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Trudeau made a huge call: but will businesses listen?

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Justin Trudeau is right to call on world leaders to hire, promote, and retain more women. However, businesses will continue to lose top talent if they don’t take steps to prevent mothers joining the ‘mumpreneur’ movement.

At the World Economic Forum Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called on political and corporate leaders to hire, promote, and retain more women.

“Not just because it is the right thing to do or the nice thing to do. But because it is the smart thing to do,” Mr Trudeau said in both French and English (*swoon*).

While Trudeau lays out the economic and social benefits for doing so, the lingering question remains: how?

It’s all well and good to hire more women, but if we want to see more women in leadership positions then the focus should lie on promotion and retention.

I am one of an increasing number of women who have founded their own business in a bid to create the flexibility I need to be successful, both as a professional and as a mother: a mumpreneur, if you will.

To understand why businesses are failing to promote and retain women, you only need to listen to the countless mumpreneurs who share stories similar to my own.

Starting my own business was never on my agenda. In fact, I had actually voiced to my friends my aversion to the idea. The majority of my working life I was an Executive Assistant followed by a few years in the HR space. I was happy and content working hard for others in return for a reliable salary.

This all changed when I had my twin daughters in May, 2014. The reality of returning to work with two young children hit home: the outrageous cost of childcare, long commute times, and vivid memories of a 10-hour workday.

So I set about creating for myself the two most important things a workplace could offer me: flexibility and economic independence. In April 2015, 11 months after the birth of my daughters, I launched my business and their namesake Sage&Luna. And I’m not alone. According to research by Ernst Young for Mums & Co, over 40 percent of mums who run their own business began when they were pregnant or on parental leave.

Since launching, I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of observing, meeting, and working with countless amazing female entrepreneurs, lots of them mothers or ‘mumpreneurs’. The majority of these women are creating their own business for the exact same reasons as I did: flexibility and financial security.

Flexibility is both the top motivator for starting a business and the top benefit for running a business, according to the Australian mumpreneurs surveyed by Mums & Co. These women are whip smart and there are literally thousands of them - I am in a Facebook community with 50K+ members. These mumpreneurs are hard-working, collaborative and financially successful. More importantly, they are working in a way that allows them to be both a mother and a breadwinner.

The real question, what I just don’t understand, is why aren’t organisations doing everything they can to prevent these amazing women from leaving? Why aren’t they adapting their workplaces to be flexible to suit the needs of parents?  

Working traditional hours 9-to-5 hours, in a traditional work environment is not the only way to run a successful business. Mumpreneurs are the proof of this. According to the Australian Government’s Office for Women, one in every three women who own a business `work more than five days a week, and one in five do more than 49 hours of work each week. Clearly, women aren’t necessarily interested in working shorter hours. Flexibility is the key.

So what is preventing these businesses from providing the flexibility these talented business women need? It certainly can’t be a lack of resources, since mumpreneurs are proving they can pull things together with limited resources. I started Sage&Luna with $6000, a computer and an idea - so surely an established organisation can provide the tools for flexible work?

It must be because traditional businesses either:

  1. Can’t be bothered to adjust their processes to support flexible work - I hope not!
  2. Don’t realise this is what women need to work to their full potential - I doubt it considering all the surveys are saying the same thing.
  3. Don’t know how to implementing flexible work strategies.

If you own a business and your answer is C, then this is really easy to fix. Just. Ask.

Ask the mum down the road how she looks after three kids while running a successful business. Ask the mother returning from parental leave what would really suit them. Better yet, start the conversation before she goes on maternity leave. When designing new roles, ask yourself why it has to be restricted to a 9-to-5, office-bound position. Question what is necessary to do the job and how to retain these valuable employees.

Women are proving they can make it work. A 2013 study by Ernst & Young showed that women who work in highly flexible roles waste less time and are more productive than all other workers.

Mumpreneurs are showing that women truly can ‘have it all’ and we are happier as a result (well 77 percent are anyway, according to Mums & Co’s survey).

With the cost of childcare skyrocketing employers, will keep missing out on top talent if they continue to ignore the real flexibility parents need.

PS - featured picture is of m breastfeeding my 4 month old baby while walking when we were doing a photoshoot in London, because, you know, us chicks can do mother and work at the same time.


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