Digital Mums run awareness-raising campaigns designed around our core mission to reduce maternal unemployment and to improve the maternal experience in the workplace. You may have seen our successful flexible working campaigns over the past few years, our Work That Works and Clean Up The F Word campaigns. The reason we decided to focus on flexible working is that we know this is a major barrier to women and work. We are so proud of the success of these campaigns.
This year we are shifting our campaign focus away from flexible working. In part, because lots of brilliant and inspiring individuals and organisations are now flying the flag for flexible working, but mainly because we’ve discovered new and worrying evidence of another significant issue that is impacting mothers at a disproportionate level. And no one is talking about this.
Did you know that mothers are less likely to participate in learning than other members of the population? And why does this matter?
Mothers already encounter systemic disadvantages in the workplace. The motherhood penalty is an all too real phenomenon. Thousands of women are made redundant while on maternity leave each year. Women with children are forced to make major career compromises and often end up in lower skilled, lower paid roles. The gender pay gap widens as women get older, which is related to women leaving the workplace to have children. In fact, the pay gap between mothers and non-mothers is actually larger than the gap between men and women. The list is already long and worrying.
This is a result of multiple and complex barriers for women.
There are psychological factors. Women lose confidence when they take career breaks, which starts on maternity leave and the longer the break the bigger the impact. Women talk about losing a sense of professional identity and a sense of purpose outside of being a mother. Women returners specifically have low self-efficacy around returning to the workplace.
There are practical barriers that hit when women leave to have children. Employers identify a lack of relevant or up-to-date skills, knowledge, and experience. Women can also lose their professional networks while out of the workplace.
As well as facing personal barriers there are also many structural barriers through a lack of flexible work opportunities, lack of suitable and affordable childcare, and discrimination from employers and recruitment agencies.
There is heaps of evidence that learning can help overcome these barriers.
Learning delivers benefits around employment outcomes. Learning can provide you with the in-demand skills and knowledge that employers are looking for, to help you get the job you want, to keep your job or to get the promotion you’ve always wanted. There is evidence that learning increases your earning potential and increases job satisfaction. And did you know that research shows adult learning fosters a capacity to be assertive?
Research shows that adult learning keeps the mind and body healthy. It can improve confidence and contribute to a greater level of wellbeing. It fosters a sense of identity and a sense of purpose. These are powerful benefits for women returners, in particular.
We have seen first hand how women are using learning to overcome these barriers. They tell us that they’ve got their career mojo back, they are hustling their way into flexible roles that they wouldn’t have dreamed they’d get, they are setting themselves up as freelancers or establishing their own businesses to get the ultimate work that works. Learning is a powerful catalyst for career change.
So the fact that mothers are less likely to participate in learning is a serious concern when you think about the challenges they face today. But it’s a ticking timebomb when you think about how it will impact their tomorrow.
The world of work is changing at such a frantic pace that those not continuing to grow and develop we will soon be left behind. The knowledge-based economy, new technologies, the growing speed of technological changes and globalization all mean that we need to be lifelong learners if we are to survive and thrive in the modern workplace.
Avon’s stand4her report shows a worrying statistic for UK women. Out of the 15 countries surveyed, UK women were the least likely to have undertaken any training or self-development (self-funded or otherwise) or gained new skills or knowledge in the last three years. Just 50% of UK women had done so compared with 91% of women from the Philippines, 87% of women from Columbia and 84% of women from Peru.
You might think that this isn’t that big a deal. Three years isn’t a long time, right? Wrong. The pace of change means that over three years a huge amount will have changed. Every single year that passes opens up a gap between what you currently know, what has recently been developed/discovered and what you need to know. Three years in this context is a significant time period. Big. HUGE.
The pace of change is happening across every major discipline and industry, not just the obvious ones like digital marketing or retail. Lifelong learning isn’t a ‘nice to have’ it’s an absolute essential to make sure you don’t get left behind. The single most important ability you can possess in this new world isn’t coding. Or social media marketing. Or data. It’s the skill and mindset of being a lifelong learner.
When you consider where women with children are at right now and where the world is heading, the fact that they aren’t participating in learning is something we need to fix. Now.
This is why we are launching our new campaign “Learn In” to achieve our goal to get 1m mothers learning by 2022.
We will be running this campaign throughout 2019 so watch out for:
- The launch of our new Work That Works Academy, which will have a range of accessible short courses covering in-demand digital skill areas.
- Free short courses that are really easy to fit into your busy lives to help you learn something new this year. First up is our free course on the future of social media. Visit our Academy now to access this course.
- A series of blogs exploring the barriers to learning that mothers face and some ways in which they can overcome then
- A series of content exploring the benefits of learning in more detail with stories from mothers that have seen the benefits of learning, not just our graduates but graduates from other learning providers working to support mothers into rewarding careers
- Interviews with learning providers making an impact and with learning experts to explore what we can do to change this at a policy level
Follow our hashtag #LearnIn on your social platform of choice to follow our campaign and to get involved.
The Digital Mums mission is to ensure mothers have the careers they want and deserve and we believe learning is the way to achieve this. We provide innovative learning experiences designed not just to build knowledge and skills but to inspire our students to become lifelong learners.