Maternity Care - AT WORK. A Good Idea or Distraction from Real Challenges?
Mark.Freed / 20 Feb 2020
I was recently approached by Justine McNulty, a fantastic and inspirational women, to discuss how we can help in the launch of her new business – Mobile Midwives. Mobile Midwives will bridge the gap between the NHS and professional women by providing maternity care directly to them in the workplace.
To be honest I am not sure how I feel about services like these. So I thought I would present both sides of the argument to you and ask for your views.
Justine’s value proposition is:
"Our mission is to bridge the gap between the NHS and professional women, giving every woman access to personal, professional and convenient maternity care.
The gender ratio within financial services sector in London is about 40/60 women/men. The average age of an employee within the financial services sector is also the prime childbearing age.
Women will have, on average, 13 antenatal appointments during a pregnancy. Women will take between four hours up to a full day paid leave to attend each 15 minute NHS appointment. This equates to between 7 and 13 working days out of the office per pregnancy, with the average woman having two children during her working life.
For a large company this will have a massive impact with a high proportion of the workforce being women of childbearing age. Financially, this means losing productivity of a woman for up to 13 working days per pregnancy. Inevitably, this will also affect any team she works with/in, ultimately influencing the profitability of the business.
We are a team of midwives offering one to one high quality maternity care directly in the workplace. The services we offer will greatly benefit your business and employees. A service like this will also help to develop your company’s inclusive culture, and help you to find and retain an increased female workforce, inevitably improving your company’s diversity position and employer value proposition."
I have worked hard to try and lay out a counter argument:
CEO’s and boards who should be taking responsibility for driving diversity have outsourced the challenge to HR. HR departments solutions are often based on their own experiences/desires – flexible working, creches, maternity leave, menopause support – all valid. However this work distracts from some of the more immediate and harder challenges faced by ambitious women in pursuing a career at senior levels in the industry - negative micro cultures, permafrost layers of management, masculine trait leadership bias, old boys networks, nepotism et al. We will accelerate progress in closing the gender gap in the industry by focussing effort and limited resources on addressing these issues rather than trying to maximise productive hours for pregnant women.
When I ask our members what they want from an employer/manager/role, the most common answers are opportunity, challenge and recognition in an inclusive environment where they can succeed on merit. They do not want gender to define them, their prospects or reward. They want to be treated as an individual.
This is relevant because I regularly ask hiring managers and talent managers about their value propositions for female employees. I want them to tell me why the women that they want to attract, recruit and retain should be interested in working at their firms.
No one has ever replied with words to the effect of, “Well, if we’re looking at a senior female employee, we want to know what she wants. Understanding her needs, ambitions and desires will help us explore what we can do to make this an attractive proposition for her.”
Instead, I get told about flexible and agile working, maternity and childcare policies, crèches and women’s networks. There’s nothing inherently wrong with these, of course, but as a stock answer they are becoming increasingly frustrating. They are the stereotypical needs of a woman of a certain age at a certain point in her career.
The gender pay gap that firms are looking to close is among top-quartile earners. The industry is crying out (if you believe the D&I statements) for women to join the top ranks of organisations. Now, are these likely to be women who are attracted by a crèche or a mobile midwife service?
I am just not sure that the headline ‘xxx Bank to offer its pregnant staff mobile midwife services’ is beneficial in moving the industry forward.
We would appreciate your thoughts and views.
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