I had a coffee with one of my mum friends the other day. She has just gone back to work after her second maternity leave and in the 9 months she has been away the successful, boutique agency she worked for was bought by a huge brand from the US. This company is a household name, known not only for what it does, but also for its values and approach. In her field, you know you’ve made it if you work for them. But the excitement of going back to work, especially to such a cool company, soon wore off. It quickly became clear that being a mum didn’t fit in with their brand. There is always beer in the fridge and yoga for lunch on a Thursday, but a request for flexible working was like asking for the moon, and the previously promised promotion turned into a sideways shunt.
For my friend, one of the worst aspects was how unexpected her manager’s reaction was. Although this company has a young, edgy image, a quick trawl through their website you can’t move for commitments to diversity, assertions of inclusion and epics about nurturing talent. The gap between the intentions (or at least assertions) of the organisation and experience of the employee made it much worse, and therefore her response more nuclear.
This is a mistake any of us can make. Most employers, especially large well-resourced ones, are pretty good at being employers. There’s a huge amount of information on the policies and procedures needed to avoid discrimination, generic platitudes about diversity all too easy to put on a website. The problem in workplaces is the gap between these intentions (policies) and the reality for the employees who work there (practice).
Admittedly this is not a scientific sample but these lunchers are experiencing the gap between what their employer intends and what happens in practice.
The Inclusive Employers Foundation has launched research into the gap between policies and practices, will identify solutions which have worked and create a tool employers can use to identify and close the gap. The project will explore:
My mate has given up, along with countless professional women, and will coast along until she gets a better offer. Her manager will no doubt see this as proof that he made the right decision, a mother working part time was never going to cut it in that senior job. If we can close the gap between what we say as employers, and how we behave as managers we will have taken a significant step towards inclusion.