How PR company Golin tackled the motherhood penalty

"It’s up to employers to promote employees on the basis of their output, regardless of the hours they work."

The Institute for Fiscal Studies suggests that women earn 30% less than men by the time their children are 10 years old. PR company Golin has turned to returnships to support women looking to re-engage with their careers and draw on a vital pool of talent.

If we want to prevent the talent drain, future-proof our business and stay competitive and profitable, then business has no choice but to think differently. It’s time to support women through their entire career lifecycle.

A report out earlier this year from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) showed a 30% pay gap for working mothers by the time their children are 10 years old. A recent National Management Survey also found that men were 40% more likely than women to be promoted into management roles.

These are shocking and sad statistics, which means employers like ourselves need to do more. There’s not nearly enough flexible working on offer and, where it is offered, its frequently in low-paid roles with a lack of opportunity for promotion or development.

In March, the Women & Equalities Committee revealed that under-utilisation of women’s skills costs the UK economy up to 2% GDP, around £36 billion. In business terms this shows an enormous untapped resource.

Focus on output

Despite the scale of the debate around the motherhood penalty, the pace of change is too slow and the current culture of presenteeism still needs to be addressed. It’s up to employers to recognise this talent and promote employees on the basis of their output, regardless of the hours they work.

As a PR company, Golin has tried to ensure that the talented women in our industry are able to have a family and to have a leadership role. In recent years we have worked hard to make improvements.

We have driven uptake of flexible working for all, offer all roles on flexible terms and encourage men to take shared parental leave. All of which will help to close the pay gap and improve gender balance and female retention at the top of our industry.

These changes are working. Last year, 100% of our mums returned to us from maternity leave, 12% of our team currently has formal flexible working arrangements and 50% of our executive team are working parents with flexible hours.

All of our new roles are also now advertised as open to flexible terms.

Getting back to business

Perhaps the most exciting development is our returnship scheme and the Back2Businessship programme, which we run with co-founders f1 recruitment and Starcom Mediavest.

Back2Businessship is a free programme for parents who want to return to work after a career break, usually after caring for small children. It is currently the only scheme for parents in media, marketing and communications.

Over six sessions, the attendees receive workplace training and coaching worth up to £3,000. Course modules include rebuilding confidence, power mentoring, the world of work you left behind, practical CV and LinkedIn advice, career planning, finding flexible work and interview skills.

Last year, Golin followed the course with a three-month paid returnship placement at a senior level to one candidate, Laura Weston.

She is one of the best hires we have ever made and we subsequently hired her as our permanent marketing director. She has made a huge impact in our business and describes herself as having the energy and enthusiasm of a graduate with all of the experience of a senior leader.

A different perspective

I would thoroughly recommend offering a returner placement. According to Women Returners, there has been a seven-fold increase in returnships across a variety of industries since 2014.

These range from back-to-work courses to placements or paid project work. The schemes aim to bring experienced women back into senior level roles and usually offer flexible working options.

We all need to look differently at how and where we hire talent and banish the old-fashioned notion that because someone has a “gap” on their CV they can’t add value to a business. In women returners you have access to an untapped pool of experienced, highly-qualified pool of talent that is currently untapped by the rest of the industry.

Thankfully, more and more companies across all industries are tackling the gender pay gap head-on, but there is still a long way to go until women’s career prospects aren’t affected by motherhood.

Bibi Hilton

About Bibi Hilton

Bibi Hilton is managing director of PR company Golin. Please visit Back2Businessship for more information on its returnship.
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