By, Sarra Bejaoui, SmartPA founder
Some of you may have read, or read about, the recent PwC 2023 Women in Work Index report. Among a clutch of eye-catching stats, it showed that the gender pay gap in OECD countries is 14%. That’s only 2.5 percentage points down since 2011.
While progress is being made, it’s painfully slow. This ongoing differential between male and female earnings continues to be driven by women taking on the lion’s share of unpaid childcare – the so-called ‘motherhood penalty’.
Helping women back into the workplace
Supporting parents to return to work, and to re-engage quickly with meaningful careers, is more important than it’s ever been. At SmartPA, we’ve long been at the forefront of helping women back into the workplace, supporting them to build meaningful careers and businesses based around flexible home working.
And, of course, our commitment also extends to our own employees returning to work after a career break. Our career break policy is designed to support our people as they re-engage with their SmartPA careers, integrating each individual back into the company as quickly and painlessly as possible.
I’ve recent personal experience of just how important this is, having become a mother at 39 years of age and found myself labelled a ‘geriatric mother’ during my pregnancy. After giving birth, I quickly found that I was challenging my own expectations about re-entering the workplace. I’d blithely assumed that I’d be ‘back after 3 months’, but soon realised that I wanted to spend more time with my son and eventually took 10 months off. When I did come back to my ‘other baby’ (my business), I did immediately feel a lack of confidence, asking myself how I could integrate with the new colleagues, new tech, and new processes that had emerged while I’d been away. I realise now that I was suffering from a real sense of imposter syndrome … not to mention lack of sleep and altered hormones!
Our 5 step approach to re-integration
1. Stay connected with your colleague during their break. Arrange ‘keep in touch’ days.
2. Understand what your colleague wants and needs. For example, have their career aspirations changed, how much flexibility will they need in the short to medium term, and are they feeling apprehensive about anything?
3. Make the return to work enjoyable and empowering.
4. Implement a personalised upskill and re-integration programme, supported by mentorship where appropriate.
5. Offer a range of flexible working opportunities.
People strategy at the heart of the client offering
Of course, there are many other elements to our people approach at SmartPA. Indeed, our people experience strategy is a key ingredient of our overall brand experience. We see our approach to recruitment, and to our people experience, as key drivers of client happiness; fundamental enablers that help us deliver meaningful impact for our global client base every day.
It all starts with attracting people who are aligned with our vision and value proposition; people who are passionate about accelerating the growth of our clients’ organisations. We want to welcome people into SmartPA who have long term ambitions, who are looking for fulfilment and who buy in completely to where we’re heading. After that, it’s all about unleashing their potential and, in turn, helping them unleash potential in our clients.
This is all underpinned by our inhouse Training Academy, which provides best-in-class training for our SmartPAs and delivers a globally recognised CIPD accreditation.
Closing the gap
To finish then, and at the same time to return to where we started, our commitment to helping women back into the workplace doesn’t just apply to our own people.
As an ethically driven business we’re deeply committed to supporting women globally to re-renter the workplace, providing them with sustainable career opportunities that unlock their potential. In the longer term, we’re also creating many more female business leaders and role models.
The PwC report found that, at the rate the gender pay gap is closing, it will take more than 50 years to reach gender pay parity. That’s why it’s so critical to encourage the female half of the global talent pool, so developing the diverse workforce that’s needed to address the global skills shortage. Perhaps, if we all do our bit, we can finally close that gender pay gap a lot sooner than 2073!
SmartPA is a pioneer of remote, outsourced admin and business support, providing individual SmartPAs, multi-skilled cross-functional teams, and full lift and drop admin process outsourcing. Working with more than 5,000 businesses of all sizes world-wide, SmartPA draws on a global talent pool of accredited SmartPAs, with a Centre of Excellence based in the UK, near shore hubs in South Africa and Uganda, and an offshore hub in Malaysia.