Managing maternity differently

Woman in glasses talks on her mobile phone about maternity leave

Workplace policies that fail to create inclusion and equality risk costing businesses as talented professionals leave their workforce and go to rival companies or set up their own.

Business leaders and HR professionals joined Lisa Barnwell, CEO of Bumps and the Boardroom, for a seminar held at the Robert Walters head office in Covent Garden, looking at ways businesses can manage maternity differently and improve their workplace in order to become more diverse and inclusive to parents.

“As we bust the myths surrounding parenthood and the stereotypes around mothers and fathers in the workplace, businesses have the opportunity to help their talented people move from being good to great leaders, ultimately improving performance and profits,” said Lisa.

At the event, Lisa addressed some of the key changes businesses can embrace in order to attract, retain and promote their female talent and nurture the emotional intelligence of their employees.

Building well rounded leaders

While businesses have been focusing on diversity strategies and programmes, they will inevitably be ineffective if there is not an inclusive culture embedded in the DNA of the organisation - or investment to support change.

A culture of inclusion and equality needs to come from the top, and businesses that are able to build a talent pipeline high in EQ and IQ, with the full support of their CEO and Board will be the ones best placed to ensure they attract and retain the most talented professionals.

“Parents are often hesitant to acknowledge that the experience of parenthood will change them, particularly from a professional perspective,” said Lisa. “And data now shows that both sexes worry that they will be seen as lacking in skills, commitment or ambition when they start a family. But the changes that come with being a mother - or father - can spark personal growth that sets you up for future career success.”

“Businesses instead should look to harness the potential of ‘baby brain’ and the leadership potential that it offers.”

Five key business opportunities and challenges

Lisa outlined the core areas where businesses must take action in order to help build a diverse, cohesive and inclusive workplace:

  1. Manage maternity as part of your diversity and inclusion strategy – and include your learning and leadership development teams.  A strategy with measured targets needs to include mothers and fathers and look at all ways the business is supporting growth. 
  2. Invest in change and engage stakeholders across the business – Make a progressive approach to parenthood in the workplace a ‘need to have’, not ‘nice to have’.
  3. Harness the leadership potential of “baby brain” – Empower parents to value the journey of parenthood and its potential to enhance leadership skills
  4. Understand the changing attitudes of the Millennial Man – 53% of Millennial men would downshift to a less stressful career to help balance work and family commitments* so our approach to shared parental leave and Dads long term involvement needs to shift
  5. Create an inclusive culture that values talent – share stories of success and celebrate difference

Lisa Barnwell spoke at the Robert Walters event, Managing Maternity Differently, as part of the Robert Walters Empowering Women in the Workplace Programme. 

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