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Mothers are more efficient – so why are they cheaper?

Agency Iceberg is passionate about helping new parents return to the workforce. Raising a family is the responsibility of both men and women, yet women often face a pay cut or reduced salaries to get back into the biz.

Agency Iceberg Director Anna O’Dea penned this piece for Australian career publisher Womens Agenda on the topic and has published an abridged version here. What do you think? Has this happened to you?

If mothers are more efficient – why are they cheaper?

A recently released Ernst & Young study found working part-time are the most productive in the workforce and I have to agree. Many of my clients and colleagues specifically ask for mothers for part time roles as they are more likely to cope with the complexity of multi tasking, managing stakeholders, time management and inter office politics which come with people who have been in an organisation for a long time.

Yet 70% of the women I represent returning to work in advertising, marketing and public relations are willing to drop their salary expectations by at least a third of what they previously earned and also, take a more junior level role to what they previously worked in.

Something’s not right here. Many working mums don’t have time to gossip. They’ve got bigger things to think about – like getting five days of work nailed in three. So why are they getting penalised?

Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? Yet we’re doing that very thing here in Australia.

Take a recent example of a high earning female leader under my representation. Pre-baby, she was regularly headhunted by competitor companies that wanted her onboard. Fast forward 12 months, she’s a new mum and can’t find any employers willing to take her on a part-time basis.

Another high profile female I spoke to recently had taken some time off to have a family and was ready to get back into the advertising workforce. No bites.

Women are encouraged to Lean In yet, in advertising, marketing and PR, agencies are very seldom willing to embrace alternative options as the workforce diversifies.

Men and women have the same challenges, ideas and dreams – yet women are forced to make a choice.

Where is the pressure coming from? Senior management? Society?

Are women feeling guilty for taking time off to have a family and devaluing themselves when they choose to return to work? Are employers still locked into the full time is the most efficient structure, when study after study says give people less time and they’ll achieve more?

Perception plays a large role in negotiation, particularly around pay.

Women are underpaid for a start across the board; making it challenging to illustrate the benefit of women’s skills and talents when widespread women are considered second-class employees.

Employing a part-time Mum or full-time Mum that’s coming back into the workforce, not only provides a sense of achievement for this person, but also adds valuable experience, loyalty and financial benefits to businesses.

Let’s use Hilary Clinton, a grandmother and esteemed leader, as an example.

A Human Rights advocate, Grandmother and possibly America’s first female President. At the ripe age of 67, Hillary Clinton is a champion for the modern day woman. As a politician alone, she has pushed the boundaries of common stereotypes that surround high-powered female business leader.

An intelligent, articulate, talented individual with years of experience and insights both men and women could only dream of experiencing during their career. Imagine if she opted to take a ‘grandmother penalty’ pay cut.

A confident, likeable leader in any business makes the difference between winning losing accounts, adds volumes of personality to a companies brand, attracts new consumers and place reassurance in peoples minds that the employer values men and women – equally.

Read the Womens Agenda piece in full here.




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