Are a quarter of mothers discriminated against?

One in four moms have experienced discrimination in the workplace. What can HR do?

Are a quarter of mothers discriminated against?

It seems many companies are still not entirely supportive of mothers in the workplace, with one in four moms saying they have experienced discrimination because of their parenting responsibilities.

New research has found a quarter of mothers who have returned to work believe they have been subject to discrimination either before or after the birth of their children, and half of the women surveyed also felt that their employers’ and colleagues’ attitudes towards them had changed.

Being overlooked for promotion or seeing junior employees progress faster up the career ladder were common complaints, according to the findings from UK law firm Slater & Gordon.

Nearly half of the 2,000 working mothers surveyed felt having children had halted their career progression and one-third said rising up the career ladder as a mother was “impossible”, despite only 7% reporting that they struggled to perform as well at work as a consequence of becoming a parent.

“Despite the equality legislation in place, attitudes and working practices continue to block women in achieving their career aspirations,” Slater & Gordon lawyer Kiran Daurka said. “This report shows that there are still negative perceptions of women with children and this kind of attitude is short-sighted and bad for business.”

The findings match what many women experienced, according to blogger Anne Richardson, whose antenatal group of eight professional  women had similar difficulties.

“In my experience, these findings are typical,” Richardson said. “For some of the mothers in my group, the problems started before their babies even arrived.”

From a chief executive for a charity whose trustees told her 'no one ever comes back after having a baby' to mother fired from the PR firm the day after she discovered she was pregnant. It wasn’t just the blatant statements, Richardson herself and many of the others in her group struggled to balance their duties, and employers were not quick to support flexible solutions.

“Workplace obstacles for both pregnant women and those returning to work after maternity leave appear to be growing across all industries, and many barriers stand in the way of women who want to work, but also have a family,” Richardson said.

One mother in her group did find a way to work around her needs, and is leading the way in building a new picture of what “working mother” can mean.

"I decided I only wanted to work two days a week and my company created a job for me that would fit, and I now do a jobshare with another mum,” TV producer Thea Hickson said. “We work the same days together, and it's great to have two heads rather than one on projects. And if I can't make shoots or meetings, the company never makes me feel guilty. The company accepts you as your life changes."

What does your company do to support parents? Could you be doing more?

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