By Nico Strydom
Women who have children and stay at home for a while before returning to work, are often only considered for lower level, more general and lower paid roles that they filled previously.
Research points out that managers who are responsible for hiring decisions are of the opinion that mothers who return to the labour force after a few years of raising children, will be less committed, not give all their time and attention and possibly have lost their skills. This could result in these women changing from employer or career or even deciding not to go back to work.
Research by Lunga Tukani, MBA-alumnus of the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB) and contributor to the USB 2021 Women’s Report, has found that these prejudices and negative perceptions are not only the biggest stumbling blocks for stay-at-home-moms to continuing their career, but also put organisations in jeopardy of not reaching gender equality goals and possibly breaching the Employment Equity Act, in which refusal of family responsibility is grounds for unfair discrimination.
The Women’s Report annually places the spotlight on the lives and work of women in South African and is sponsored by the USB and the SA Board for People Practices (SABPP).
According to Tukani, women are already underrepresented in the workplace, especially in senior positions. “To experience stumbling blocks when they once again enter the labour market, disadvantages women further and hampers efforts to establish equality in the workplace. Professional and qualified women who want to make a contribution in the workplace are therefore in effect being punished for bearing children.”
Tukani conducted a study on a group of South African line managers to test the influence of prejudices regarding stay-at-home-moms’ efforts to re-enter the labour market.
When considering a stay-at-home-mom’s CV, the managers’ main impression was that women would be less competent and less committed, that their child-care duties would influence their performance negatively and that they would not be willing or able to put in extra time. There was also concern that mothers would need more time off work than other employees.
While it is a positive aspect that managers hold favourable opinions about the skills and qualities of stay-at-home-moms, especially regarding team-building and solidarity, as they are perceived to be more mature, patient and emotionally intelligent, the disadvantage was the lower post levels for which they are considered.
Universiteit Stellenbosch Bestuurskool: https://www.usb.ac.za/