What Women Really Want

Do you know what Meg Whitman, Virginia Rometty and Gail Kelly have in common?

All three are a part of this huge community of incredibly successful working mums who have played a significant role in the success stories of their respective economies. Meg Whitman is the President CEO of HP and Virginia

Rometty heads technology giant IBM. With such dynamic women as leaders in an otherwise male dominated technology industry, they set a proud example for millions of working mums all over the world. Gail Kelly is another impressive woman, who epitomizes the definition of ‘supermum’.

As a mother of four children, this Westpac CEO has gone a long way following her marriage and the birth of her children. She completed her MBA while she was working and pregnant with her first child, and was promoted to being the head of human resources after giving birth to triplets.

The list of women who have scaled great heights in their respective careers despite having a family to take care of is too long to mention here. Unfortunately, the reality is that thousands of women all over the world feel the pressure to quit their jobs in order to look after their family, especially after child birth. While many might be able to strike that fine balance between their family and career, there is a huge population of women who have sacrificed their careers for a fulfilling family life. Although not willingly, when women have to make a choice between family and career, they tend to choose the former. And the world loses talented, productive, skilled members who could have helped spur the economy.

Being adept at multitasking comes naturally to women and if given a chance, they would readily love to make both their career and their family work. According to a research by Regus, an international company providing office spaces, working mothers all over the world had a lesser chance of getting a job in 2011 than in 2010. The results of this study indicated that a mere 36 percent of the participating companies were planning to hire mothers this year as compared to a brighter picture the previous year, when 44 percent of the companies said that they would be open to employing working mothers.

In South Africa, the trend is even more pronounced, with only 31 percent of all respondents stating that they would appoint more mothers, compared with the 51 percent prepared to do so in 2010 . “If one considers that better economic conditions are making more jobs available, it’s worrying that working mothers’ chances of being employed are on the decline,” said Joanne Bushell, Regus’ Vice-President for Africa and the Middle East.

This decline is possibly due to the preconceived notion about working mothers in the corporate world. There is a widespread misconception that working mothers tend to prioritise their family over their professional responsibilities and tend to be more demanding than their counterparts. A study suggests that while only half the working women want fewer hours, more than half are ready to trade their pay for a day off, and three quarters prefer flexible work options. To come to think of it, everyone, regardless of gender or marital status, would like that. The big question here is that what is in it for the companies? What are some of the good reasons that may entitle the working mums to such concessions?

For us, the answer is simple. Working mothers as employees offer some unparalleled advantages to businesses, such as:

  • Loyalty – working mothers are less likely to switch jobs frequently
  • Strong work ethics
  • Experience – better at multitasking (after all handling children and a career needs some skill!)
  • Maturity – women generally have a higher level of maturity and sense of responsibility

If statistics by branding agency Sparxoo are to be believed, a majority of the income growth over the past decade in the United States of America has come from women . Given the significant contribution of women workers to any country’s economy, this immense pool of talent remains underutilized in almost every nation.