shares, and 73% believe flexible working and flexi opportunities in senior roles are key to career progression.

Moreover, 51% are worried their flexible working will be taken away from them.

The lack of availability of senior flexible roles means many women have had to take pay cuts to get flexibility - 44% say they earn less than before they had children with just 27% earning more. The lack of women in senior positions in organisations is also a key contributor to the gender pay gap.

Far from the stereotype that flexible workers are less committed, 67% of mums feel they have to work harder because of unconscious bias in the workplace.

The survey also shows that many employers are losing experienced women because they cannot accommodate their flexible working requests:

-23% of women had had flexible working requests turned down by their employer
-19% had left as a result
-35% had the request turned down for a reason other than that allowed under flexible working legislation
-57% of those whose flexible working request had been refused while they were on maternity leave felt they might not return to work.

Gillian Nissim, founder of Workingmums.co.uk, says: “There is a clear link between the availability of flexible working, women’s career progression and the gender pay gap. Too many women are not achieving their potential because organisations just don’t understand the benefits all round of creating good flexible working opportunities."

"That is a waste of their skills and a loss to employers. It is not enough to retain women after maternity leave or attract them back through returner programmes. The culture has to be sufficient to enable them to stay. It is not just women, either. Growing numbers of dads are feeling frustrated at the strait jacket of 9 to 5 and want more input into family life. A work culture that does not recognise that the majority of employees have or will have families is not a culture that is fit for the future.”

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