Tag Archives: childcare

If affordable childcare is the answer for working mothers, what’s the question…?

30 Jan

How interesting it is to hear from the Department for Education that, if only childcare were more affordable and available, then more women would go back into the workplace. Its Childcare and Early Survey of Parents 2012-13 found that more than half of women (54%) currently staying at home with their kids would prefer to work. Just that they can’t afford to.

With the number of working mothers increasing from 60% in 2011 to 64% in 2012, and those working full time rising from 24% to 29%, more than half of mothers in work said having reliable childcare was “the most helpful arrangement which would help them to go out to work”.

The statistics show that nearly four in five families use some kind of childcare while during term times, whether that’s paid-for services like nurseries or childminders (64%) or grandparents, parents and friends (40%), or a mix of both (27%). And 46% of families with school-aged children used formal childcare in the holidays.

Some of the more interesting figures come from mothers already working:

  • 37% would prefer to stay at home and look after the kids if they could afford it.
  • 57% said they would like to work fewer hours and stay at home more with the kids if they could afford it.
  • 23% would like to work more if they could have affordable, convenient and reliable childcare.

From these statistics, working mothers would like to work less, and stay-at-home-mums would like to work more. All of which is dependent on flexible, independent childcare that doesn’t eat into most of the working mother’s income.

Great to have the stats, Department for Education. But what needs to change as a result of this survey is more affordability and reliability of childcare. So what’s the question…?


What the UK can learn from gender diversity in Australia

9 Sep

The UK is apparently behind Australia when it comes to attitudes to boardroom diversity, according to a report in People Management. It quotes former Australian government cabinet minister Ros Kelly saying she was surprised that the UK hadn’t made more progress in improving the number of women in the boardroom. She blamed the old boys’ network, commuting and entrenched cultural attitudes for holding women back.

While the Lord Davies review in the UK has rejected boardroom quotas for now – instead calling on voluntary measures to secure 25% female representation at board level in FTSE 100 companies by 2015 – many companies are unsure about meeting those targets. But in Australia there are stricter plans afoot, under the 2013 Workplace Gender Equality Act, to oblige companies with more than 100 employees to report their performance against a set of gender-related metrics.

Interestingly, a senior female executive in Australia – former investment banker Carolyn Hewson – has set out what she believes are two major ways to promote more gender diversity in the workplace: one, is to embrace the ‘nanny culture‘ – though the cost of nannies in Australia is said to be prohibitive  – and the second is to have more men working flexible hours, to do their share of the childcare.

While I like Ms Hewson’s ideas of men role modelling work-life balance, I suspect that what will make the most difference to diversity in the workplace will be when organisations are legally required to report their gender make-up. As the UK is currently suggesting, voluntary targets may not be enough of a driver. As with many things, it may be a case of ‘what gets measured gets done’.


Can childcare facilities and teddy bears really improve ethical behaviour at work?

7 Sep

This is not the kind of question I ask myself every day, but a Harvard researcher has carried out an experiment to test whether singing nursery rhymes, drawing, and having teddy bears in the office can improve employees’ ethical behaviour.

Of course, ethics have been in the news a lot recently, what with the phone hacking at News International and the question mark over who knew about it and who didn’t.

Having a soft toy in the boardroom, or having other childhood cues present in the workplace, subliminally emits a ‘return to innocence effect’, according to the research, which asked adults to play games, draw, and fill the office with kids’ toys. Apparently those who were surrounded by stuff from childhood told fewer lies, were less likely to cheat, and were more generous than the workers who didn’t have toys around them.

Also, having childcare facilities on or near the workplace also boosted the generosity of workers – as well as improving their work-life balance.

Is a cuddly toy the key to ethical behaviour, asks Adrian Gaskell on the Chartered Management Institute management community site, which flagged up this research. The responses he has received are pretty interesting, with someone suggesting that we would perhaps behave more like a role model if our children were present.

Either way, I like Adrian’s suggestion that more managers should get in touch with their inner child. It would certainly make meetings more interesting – but I wonder if it would have made those phone hackers think twice?

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