How can companies create a more supportive environment for working mothers?
Parenthood is one of the most rewarding experiences in life. Yet for all too many working mothers, the balance between work and family life is still full of challenges and discrimination.
Whether it’s the fear of negative consequences for taking time off, or the archaic societal expectations of women having to choose between family and career, the bias that a successful career is in conflict with motherhood continues to haunt women up and down the career ladder.
Without a doubt, gender diversity in the workplace has come a long way. Yet for women to achieve real equality at work, our culture around work and family life still needs an update.
For this to happen, it’s time to put more working women in the spotlight. People at all stages of their careers – men and women alike – need to hear more success stories of women spending quality time with their families AND achieving their professional goals. And there needs to be more recognition of policies, both in government as well as at the corporate level, which allow working parents the time and space to care for their families and support one another.
What does it mean to balance family and career success as we enter the 2020s and beyond? The story of Sophie Stevenson-Guibaud is one place we can look for inspiration.
Sophie is a valued member of PayU’s Fintech Advisory Board and a recognized fintech thought leader. For her work within the fintech industry, Sophie has received multiple recognitions such as Standout 35 2018 and 2019 by Innovate Finance, 35 Women under 35 from Management Today / The Telegraph and European Digital financial Services ‘Power 50’ from Digital Banking Club.
Currently occupying the position Chief Growth Officer of OpenPayd, a London-based BAAS company, she is looking after Marketing, Sales, Customer Success, Corporate Development with revenue oversight. Before joining OpenPayd, Sophie excelled as Head of Product Strategy and MD Europe at 2 European BAAS providers, Bankable and Fidor.
In a recent episode of our Ushare series, Sophie discussed her personal story as we put a spotlight on the various challenges that working mothers and mothers-to-be still face.
According to Sophie, here are a couple of hands-on pieces of advice for companies who want to support working mothers in general and working parents in particular.
Psychological safety can be defined as the ability to openly express oneself without fear of negative consequences. Without establishing a solid basis of mutual trust, companies face the risk of employees guarding themselves, withdrawing and disengaging. Putting maternity and family planning on the internal communication agenda can be a fruitful first step.
Employees (of all genders), who choose to proactively share their family planning intentions, should be empowered to do so. Opening up on such a private matter is a personal choice, but the ability to have an open conversation without fearing holdbacks can be beneficial to both employees and employers. An action point here is training the managers to lead supportive family planning conversations aiming at understanding personal needs and creating an action plan.
Establishing a solid plan, defining the steps and timings from the handover to the return to work is a key to success. Nevertheless, not everything always runs according to plan. Allowing flexibility is vital to this process and managers need to be prepared to act accordingly.
As stated in the latest edition of McKinsey’s “Women in the Workplace” survey:
With women often bearing the brunt and expectation of childcare, employers don’t always provide new fathers with the space and flexibility to attend to family priorities. For as long as the belief persists that women will handle the majority of housework and caregiving, many fathers will struggle to find managers wh understand and allow for men to make family responsibilities a priority.
In this way we can see the impact of both perceptions and official employment policies – and the importance of addressing both. To make it easier for women to feel supported at home as well as in the workplace, we also need to change our image of what is expected and allowed of working men.
Throughout our interview, Sophie shared a great deal of inspirational personal experiences around her maternity, the challenges she faced, and how she overcame them.
Watch the interview above to hear more from Sophie’s experiences and get inspired to create a more equitable working environment – wherever you are in your career.