On Tuesday 27th March 2018, we held a #MindTheGap event at the Houses of Parliament. Hosted by Jenny Kelly, Client Relationship Manager Business Partner at Computer Futures, a number of speakers were invited to share their thoughts and experience on returning to work and the gender pay gap.

Sponsored by Helen Grant MP

Helen Grant, MP for Maidstone and The Weald, sponsored the event. She opened the event with a short speech, expressing her thoughts on the gender pay gap. Like many others, she believes the pay gap shouldn’t exist at all and recognises that, although it’s closing, the rate at which it does needs to accelerate.

She also emphasised how important events like this are in making a difference, praising Jenny for her efforts.

“It takes a movement of people to make a change”

Natasha Clarke, Chief People Officer at SThree, conducted an interview with Claire Hawkins, Associate Partner, and Kalpesh Baxi, Senior Partner. The aim was to look at their experience of Claire’s return to work after maternity leave and how SThree helped to support them both.

During her introduction, Natasha shared a statistic on how the number of female returners at SThree has increased over the last few years. It’s gone from 70% to 86%, which is higher than the national average. Natasha also reiterated the point that it takes a movement of people to make a change.

Valuable insight from returning parents and their managers

It was great to get insight not just into how a returning parent may feel, but also their manager. Claire shared the fact her confidence was impacted while on maternity leave. She began to doubt whether she’d remember how to do her job and, as a result, was quite anxious about her return.

Together, Kalpesh and Claire ensured the transition started early with a good handover. They also developed a ‘return to work’ checklist and kept in communication throughout Claire’s maternity leave. And they didn’t just do this over the phone – face-to-face communication was key.

Development is a continuous process

One of the things that both Kalpesh and Claire said was valuable to the experience was ensuring Claire continued to develop. At the event, a number of people raised the concern of their career being put on hold while they were away from work – but if the company continues to help them develop, this should be less of an issue.

Kalpesh said that, whilst on maternity leave, Claire had developed skills that were incredibly useful for her career. These included: time management, multitasking, prioritisation, and how she connects with people. So although she wasn’t in the office, she was still taking steps to progress in her career.

When asked for one tip they could provide to others, Claire said it’s important to be “Clear on your value and strengths before you go, so have them written in a development plan.” Kalpesh’s key advice was simply planning, saying, “Get it business as usual as soon as you can.”

Helping people with their careers and confidence

The final speaker was Sandie Dennis, owner of Confidence to Return Ltd, an organisation that’s dedicated to helping those returning to work. Sandie ran through the various programmes that Confidence to Return offer and how they benefit the companies and individuals that take part in them.

She also expanded on Claire’s point that a person’s confidence can take a knock after a prolonged period of time off. As such, she’s dedicated to helping people get this back, easing them into work.

Given the event was also looking at the gender pay gap, Sandie focused primarily on how important it is to make returning mothers feel as comfortable as possible, in order to help them return to work and improve the gender pay gap.

Important to lead from the top

The event was wrapped up with a question and answer session, with attendees keen to share feedback and expand on certain sections.

One thing everybody agreed with was the importance of leading from the top. It’s essential that mid-to-lower level employees are led from the top. After all, it’s this behaviour that’s most likely to influence them.

The event went down well with all attendees – congratulations to Jenny for organising such a positive event, and thanks again to all speakers and attendees.

If you’d like to attend our next #MindTheGap event, email Jenny Kelly today. And if you’re looking to close your gender pay gap and improve your diversity, contact us today. Our team of consultants are happy to help.