The Mummy Problem

David Farmer our consultant managing the role
Posting date: 5/23/2016 11:52 AM
As a manager of a recruitment business, I am often called into meetings with organisations to discuss the challenge of attracting a diverse workforce. The expectation of us as an agency being to ensure we are doing as much as we can to create a diverse shortlist.

What strikes me about this is that as a supplier, we will be rewarded for sourcing candidates for these roles, so it is firmly in our interest to make sure we send the best candidate, no matter what sex, nationality or age. Also, positive discrimination (Affirmative action in the USA) is not legally acceptable in the UK, and therefore asking agencies to present diverse shortlists will potentially lead to more discrimination, rather than less.
Equally, I think that looking at the supply of candidates to solve the diversity problem is potentially looking in the wrong direction, and instead companies need to look at some of the things that they do, that prevent them from attracting a diverse pool of candidates.

There is a common trend in the meetings I attend. We work in a technical market where entry is dominated by men and where many clients struggle to attract women into management and senior management roles, and this is where I think that organisations are causing their own issues – namely the “Mummy problem”.

First and foremost, let me clear up any potential for accusations of sexist generalisations – the problem should be considered a “parent problem” rather than a “mummy problem”, but the challenge does seem to disproportionately impact the female workforce more than their male counterparts, so please forgive my use of this phrase.

The parent trap

The following example highlights exactly what I mean:

Chatting to a friend recently, she asked me for some advice. She was in the advanced stages of an interview process and liked the company. She has one child and was thinking of a second in the future. She had asked the organisation in question to send through their benefits package and had been sent it, but it didn’t include the parental leave policy. Her concern was that if she went back to the company to ask for this then she would immediately damage her candidacy, so she wanted to see if there was a way she could find out what their policy was without asking.

My advice was simple – ask them for it. If they’re not willing to share it with you or it does damage your chances of securing the role, then you don’t want to work for them anyway.

In this situation, the company in question sent it through to her, and all ended well with a job offer and a new role, but that’s not the issue at hand – the problem is her perception in the first place.

How many other female candidates withdraw from processes because they haven’t wanted to ask for a maternity policy? The lack of information available on these policies without asking directly for it seems very poor.

Had my friend not had the confidence to ask, the company would have missed out on someone they clearly wanted to hire based on her misconception.

Transparency is key

As far as I can see, the issue isn’t exclusively with externally advertising the policies. In researching this piece, I spoke to a client within a FTSE 50 company. She shared with me that she had been looking to leave that business to secure a role with better maternity benefits as the published policy suggested that she would only be entitled to statutory maternity pay and she was worried that if she asked anyone internally if this was the case, she would then be looked at differently.

It was only when she had found a potential role and approached a friend in their HR team about a question on notice period that she had an off-the-record conversation about the fact she was looking and was made aware of the fact that she was actually on an enhanced maternity package. She stayed in the business.

So we find ourselves in a situation where (some) female candidates don’t want to ask the question, and female employees don’t either. Either way, this should serve as a wakeup call for many organisations that they clearly must do more to communicate parental leave policies.

In my eyes, if these two examples are indicative of the norm, then the solution for companies is simple – it all comes down to communication…

Knowledge is power

Detail your parental leave policy in your benefits package. Almost all the packages we see from organisations have a thorough breakdown of all potential benefits, however barely any has any detail regarding parental leave. Companies, of course, want to hire people who will spend many years in the business, but in my eyes, they’re simply not doing enough to show what that would involve.

As a new father, I know just how important these conversations of maternity and paternity leave are when considering children, so companies need to consider this when selling roles to potential hires.

One thing I have reflected on when writing this – is there a reason for companies to be secretive on parental leave policy? Is there a fear of other organisations learning these benefits? Is the fear that employees will feel hard done by at a junior level when their policy is not enhanced? I haven’t been able to pinpoint the answer, and whilst I have asked a number of people about this, and can’t find a conclusive theme, I would appreciate people’s thoughts.

Related blog & news

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Weekly News Digest: 10th - 14th May 2021

This is Harnham’s weekly news digest, the place to come for a quick breakdown of the week’s top news stories from the world of Data & Analytics.       Personnel Today: Mental Health Awareness Week: Concerns up 24% from last year It was Mental Health Awareness week this week, and this year, the focus was on the theme of nature. Personnel Today revealed some worrying statistics on the back of research from Close Brothers into the state of the population’s wellbeing in 2021.  Reports of mental ill-health has increased by nearly a quarter since this time last year as a direct consequence of the stresses and strains of COVID-19. From yo-yoing in and out of lockdowns to extended periods of isolation, job uncertainty and illness, this year has been like no other and it’s most certainly taken its toll.  63 per cent of 16–34-year-olds report mental health worries, up a seventh from last year.For those who are 55+, this worry has risen by a third. In this piece, it is made clear that the underlying issue lies not only with COVID-19, but the lack of support given by employers. The research revealed that 70 per cent of employers don’t have a wellbeing budget in place, and only 8 per cent of firms invest more than £126 per employee each year in health and wellbeing.  To read the full research, visit Personnel Today here.  Towards Data Science: 5 unique skills every Data Scientist should know We know that career tip articles for Data Scientists can all feel pretty ‘samey’. But this article in Towards Data Science mixes up the usual advice, looking at how those in, or aiming to be in, the industry need to brush-up on their softer skills if they are to be successful.  Tips include: Cutting down the jargon in order to communicate effectively with stakeholders. Don’t be hasty to overpromise, or you’re at risk of seriously under-delivering. Become friendly with your team’s software engineer, they’ll only be able to help you be more efficient and effective in your role.  Of course, there has to be some mention of coding in there – it wouldn’t be a data-based article without it. Make sure you’re mastering your SQL Optimisation. Don’t leave your Git out in the cold, become familiar with the practice to ensure you can update your model code quickly.  To read the full article, click here.  Analytics India Mag: What SMBs can learn from Big Tech’s AI playbook? AI has come on leaps and bounds in a short space of time, and its popularity has boomed. For the monster-sized companies, where budget is of no question and innovation can happen overnight if need be - embracing AI has been a total no-brainer. Workflows become more efficient, technology becomes smarter, and the scope of growth seems infinite.  However, despite all the benefits of AI that are so regularly shouted about, it’s been clear since the birth of the technology that there’s a huge divide in those who can and those who cannot afford to implement this innovation.  Up until now.  In this piece from Analytics India Mag, author Ritka Sagar, highlights how SMEs are finally finding ways to become ‘inventive’ with how they implement and use AI systems without breaking the bank.  To read how SMEs are managing this, click here. Silicon Republic: For smart cities to work, they need to be neutral and objective The concept of a smart city seems like something out of a futuristic, sci-fi film but, in fact, they are closer to becoming a reality than we may think.  The idea being that urban areas use sensors and other electronic methods to collect data. From citizens to traffic, water supply networks to crime detection, all of these assets of life, and more, are monitored, data collected, and insights given to make ‘life’ more efficient.  On the surface, it’s all very cool, but there are, of course, worries that come with it. In this Silicon Republic article, Computer Scientist, Larissa Suzuki, discusses the importance of ‘neutral and objective’ smart cities if they are to work.  She says; “Data and services in smart cities must be neutral and objective when reporting information about the city environment. They should encompass the entire population and respect data licences, regulation and privacy laws,” she said. “In a similar fashion, the digital services and the backbone technology – including algorithms – should be free from any ideology or influence in their conception, operation, integration and dissemination.” To read more on the future of smart cities, visit Silicon Republic here. We've loved seeing all the news from Data & Analytics in the past week, it’s a market full of exciting and dynamic opportunities. To learn more about our work in this space, get in touch with us at info@harnham.com.     

Using Data Visualisation To Bring Data & Analytics To Life

The majority of the human population are visual learners. Our brains are wired in such a way where we can register 36,000 visual messages per hour, and visuals are processed 60,000 times faster than text. In short, one of the best ways to truly assimilate and understand new-found knowledge is through clear and digestible imagery.  Because of this valuable insight, we are now witnessing the fast-growing trend of Data Visualisation. Over the next six years, the value of Data Visualisation tools is expected to reach $19.2 billion, over double what it was in 2019.  Data & Analytics is one key area where data visualisation is used continuously. The raw data collected on a daily basis by Data Analysts can be incredibly time-consuming to sift through, not forgetting near-impossible to form palatable findings from. However, through the use of data visualisation tools such as graphs, heat maps, charts and infographics, confusing, text-based data can be transformed and brought to life. So, how can Data Visualisation help your business? Greater understanding of your data As Lydia, our Senior Recruitment Consultant, stated in her most recent article – data insights have the capability of not only improving decision-making, but also allow you to spot key trends, errors and predict future challenges. Nevertheless, all of these brilliant capabilities of data insights can only occur when teams can garner an in-depth understanding of the data being presented to them.  Without a background in statistics, which very few members of any team would possess, the raw data simply wouldn’t mean anything, and key insights could be missed. Utilising data visualisations not only makes data more tangible, but it also allows every team member to understand the data, make decisions and implement changes more efficiently. Standing out from the competition The effectiveness of Data Visualisation is no secret, and time and time again it’s been proved that this way of presenting data is far more likely to produce results than simply reviewing text.  Research within Analytics Insight reported that businesses using data discovery tools are 28 per cent more likely to find timely information compared to their dashboard-using counterparts, and 48 per cent of business intelligence users at companies with visualisation tools are able to find the information they need without the help of a specialist team.  Nevertheless, despite the incredible benefits, only 26 per cent of businesses globally are using data visualisation tools.  While the reasons for this slow uptake are varied, it’s clear that those companies who are willing to invest in Data Visualisation are far more likely to stand a head above their competitors. It can improve customer experience 98 per cent of companies will use data to help drive a better customer experience, but it doesn’t always mean that this data is collected, managed or presented well.  Data is, and should be, used as a way to back up what brands are saying, especially if they’re shouting from the rooftops about how fantastic they are.  When a business or brand uses accurate Data Visualisation to tell this story – for example, the percentage of consumers who report high levels of customer satisfaction, or the amount of money donated to CSR projects – audiences will respond much better than if the claim appears to be empty words without any evidence.  Data Visualisation is undoubtedly one of the most effective ways to communicate data, both internally and externally. The comprehensible formats available enables information to be processed with ease, and for learnings and understandings to be absorbed and implemented with much more efficiency than text-based raw data. It’s clear that this trend is only going to grow in popularity as businesses begin to put more investment behind it in order to reap the benefits and watch the positive impact on their bottom lines prosper.  For examples of how Harnham uses Data Visualisation, head over to our recent research reports.  If you're looking to take the next step in your career or build out your Data & Analytics team, we can help. Take a look at our latest opportunities or get in touch with one of our expert consultants to find out more. 

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