Champions of Parental Leave
Here at Bloom HQ, we know that returning from maternity leave is a challenge. We know because countless women have told us so. Every time we put out a survey asking for event suggestions, people ask us to run events about the return to work. Women come up to us after events and ask us about helping improve the return to work. Women email us about how hard it is, and how unsupported they felt.
They weren’t talking to us about pay or packages or time off. They were talking about struggling with their new identity after returning to the workforce as a parent. About feeling guilty about having to leave work to take care of a sick child. About going back to work too early for fear of losing their position, or status, or confidence. Or that the world would move on too quickly whilst they were out caring for their children, and they’d never be able to catch up.
We know that senior women priorities family over work, when work just doesn’t work for them. And that’s totally fine. What’s not fine is when women want to stay in their job, stay in the industry, remain working, but the support and understanding from employers just isn’t there.
So we heard the call.
And now we’re responding.
Our Champions of Parental Leave panel discussion was focused around creating a culture of people who understand the challenges parents face on the return to work, and can help make the workplace a more understanding and supportive place to be.
But that’s not going to be enough to make the whole industry family-friendly.
So we have dedicated a workstream to understanding the challenges, and helping employers to make changes that make the work life balance that bit easier for parents.
Kelly Ling is heading up our Champions of Parental Leave working group, if you interested in getting involved, send us an email. During phase 1, they will speak to parents in the industry that have been through the return to work phase about their experiences, good and bad. They will speak to parents in agencies, corporates, small businesses. They will speak to account handlers, media buyers, creatives, marketing managers, comms leads.
From there, Kelly and her team will take their findings to the industry. To business owners, HR directors, and those that head up marketing teams, to understand exactly what the barriers are to meeting the needs of parents, and how we can start to break those down.
The end result will be some form of charter or gold standard that employers can sign up to, to start improving parents’ experience of life at work.
The panel discussion
Our all-parent panel included:
Kathryn Strachan, Head of Copy & Managing Director, Copy House
Sarah Shamash, Marketing & Digital Recruiter, Change Recruitment
Tricia Wilson, Senior Account Manager, The Yard
Barry Fearn, Co-Owner & Managing Director, Lane Media
All expertly managed by Ruth Shewan, who was our Chair for the night. And their discussion is helping us to shape the proposal for the Champions of Parental Leave working group.
There were some great discussions and revelations that came from the discussion. My key takeaways are: communication, trial and error, and confidence.
Communication, communication, communication
Sarah spoke about the different ways her employer kept her looped into the business whilst she was off. Not day-to-day work related questions, but the big stuff. The stuff that, had she not been kept looped in, could have blind sided her when she came back. Changes to people in her team. The strategic direction of the business. They also invited her to company events to keep in touch with colleagues.
Another type of communication Sarah spoke about was that her manager asked her how she would like to be supported. She gave Sarah the platform to think about what life would be like for her returning to work as a parent, what what she’d need from the company to thrive and grow.
Trial and error
There are plenty of different ways employers can improve work for parents. Flexible or remote working. A return to work buddy system. Mentoring, coaching and additional management. Condensed hours. Part time positions. Job shares.
Barry spoke about his concerns when her was implementing a new flexible working policy within his agency. He set core working hours from 10am - 4pm, and thought that the office would empty at 4pm, with no one left to even answer the phone.
So he started it as a trial to see what would happen. And it just worked. Parents were able to drop off their kids, then come into the office, and stay a bit later in the evening. Not only that, but people who dove to work were able to miss the traffic by shifting their working pattern an hour forwards or backwards to suit their lifestyle.
People could make personal appointments and not have to worry about getting it approved by a manager because they could be in during the core working hours.
It didn’t just benefit parents. It benefitted everyone.
It doesn’t matter what subject we’re chatting about at Bloom Scotland, most conversations come back to a question of confidence. We see it holding our members back time and again. So we try and challenge the, and get them out of their comfort zone. Show them just what they’re capable of.
Being out of the business for 3, 6, 12 months or more can seem like a daunting task. I feel like I can’t remember how to do my job when I’ve been on holiday for a week!
There are a number of ways that the panel discussed that women can get their confidence back on their return to work. Sarah suggested she goes through the CVs of women she’s recruiting and asking them about their contribution to projects and jobs. Companies can do this for their employees to. Remind returners just what they’re capable of.
Another way is to get a coach or mentor. Someone outside of the business that you can talk to when you’re struggling, and that can give you the boost you need to get back on that horse.
It’s down to every single one of us to work together to make the working environment better for parents. Challenge your employer to speak to us. Ask about flexible working policies. Check in with new parents (and not so new parents!) to see if the way your work is set up can help support them better.
And, if your a business in the marketing industry, or with a marketing team, and want to be on the vanguard of making the industry as family friendly as possible - get in touch. We want to hear from you.