Claire Roberts

The rise of the 'Mumback' and why we should be embracing it!

As a working Mum myself I was intrigued when I recently came across a phenomenon labelled as the 'Mumback', the term for a Mother's version of a career comeback coined by Lily Allen after returning to the Music business following a four year break concentrating on looking after her family.

From a recruiters point of view it got me thinking about the huge pool of talented women out there who are undoubtedly overlooked on a daily basis by both recruiters and employers simply because they chose to take some time out to look after their children in their early years and who unfortunately do not have the notoriety of Lily Allen to aid them. I also started to think about the huge number of women who returned to work after a period of maternity leave to maintain their career and rather than now “having it all” are more like “doing it all” and basically doing two full time jobs at once!

“As a working Mum myself I was intrigued when I recently came across a phenomenon labelled as the 'Mumback', the term for a Mother's version of a career comeback coined by Lily Allen after returning to the Music business following a four year break concentrating on looking after her family. From a recruiters point of view it got me thinking about the huge pool of talented women out there who are undoubtedly overlooked on a daily basis by both recruiters and employers simply because they chose to take some time out to look after their children in their early years and who unfortunately do not have the notoriety of Lily Allen to aid them. I also started to think about the huge number of women who returned to work after a period of maternity leave to maintain their career and rather than now “having it all” are more like “doing it all” and basically doing two full time jobs at once! “

It seems by doing the former and having a career break women will most certainly be at best halting their career, but more likely will be setting it back considerably with some never managing to return to their former industry due to the way a career break is perceived by employers in the UK. There seems to be a perception that women who have stepped away from the working world for a number of years will be somehow out of date , behind the times or lacking in drive and ambition, despite being able to demonstrate significant achievements prior to their career break.

From an employer’s point of view, the recent economic recovery and subsequent fall in unemployment seems to mean that a talent shortage is looming, if it’s not already here, and therefore companies need to think about how they can create a flexible working environment that allows women to do both roles to there best of their ability without having to worry about looking like they aren’t or feeling that colleagues resent them for receiving ‘special treatment’.

Please let me be clear here, by being flexible I mean just that.   I am not suggesting reduced hours, part time roles or less responsibility should be offered as a matter of course or that simply less work should be expected. I do not know a lazy working Mum, indeed those I do know are likely to be putting in more hours than they did prior to having children not less, as they are afraid of being perceived as not being able to juggle their commitments. But flexibility around when and where those hours are worked is key to enabling working Mum’s to meet all their commitments and as a result be more successful in their role.

Of course there will be employers who argue that flexibility is either unfair to other employees or simply impossible due to the nature of the job. That may be true and I certainly don’t think working Mum’s should be treated differently to other employee’s either as this can be a root cause for resentment amongst colleagues.   But encouraging a culture which values output rather than hours in the office and having an understanding of the benefits of a good work / life balance for all is certainly going a long way to being an attractive employer for all.

Creating a flexible working environment which benefits all employees equally will mean an overall happier and more balanced workforce who are in turn more productive and easier to retain. With women now making up 46% of the UK workforce I also believe that those organisations who do manage to do this will be the ones who attract and retain the best talent available in the future, particularly if they can refrain from making assumptions about the ability and motivation of women who have had a career break and instead think about ways to re-integrate them back into the workforce so they can make a valuable contribution.

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