- Feb 7, 2024
International Women’s Day (IWD) has been celebrated every year since 1911, for people to come together and promote change for women’s equality. However, this year, the focus has turned from equality to equity. #EmbraceEquity is the leading message for this year’s IWD campaign. So, what’s the difference between equality and equity?
Equality means people have the same rights, resources and means to achieve their goals.
Equity means being inclusive. It means accepting diversity and challenging the status quo.
I think it’s safe to say that one size definitely doesn’t fit all! And that’s pretty much what IWD is trying to get across in their campaign. Can you imagine if you took a 13-year-old to soft play and went clothes shopping with a 3-year-old? Both ideas are fun but not for everyone. I can hear you laughing and nodding in agreement!
Female employment trends in the tech industry
Equal opportunities are no longer enough. Women want to be seen, heard and represented in spaces where they feel like a minority. One of the spaces which are getting more attention recently is the advancements women are making in the femtech industry. In a recent interview, Lola&Lykke founder and CEO Laura McGrath shared some personal insights into what it’s like being a woman in business.
“If this is your real passion, you´re not going to be satisfied until you try it out. I think we are raised to go after a ´safer´ lifestyle, or a steady income, even if you don´t particularly enjoy what you do. I really believe you need to listen to yourself and follow your dreams. Trying out whether you can run your own business is not such a big deal, you should find out for yourself. It´s not for everyone, and I for one was completely naïve regarding the resources it requires to run your own business, from funding to finding talent, from safeguarding your own well-being to looking after others. Me and Kati often joke that thankfully we did not know what was coming, otherwise, we would have never done it! But now that we are here, we would never go back.”
A report on trends in female employment in the UK highlighted women held the highest percentage of jobs in the health and social work industry, whereas men were more likely to be working in ‘skilled trades’ and in technical occupations. It also showed that men were more likely to be in higher-paid jobs/industries compared to women who were more likely to be in lower-paid jobs long-term. Data such as this also shows there is still progress to be made with regard to the gender pay gap.
The tech industry has always been talked about as having low female representation. With the rise of funding in femtech companies, women’s health has finally made it onto the agenda. Although femtech is still massively underinvested, new start-ups and femtech companies are rising to the challenge and breaking down the barriers to achieve more investments in this sector to exhibit the value and impact their products will have for women.
Laura shares a key lesson she has learnt so far since founding Lola&Lykke, “Leading a company is an incredible adrenaline rush, and it’s definitely not for the faint-hearted. It requires constant adaptability, as well as drive, determination, and resilience. I have always been somebody who delves into the details and likes to understand things fully. But with the challenges presented by funding rounds and the pandemic particularly, I’ve come to recognise that many decisions are based on ambiguity. Often, there are trade-offs between decisions and not a clear-cut “right or wrong” answer. I have learned to make peace with this: the only way to learn is by trying, making mistakes and finding the right way forward through trial and error.”
How can we help women back into the workplace?
In today’s climate, women are either being priced out of returning to work or opting not to work because they cannot find employment that gives them the flexibility they need. In the UK, women make up 49% of the workforce and yet in February 2022, 1.4 million women were inactive because they were looking after their families or home in comparison to 300’000 men being inactive for the same reason. Imagine the impact of even half of these parents returning to work!
Since the pandemic there has been a huge increase in employers offering remote or hybrid working setups for workers so that they can achieve a more flexible way of working. Although, having 2 kids climbing over your laptop whilst you work from home is a far cry from the ideal setup. Can you tell I’m speaking from experience?!
So, what can employers do to help working parents? I touched on some thought-provoking points in a recent blog, such as flexible childcare options and promoting self-care in all its forms. You can read the full post here.
How to support new mums returning to work
Being a new parent returning to work after maternity leave can feel daunting. There’s already so much to think about with juggling a young family and a career without having to stress about pumping breastmilk on the go or choosing work attire that fits your postpartum body.
Mums need practical, simple, and effortless solutions to help make this transition a smooth one. And achieving this would give new working mums the resilience needed with returning to work. To help with this, we’ve shared our responses to common FAQs we receive so you can feel prepared and reassured as you plan your return to the workplace.
Yes, you can! “The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recommends that it's good practice for employers to provide a private, healthy and safe environment for breastfeeding mothers to express and store milk.” By law, your employer must comply with the minimum standards which mean pumping breastmilk in the toilets is a big no.
We keep it no secret around here that our products have won multiple awards, including the Smart Electric Breast Pump, for its portability, discreetness, and ease of use. An essential return-to-work handbag item indeed! See what mums have been saying here.
Ah, sleep deprivation is very real in the early stages of parenthood. With every phase your baby goes through there will be sleepless nights and there will be mornings when you wake up feeling human again! The important thing is to look after yourself, ensure you’re eating often, drinking plenty of water and taking breaks when you need them to keep your energy levels up.
At work, be clear on what you accomplish so that it stays within realistic expectations. Be honest and open with your employer so they can best support you through this crazy new normal. They may be able to offer you flexible working hours, hybrid or remote setups to reduce commuting times or even more frequent breaks to help you stay focussed and rested.
Some employers will have as part of their insurance, or a work benefit, access to services that you can use free of charge to support you with medical, well-being, and mental health needs. If you don’t feel an improvement in your mood after the first few weeks of giving birth, it is encouraged to speak to your doctor so they can refer you to further support.
Laura McGrath says, “Me and Kati are passionate about women´s health and supporting new parents. We know how easy it is to turn our attention to the amazing new baby; but as a brand and as women we want to emphasize that mothers are amazing too.
Millions of women are not getting the postpartum support they need, affecting not only them but their partners and family as well. Lola&Lykke is determined to change this by offering mums personalised support, tailored to mums´ individual needs, using smart products, healthcare research, medical expertise, and digital tools. As a brand, we offer mums the best breastfeeding and postpartum experiences, including all the information, support and products in one place.”
What happens next?
With all the current conversations around female representation in certain sectors, the crippling cost of childcare, to the gender pay gap, there is certainly work to be done in supporting women and new mothers back into the workplace. And not just into jobs, but into fulfilling careers that give them purpose.
Do you have a question about life as a new mum? Ask our experts, they know a thing or two about supporting mums, partners and families with pregnancy, parenting, breastfeeding, postpartum, and everything in between.
What advice would you give to a new mum returning to work? Join us in the #EmbraceEquity movement and share your comments and selfies with us on socials!
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