Driving positive solutions to workplace challenges faced by career mums

Eighty-three percent of organisations are experiencing talent shortage, yet we are leaking and underutilising talent


As at the end of June 2014 (our most recent dataset), over a quarter of mothers* (close to 132,000 / 27.7 percent) were not in the workforce. That is, they were neither employed – which would include those on parental leave – nor unemployed. Of those in the workforce, nearly half of mothers with children under 14, and close to a third of  of mothers with children aged 14 or over**, worked part-time (under 30 hours per week). Source: Statistics New Zealand.

This represents an enormous gap in talent utilisation, which is particularly concerning when a growing number of businesses are experiencing talent shortage.

A study by Deloitte proposes that 83 percent of New Zealand organisations are experiencing a talent shortage, which is impacting on their results. The skills in shortest supply are deemed to be critical thinking and problem solving, general management, and initiative and drive.

Talent gaps are significant, numerous and they will become more acute. Organisations that fail to understand and address them will not be successful and may not survive. The time to address these gaps is now.

Talent Edge New Zealand 2013: Addressing worrisome gaps – Deloitte

Mothers represent a huge opportunity for businesses to both increase their talent pool, and make sustainable gains with gender equality. But key to this is understanding the importance of engaging mothers in the workplace, and the barriers that can exist for those who are managing career alongside family.

Reducing leaking talent – commentary and considerations

We are experiencing a talent shortage at a time when more New Zealanders have formal qualifications than ever before (Source: Statistics New Zealand).

Whilst we are seeing an increase in the number of mothers entering the workforce, the number of mothers who are not in the labour force, or who work part time, remains considerably high when compared to women with no dependent children, or to men.

How therefore do we get better at opening the door to latent talent?

Considerations for business leaders:

  • Do you know your retention rate for mothers in the workplace, and how are you encouraging and supporting new mums back to work?
  • Opening the door: how proactive is your recruitment strategy towards part-time or flexible working? When did you last advertise a position that reached out to such candidates (that was not a labour / clerical role)?
  • To what extent does your business value skill and experience ahead of hours clocked?
  • What are the career growth opportunities for employees who work by flexible arrangement?
  • Who are the dads in your company, and what arrangements are in place to support their dual role?
  • Role models – who are the men and women in your company who are successfully able to divide their time between career and family?

With talent gaps predicted to become more acute, agile businesses focused on attracting and nurturing talent will likely gain a significant and crucial advantage in the war for talent.

*with a dependent child living in the home, who is under 17 years of age and who is not in full time employment (if aged 15 or over).

**44 percent, and 30 percent, respectively.

Recommended reading:

The female millennial: a new era of talent. New Zealand findings, by Price Waterhouse Coopers. This report provides six areas for consideration to attract and retain talent within female millennials (born between 1980 and 1995).


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