I speak to women every day that are totally frustrated by the lack of flexible working options available to them. Women like Louise who want to work but long commutes, expensive childcare and inflexible office hours have made it impossible for her to fit it around family life. For Louise, in fact, it became a stark choice between either seeing her kids or doing a job she loved. In the end she made the difficult decision to stop working and stay at home.
And Louise's story is hardly unique, her situation is echoed across the UK. This International Women's Day, there are highly skilled and talented mums everywhere that want to work, who are bold for change, but are unable to due to a lack of flexible working. Our recent research in conjunction with the CEBR, found there are currently 2.6 million mums not working in the UK. And of these seven in ten would return to work if flexible working was an option.
Here at Digital Mums we offer one solution; retraining in social media management so mums can work flexibly and remotely from home. And it's definitely helping - four in five of our graduates are currently working. But we need to be realistic too, there are 700 Digital Mums so far and that only scratches the surface of those who want flexible working. 2.6 million is a whole lot more mums than we can ever hope to train ourselves. A whole lot of incredible mums that are desperate to work if they could find the right job.
Let's end stereotypes around flexible working
So the problem certainly isn't a lack of enthusiasm from mums. The problem is an overwhelming number of businesses that are frightened of change. Businesses that are clinging on to a 9-5, coat-on-the-chair culture of another era. An endemic culture that exists amongst many British businesses that presenteeism equates to perfection. And it's this attitude that is preventing so many women, women who are bold for change, from working.
Of course we know that requesting flexible working is now a legal right but mums regularly share sorry tales of being fobbed off or of part times requests that are granted but come with a demotion thrown in for good measure. This International Women's Day it's time for more businesses to join the conversation. It's time to end the stereotypes around flexible working being a 'perk' for the lucky few, something to be tolerated but not embraced. To make flexible working, or #WorkThatWorks as we call it, a reality for as many women as possible it's time to educate the business sector.
Why flexible working can be the making of a business
There is no doubt there are businesses out there who are doing great things around flexible working. But it still feels they are the minority. What we need is to show businesses how adopting #WorkThatWorks can actually mean increased productivity and increased profits. Indeed in a recent survey by Vodafone 83% of respondents said adopting flexible working had resulted in improvements in productivity.
Here at Digital Mums we are the reality of embracing a #WorkThatWorks culture and making a success of it. It has enabled us to attract the best talent and grow our business by 600% over three years.
With 35 in our team, we adopt 100% flexible working for everyone. 86% of our team work part time and remotely. In fact 17% have never stepped foot in the office. Up until recently one of our team was even working remotely for us in South America when on a family sabbatical. Extreme granted. The reality is the only way we are going to truly support more women back into the workplace is for more and more organisations to become workplaces of the future. Focussing on the hours we sit at a desk is from a bygone era, instead we need to focus on productivity.
And flexible working isn't something that should be equated with part time hours. Take our Sales Manager for example, she is full time but equally picks up her kids from school most days. She fits in her hours to suit her lifestyle and working in the evening makes sense for her and us as a business.
More businesses need to embrace flexible working practices for their own good. Our recent research revealed the huge economic gap left by mums being unable to return to work because of a lack of flexible working options - up to £62.5 billion to be precise. And that's just mums. Let's not forget millennials who are increasingly asking for flexible working too.
So this International Women's Day, in today's highly connected world, let's put an end to women still having to choose between the two c's - career and children. As businesses let's stand together, embrace Work That Works and ultimately #BeBoldForChange.
Find out more about Digital Mums and #WorkThatWorks here.
Photo Credit: Ana Cuba
HuffPost UK is running a month-long project in March called All Women Everywhere, providing a platform to reflect the diverse mix of female experience and voices in Britain today
Through blogs, features and video, we'll be exploring the issues facing women specific to their age, ethnicity, social status, sexuality and gender identity. If you'd like to blog on our platform around these topics, email firstname.lastname@example.org