Fake flexible work is hampering working mothers’ careers

varsha sarkar

August 10, 2023

4:40 pm

Working mothers have been denied promotions, forced to work frequently after hours, and subjected to “fake” flexible work arrangements where they are given fewer hours but expected to perform the same amount of work. These are some of the main conclusions of a survey conducted by Careering into Motherhood, a company that assists workers with career changes following parenthood.

In a poll of more than 2,000 working mothers, it was discovered that 65% of them believe their career options have decreased since returning from maternity leave, and over half believe flexible work schedules have hurt their chances of promotion.

90% of respondents claimed that becoming a parent has altered their work schedules, with 40% saying that they now spend more time working outside of regular hours on things like email responses.

According to a survey, 40% of moms who are employed report needing to accomplish work-related duties outside of regular business hours, raising questions about whether flexible work schedules are actually offered. According to Careering into Motherhood’s survey of 2,152 working mothers with kids under 18 years old, there are still reports of managers expecting full-time work to be completed in fewer hours and negative responses to the requests, even though the vast majority of working mothers (92%) say their employer is fully or partially receptive to flexible working requests.

Although it is lawful for employees to seek flexible work arrangements, only 38% of working mothers have done so, and 46% think that doing so will negatively affect their chances of getting future promotions. We are aware that flexible employment is a lifeline for many women, especially mothers, and that it is also beneficial to our economy.

However, employers must make sure that flexible options don’t disadvantage women or place unreasonable demands on them, such as expecting five days’ worth of work to be completed despite an employee working part-time hours and being paid for them, or limiting their career options because they work flexibly. Currently, 76% of working mothers think their careers have been more negatively impacted.

Two-thirds (65%) felt there have been fewer career opportunities for them since maternity leave. In addition to concerns over “false” flexibility, a recent TUC analysis reveals that women work, on an average, two more months each year for no pay than males.

Our strategy is on the adjustment to motherhood and the limitations on employment imposed by work hour inflexibility at the occupational level—in particular, the predominance of the 40-or-more hour work week and wage premiums to longer hours.

A modest body of research examines occupational disparities in mothers’ employment and finds evidence that women in professional and managerial occupations have more flexibility in their work schedules. Using cross-sectional data from the ACS, Landivar (2014) described heterogeneity in motherhood employment penalty across 92 occupations.

She discovered that while mothers in managerial and professional occupations were most similar to women without children in terms of employment, they also had the largest gaps in their work hours compared to women without children, indicating that these occupations allowed for greater flexibility in “scaling back” working hours in response to personal demands. Damaske and Frech (2016) plotted women’s employment experiences across the course of adulthood depending on socioeconomic, occupational, and family factors at age 25 using group-based trajectories and panel data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY79).

We are aware that working mothers frequently receive lower starting pay or are viewed as less committed to their jobs during pregnancy or after giving birth as a result of an implicit “motherhood penalty”. This study emphasises how crucial it is for managers and corporate cultures to genuinely comprehend the demands of working mothers, as well as to actively permit women to exercise flexibility so they can bring their best selves to work and help close the gender pay gap.

varsha sarkar

August 10, 2023

4:40 pm

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