Every week I open my emails and read messages from working Mums searching for a coach.
Whilst I offer leadership, career and maternity coaching, nine times out of ten, it’s working mums who get in contact with me directly. Women seeking the help I wish I had had during this period of change.
Don't get me wrong, it's great for my business, but it leaves me wondering what is missing at their workplace that these women feel they need to look for help elsewhere.
It Starts With Empathy
Working mums admit to me that they don't feel there is necessarily anyone in their organisation who can offer the support they need. No realistic role models they can talk to who have the relevant experience and knowledge to pass on to others.
My clients say that they come to me because they feel I can relate; I’ve navigated the ups and downs of two maternity leaves. I understand the physical and emotional challenges that come with transitioning from pre-baby life to a post-baby life.
I help by listening to what they are experiencing, offering alternative perspectives and working with them to create strategies for managing what they are experiencing at work, and at home.
The Challenges Working Mothers (and Fathers) Face
Apart from the usual concerns around flexible working and managing priorities both at work and at home, parents are keen to find solutions to more complicated issues:
- What does success look like for me now I am a parent and have more competing demands on my time and energy?
- Where do I fit in to my organisation having been on extended leave?
- Will my organisation still welcome my contributions, even if I need to deliver them in a different way?
- How can I be a positive role model both at home and at work?
- How do I have these conversations with my boss without them seeing me differently?
This tells me that women are looking for more understanding and reassurance from their workplace, and in my opinion, more open conversation about ways to manage and flourish in this period of change.
This year’s International Women’s Day was focused on #BalanceForBetter: a call to accelerate our need for gender-balanced businesses and to recognise and celebrate the ‘social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.’
If organisations are really serious about celebrating and developing their female talent, at all levels, it’s seems really important that women feel they can openly have the right conversations: meaningful and supportive conversations.
Organisations need to acknowledge that this period of change is not just about what maternity leave is available (although this is a very important part) but to also recognise what options women have to successfully incorporate this transition into the workplace, without it affecting their career ambitions.
So, what more can organisations do to empathise with their talent and develop the careers of working mums and dads?
1. Champion Their Return
New parents need a reason to return; whether that’s an understanding of continued career development, truly adaptable working patterns or the offer of support from a coach or mentor like myself, inside or outside the organisation, who can listen to their concerns objectively and offer solutions. Show them that you understand this period of change and help them feel positive, not anxious, about returning to work.
2. Show Them It Can Be Done
Develop your existing pool of talented working parents, and build a culture of your own mentors. Show the world that careers don’t suffer after having children; with your organisation, they adapt and they flourish. Not only will this help new parents, but it’ll attract new talent and retain your existing staff.
3. Normalise The Conversation
Create workplace procedures that encourage real conversations before, during and after maternity and paternity leave. Demonstrate that your organisation acts on the needs of your staff and that parents can feel comfortable discussing their changing needs within your organisation.
Coaching For Success
Coaching is just one part of a wider web of support that organisations should consider. As I shared in my blog Working After Babies, I realised my career, as I viewed and interacted with it, was never really going to be the same again after children. Like the working mums that contact me for guidance, this realisation feels like reaching a metaphorical bridge between the world pre-baby and the world post-baby.
We need to know how to cross this bridge, who will help us and what will happen to us when we get to the other side.
Hiring a professional maternity coach to help returning mothers, and fathers, re-integrate back to work, is just one simple step organisations can take. Companies that empathise with working parent’s needs and offer tangible, effective solutions will be those that reap the benefits for years to come.
Empathy is a great place to start.