Jobs not Careers

It is now well known that the UK lags behind European competitors in this area, and that mothers in London lose out compared to those in the rest of the UK . But the problem is not that we don’t know about the issues facing women trying to return to work. This report builds on many others in outlining the ways in which motherhood impacts on women’s careers, raising challenges of lost confidence and skills, childcare that is too often unaffordable or inflexible, and constraints in the availability of high quality part time work. These factors cut across income and educational divides.

Nor do we lack solutions. We know that programmes that offer tailored support can help replace lost confidence and skills. Childcare requires investment to make it affordable, but there is more that can be done with existing spending to make provision flexible enough to meet parents’ needs. Additionally, many employers are beginning to see both the social and economic benefits of a more agile labour market with part time and flexible working patterns now seen as key in enabling businesses to build efficiencies, increase productivity and retain talent – of both genders.

But despite the huge range of evidence we have accumulated on what matters for women returning to work, and what works in addressing these problems, the response by policy makers is still slow. The Timewise Foundation hopes to add some urgency, as part of our work to stimulate demand for a more flexible jobs market that works for women, families, business and the state. We drive change through social innovation, and we are not alone. Across London and the UK a range of innovative organisations are focused on using social innovation to shape new types of jobs markets, to create effective solutions for businesses seeking talent and for individuals locked out of work.

This research, conducted through Women Like Us, part of the Timewise Foundation, sets out practical steps which policy makers at a local and regional level can take to significantly improve the employment prospects of mothers. But it is also intended to focus government at all levels to consider how it can best use its influence and existing budgets far more effectively, by building on the best examples of social innovation already taking place.