Childcare & Women – A 30 Year Reflection

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The childcare sector has always faced challenges; however, these are only continuing to grow especially given the last 6 months. Nursery occupancy has seen an all-time low and many are facing permanent closure due to the pandemic. It has always been a difficult balance to offer affordable childcare; with limited government funding, meeting the correct adult to child ratios, keeping children safe and providing a quality childcare service. These issues have mainly impacted the lower paid workforce and women.

Early childcare is not the right path for everyone. However, early years education does have its benefits; it improves cognitive and language development and builds stronger social skills. It also gives mothers the opportunity to break glass ceilings and achieve professional advancement or gives them the freedom to realise other aspirations whilst starting a family.

In the 90’s the focus around childcare was growing. Provisions were opening and evolving in response to a drive to encourage more women back into the workplace. At this time, I was faced with my own juggling act; with my eldest child starting school and my two youngest children only 18 months apart, getting ready everyday was quite an event! But this, was what drove me to look at the kind of support women and families needed.

There suddenly became a drive to get employers involved, after delivering talks to various groups of businesspeople it became apparent that this was a very sensitive and extremely sexist area to step into. I realised there was an interest in supporting women into work, but it was more of a token gesture rather than material. The person and their skill still exist, despite motherhood, the choice to be considered should not be lost in the delivery room (or birthing pool!) It would be a pity for such an abundant market to remain untapped simply because working from 9am to 5pm was a little difficult. Today, I think we are more in tune with both the variable needs and diversity within families and the importance of employee emotional and mental well-being. But we still have a way to go.

Since the onset of the coronavirus outbreak we have seen that enforced remote working has brought another dimension to how we view our workforce – and how people view themselves and their situation. Some are desperate to get back to an office environment whilst others have realised that they can be incredibly productive and balance time with family whilst working from home. The need to get back to an office may come from the need for social rather than electronic interactions, or that they find home-working too much of a distraction. Others may find that they have enjoyed co-sharing their childcare with their partner and have been more productive, for example, working half a day at home than in a full day at the office.

We will soon be experiencing a new ‘normal’ with perhaps even more flexibility becoming the norm – however it is likely that there will still be the debate about childcare, the costs, the social, emotional and educational needs of young children – and no matter how society is constructed through the next decade employers will still need to address how to maximise their business output whilst applying equal opportunities to an increasingly diverse workforce.

If you would like to discuss how to embrace diversity and create a culture of belonging within your organisation and/or for more information, click here.

I was delighted when Carole asked me to guest blog for Glassmoon, she has always been an inspiration to me, with her creative and open-ended manner. Carole is a person who doesn’t believe in boundaries, only possibilities and opportunities to achieve. Over the years she has enabled women working in the early years sector to see themselves through a more professional lens, developing their self-belief and career progression.

See Carole in action next Thursday at 9.55am (October 29th) at the virtual event ‘Return on Development’. She will be moderating the discussion panel: Leading from the front – ‘Creating a successful management team and the role of gender diversity’. Click here for more information and/or to sign-up for this free event.