With International Women’s Day on the horizon, it got some of us in the leadership team here at Merson talking about how we, as women, navigate and reconcile two important aspects of our lives: family and work.
Whilst our home lives and family setups are very different, we all agreed wholeheartedly on one thing: that flexible working has benefited us immensely. Thanks to new ways of working, we’re not forced to choose between family life and a thriving career.
Of course, we acknowledge that this isn’t a problem faced solely by women. Yet, as it stands in 2023, they do represent many family caregivers. In fact, 62% of women provide more than 20 hours of weekly family care compared to 38% of men.
So, what does flexible working look like for us? Firstly, it means having some control over when and where we work, sometimes at short notice. After all, anyone who’s raised children will know that family life is anything but predictable! Whether it’s a poorly child or an even bigger curveball like pandemic school closures, caregivers need to feel able to adapt to ad hoc issues with the support and understanding of their employer.
For Liane, Head of New Business Development at Merson, this understanding has meant she’s been able to adapt throughout her career:
“It’s great that I’ve not had to choose between caring for my family or continuing to progress in my career – with hard work and a flexible and understanding employer, I have been able to do both”.
On an even bigger scale, flexible working is helping to close the gender pay gap. The sad reality is, in April 2022, women working full-time were still earning 8.3% less than men for similar roles. And when women return from a career break? They earn around a third less than male counterparts, taking a 12-32% pay cut.
Yet, flexible working means that women don’t necessarily need to take big chunks of time out of the workplace to prioritise raising a family. Long-term, this will help to bridge the gender pay gap and allow women to progress, even when working fewer hours. This is something that really resonates for Donna, our Head of Implementation:
“I was initially concerned that I would have to potentially halve my income coming back to work part time after maternity leave, however the flexible working approach has allowed me to progress my career and retain my income”.
Another way that flexible working can help is by ensuring that women are not overlooked when it’s time for promotions. Our current leadership team here at Merson is a testament to this, and we’re proud to have so many women thriving in senior roles. By keeping top female talent in work, flexible working helps employers benefit from a larger pool of qualified and experienced candidates for top positions.
We appreciate that flexible working is possible not only thanks to shifting views, but also due to technological advancements that allow hybrid working. From the boom in video conferencing to new online collaboration platforms, emerging tech is especially beneficial for family caregivers. This is something that Mel, our Head of Finance, has seen for herself:
“Having 2 children 14 years apart, I am in a good position to compare and recognise that the flexible working model we have now was not available 20 years ago – we have come a long way”.
The bottom line is flexible working is creating a more equitable world of work that benefits employees and employers alike. After all, 52% of women say that they have either left their job – or would consider leaving it – due to lack of flexibility. It’s clear that acknowledging and respecting women’s caregiving responsibilities is essential for employers who want to retain their most precious asset: top talent.
Plus, empowering women to stay in work and reach for top positions alongside caregiving responsibilities imparts diverse perspectives and a much-needed balanced view. This can only ever strengthen organisations, improving decision-making, knowledge-sharing, and innovation.
For us, flexible working is essential to our success here at Merson. Whilst raising a family and carving out a career is no mean feat; we’ve seen first-hand how a flexible approach makes life easier and workplaces better. The truth is, when women are supported to reach their full potential, everybody wins.
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