Australia’s cry out for talent continues. The squeeze is relentless. Yet, we refuse to see what is in plain sight. Unemployment figures are now at 4%, predicted to reach 3.75%, record-high job vacancy listings and to raise the bar just that little higher, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is expected to grow by 4.25%. For anyone hiring in our current climate, it is the ultimate test. It doesn’t have to be so hard. There are smart options, right under our nose.
There are untapped talent segments. The first is our ageing population. There are 619,000 older people (aged 65 and over) employed in the labour force, a participation rate of 15%, with a further 18,400 looking for work and more still seeking additional hours. There is also our graduates to consider, with over 15% unemployed and drum roll…Talent in the form of working mums, part-time or otherwise and return to work mums.
It is 2022 and it baffles me. If gender bias wasn’t enough, we filter it further by attaching motherhood to it. Whether it be about being out of the workforce force for several years, the ability to juggle potential conflicting priorities, or the need to work reduced hours, bias exists.
Australia sits in the bottom half of OECD countries for employment rates of working mums. Iceland was top, also having the best employment rates for youth, older workers, immigrants, and people with disabilities.
The impact of time spent out of the workforce caring for families is far-reaching, accounting for 39% of the gender pay gap, $186 million each week. Women are taking on 57 hours of unpaid work per week, 30 hours household work and 27 hours childcare. What would the impact be if some of these hours were redirected to paid work?
In our office, close to 50% of our team are working mums, most working flexible, reduced hours and some even remote. They are the ultimate jugglers. Perhaps I am fortunate, but I doubt that is the case. My experience as a recruiter also plays witness to the attributes of our working mums.
There are around 7 million mums in Australia (women with children under 18). Consider the wealth of experience, knowledge, and skills we miss when we overlook them. What of the transferable skills acquired while being a mum? Time and crisis management, resourcefulness, organisational, decision making and prioritising skills, well-honed, tested and refined when juggling a family.
Baby brain is a benefit and if only we all could have it. For a start, in early motherhood, the brain areas responsible for empathy and caregiving are fine-tuned and as motherhood progresses, along with the development of their children, so too does the brain transition and develop.
Empathy is hailed as a critical leadership skill and yet we ignore it when presented to us. Or worse, label it as brain fog or mumnesia, usually attributed to sleep deprivation, not childbirth and that’s not gender specific. Post COVID and with the ‘Great Resignation’ and changing workforce mindset, empathy is seen as a priority for our future workforce.
Because we turn a blind eye to what is in front of us, more and more women are making the move to self-employment. Over the past 20 years, there has been a 46% increase in the number of women operating businesses with mothers making up 81% of women operators. Many of these women start their businesses out of necessity due to difficulty finding flexible work. Starting a business takes innovation, determination, resilience-what incredible skills to have within your business. What have we been missing out on?
I encourage hiring managers to open their eyes to what might work, even if you thought it wouldn’t work in previous times. If your vacancy is a full-time position, and your potential hire can only commit 3 or 4 days, consider them. They may be your best hire yet. It is not just about working mums or return to work mums; it’s about any bias, for we all have it. Instead of saying no as an automatic reflex, perhaps consider a maybe and exploratory chat or a yes!
Tap into our ageing population, our graduates and our delightful working and return to work mums. Hire them.