- Raising the Debate
everyone with value and respect
Good companies understand that to compete effectively in today’s global
marketplace they have to be flexible, adaptable to change, highly
skilled and able to attract and retain the best employees. Many
businesses know it makes sense to have a diverse workforce. The
economic benefits of tapping into all of the talent available to meet
particular skills gaps are clear – businesses don’t want to find that
they are excluding talented people because of barriers and prejudices
in their working practices or policies.
Whilst we embrace equality between men and women in the workplace, this
is a strange debate. We are different – men and women have different
aptitudes and we are different biologically. There is also tremendous
societal pressure on women to be the primary care-giver and the experts
say it is better that children are raised by women.
This is a difficult area. The reality is that women have to make
decisions that very few men have to. The BIG choice for women is career
As a senior manager in a major multi-national, it was always difficult
when very able women came to me and said they now wanted to start a
family. As an organisation we certainly did not want to lose these
talented and capable employees so we had to consider how we could help
them raise children AND still be present in the workplace?
Many companies have appropriate structures and policies in place to
address some of these issues – flexible working, more opportunities for
men to take a caring role and so on – and these are very important.
However the fact remains that a gap in a career does make a difference.
By taking time out to raise children, women are not able to put the
same amount of time into their career as men. Change is now so quick,
both in organisations and in knowledge, that if you miss any time, then
you are out-of-date. Women who take a career break lose out on building
their business knowledge and experience. This results in a difference
in productivity which is in turn reflected in status and salary
The big question for organisations is how to put mechanisms in place to
help women who take a career break to maintain their position?
Women can also do a lot to help themselves – things such as keeping in
touch with colleagues whilst they are away, arranging to receive their
emails, organising a weekly update meeting, keeping up-to-date with
developments in their sector, these are all possibilities. It’s human
nature that if someone is out of the office for any length of time,
they may get forgotten. Women should consider what strategies they
could employ to maintain their visibility.
And yes, it does take discipline to maintain this contact and
visibility – it is a choice women have to make.