Over the course of the past eighteen months, many employees were forced to adapt to a remote working environment. In addition to this, working parents have also been expected to juggle their workload alongside childcare.
Despite fathers increasing their role within childcare over the course of the pandemic, women aged 25-44 were almost three times as likely as men to not be working due to childcare demands. According to the United States Census Bureau, some 3.5 million working mothers with school aged children left active work between March – April 2020. These statistics included working mothers shifting into paid or unpaid leave, losing their job, or exiting the labour market all together. By January 2021, 18.5 million mothers (living with school age children) were actively working, though this was still 1.6 million fewer than pre-pandemic statistics taken in January 2020. As the world begins to emerge from the pandemic, what key strategies can be put in place to accommodate working parents?
Investment giant, Willis Towers Watson, have been recognised by the likes of the Human Rights Campaign and Stonewall for their outstanding efforts towards diversity and inclusion within the workplace. Their commitment includes the development of a D&I committee which support the company in engaging with staff and driving a more diverse and inclusive culture. HFM spoke with the firm’s Global Head of Credit, Nimisha Srivastava, who is also part of the D&I research taskforce, to learn more.
“We undertook a grassroots campaign to engage with employees and better understand how we could support them. Though this unearthed a lot of issues, we worked with the employees individually to tackle these challenges and found that the flexibility we offered working parents was greatly appreciated. Within my own team, we have seen a trend of many parents with young children sign off at 4pm to focus on childcare, before picking up work again in the evenings. Some staff also wrote their schedules in their email signatures, and blocked off time in calendar for childcare, to make their colleagues aware of their flexible working hours.”
“As a firm, we plan to slowly return to the office, but this largely depends on the region and the progress of the vaccine roll-out. Willis Towers Watson have always offered flexibility surrounding remote working, and I see an uptake of this in the future. There is, however, a common concern amongst working parents (more specifically, women) is that if they do decide to continue to work from home could miss out on project or promotion opportunities when they arise. Therefore, it is imperative that team relationships are built and maintained, especially for new hires. We will also ensure that there are occasions and merits of opportunity for an employee to progress, regardless of where they are based”.
The industry has largely demonstrated a mentality shift; and as a result, employees are less likely to want to return to the office. Start-up systematic firm, Integrated Quantitative Investments, was launched amidst the pandemic by entrepreneurs, Kirsten Syverson and Artemiza Woodgate. Following a successful launch, the firm plan to continue to operate remotely. Woodgate spoke with HFM to share the challenges she has faced within her own career, and how firms can build a more inclusive culture.
“Although many organisations have the pillars in place to allow staff to work from different locations, there is also a need for an infrastructure that allows individuals to bring their skills to the table and thrive from a remote environment. I previously worked for a firm that allowed us to work remote, however, I found that I was being held back for promotions whilst the men working alongside me were progressing. I had approached a senior member of staff to understand why I was passed down for the same opportunity – to my surprise, I was told that it was not possible for me to progress and manage people if I were to continue to work from home. “You can’t have it all”, I was told. It was so dis-heartening. Covid-19 has certainly made firms re-think performance management styles. Had the pandemic have struck earlier in my career, maybe circumstances would have been different.”
“There is technology and support available to companies to help them thrive from a remote working environment, though I think it is certainly much easier to build relationships and culture within a small team. We have found that operating remotely has provided us with access to a larger pool of talent - as the company expands, we hope to further team building exercises by arranging in-person meet ups. To build a culture of inclusion, it is important for senior management to maintain excellent communication with their staff. Regardless of how a company is structured, staff should feel rewarded for their hard work, listened to and made to feel like part of a team.”
For firms looking re-ignite experienced talent, ‘Returnship Programmes’ are a great way to attract motivated parents to return to senior-level roles. The initiative itself provides a supportive framework which is specifically designed for individuals who have taken a career break and allow candidates to develop their existing skills and experience. The initiative is also beneficial for firms as it provides them with greater access to high-calibre talent, whilst also tackling challenges surrounding the lack of diversity within senior management.
Join us at the HFM Asia Virtual Symposium on 2nd June to hear from industry professional and diversity and inclusion advocate, Cynthia Dibartolo, to learn more about diversity and inclusion in hedge funds and how to create measurable impact and influence in financial services. Also join us for our quarterly HFM Together Virtual Summit on 17th July to celebrate pride and understand the value of building an inclusive workplace for the LGBTQ+ community.
Register for HFM Asia Virtual Symposium HERE
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