Men are more than twice as likely to be promoted after having children than women, according to research from Hays.
The Hays Gender Diversity Report 2017, which surveyed 5,400 professionals in the UK, found that 24% of men were promoted after having children compared with only 10% of women.
Women experienced a number of changes to their career after returning to work. Close to a third (31%) took a part-time role, and just over a quarter (28%) remained in the same position at the same hours they were doing prior to starting a family. Fifteen per cent of women resigned to look for more flexible work, while 6% opted to become self-employed.
However, progression after having children was not an issue for the majority (79%) of men, who either retained their current role or moved into a more senior one.
Yvonne Smyth, group head of diversity at Hays UK and Ireland, said employers should do more to help those returning to work. “Our report highlights that while parents have the freedom to choose how they want to progress their career after starting a family, the majority of women who choose to continue their career are less likely to be promoted or continue at the same level.
“For those returning to work after a career break, employers should look to improve the transition process so they feel they have the opportunities to progress their careers, should they wish to. For example, our report found the majority agree that structured return to work programmes will help towards bridging the gender gap, and encourage more people back into work."
She added that this could help both men and women. “Encouraging equality when returning to work can start before parental leave begins by improving communication to make it more culturally acceptable for parents to split their leave, or take flexible working upon return, thereby helping both men and women,” she said.
An increasing number of employers reported that they are now offering structured return to work schemes to encourage and support parents who wish to return to the workplace, as well as ‘returnships’ for external cohorts of mid- to senior-level female professionals. Around one in eight (15%) respondents said return to work programmes were currently in place in their organisation, with more than two-thirds (70%) believing there would be greater gender equality if more return to work programmes or similar were introduced.
One example is Deloitte’s Return to Work programme, open to anyone who has taken a voluntary career break of two years or more. It is designed to refresh knowledge and skills, and boost the participants’ confidence. Two-thirds of the people who joined the programme last year have now moved into a permanent or contract role with the firm.
Emma Codd, managing partner for talent at Deloitte, said the scheme has been very successful. “Deloitte’s Return to Work programme, which launched in 2014, was a first within our industry,” she said. “It is an important part of our concerted efforts to increase the number of senior women at the firm. To date, the return to work programme has enabled 39 women to re-enter the workplace and restart their careers. These women bring not only their skills from their previous roles but also those that they have built during their time out of the workplace. We are incredibly proud of our programme and its participants, and look forward to seeing them go from strength to strength.”