‘Know your Worth’: Victoria Usher on the Challenges for Working Mums

Working Mum

Navigating the dual roles of career and motherhood remains a challenge for many women, despite evolving societal norms. In a candid Q&A, Victoria Usher, Founder and CEO of GingerMay, delves into these persistent hurdles, highlighting the critical need for flexible work environments to truly empower working mums. 

What challenges do working mums face today? 

The challenges are the same as they’ve always been. And I’m sorry that I have to say that.  

Despite societal attitudes shifting, women still assume the largest burden of childcare. One in ten mothers in the UK quit their jobs due to childcare pressures, while two-fifths have turned down a promotion for the same reason. And it’s no surprise that, despite increased efforts to reduce financial disparity between men and women, working mothers are still more likely to feel the pinch of childcare costs. 

That’s not to say there haven’t been important strides made. For all the pressures that it caused, the pandemic proved an accelerator for greater empowerment for working mothers – and working dads who want to spend more time with their children – when it came to flexible working arrangements. 

So while we have made great strides in narrowing the gender gap, when a woman becomes a mother the glass ceiling comes into sharper focus. 

What changed during the pandemic? 

The immediate pressure on working parents during the early days of 2020 obviously greatly increased. I struggled to balance running a company while both my young daughters were in lock-down and many team members had similar challenges. 

But the pandemic highlighted that homeworking was not the productivity killer that many leaders had assumed it was. It confirmed for some a belief I fostered from an early stage at GingerMay, that working parents can meet their childcare commitments while delivering the highest possible standards of work when given the flexibility to work remotely. Most of all, it shook out some of the presenteeism mindset that dominated many companies. 

More and more companies are enacting ‘return to office’ policies. How do you see this impacting working parents? 

Working parents can meet their childcare commitments while delivering the highest possible standards of work when given the flexibility to work remotely.

It’s a real shame to see this reversal. The decision taken by the likes of Boots, Goldman Sachs, and – ironically – Zoom to make staff come back into their offices five days a week is incredibly shortsighted and significantly impacts working parents. Though two-thirds of CEOs think staff will return to the office five days a week, this regression would be hugely damaging to work/life balance and parents’ ability to fulfil personal and professional roles. Only a third (31%) of working mothers currently have access to the flexible working arrangement they need, stricter attendance policies will only make this worse. 

I was shocked to discover how difficult it is to balance childcare, long-commutes and work commitments. The inflexibility of my employers was appalling and spurred me to create a different paradigm. I set up GingerMay with flexible working built into its core to help ensure that working parents didn’t need to make a choice between their kids and career. We have members of our team that take time blocked out every day to do the school run, then return to work. They’re just as valuable to the company as someone who is in the office and working more traditional hours.  

Ultimately this demand for a return to the office is a gigantic step back and business owners have a responsibility to ensure that experienced and talented individuals are not driven out of the workforce, particularly when companies are still struggling to find the right candidates.  

How can this change be reversed?  

CEOs need to change their mindset from an outdated bums-on-seats approach to a more holistic and data-driven way to measure the performance of staff. Outputs and results are far more meaningful than what time you get into the office. We’ve found that by empowering staff to work how and where they want, we achieve greater results more efficiently. 

Flexibility must not just be a box-ticking exercise. I’ve seen companies talk loudly about their flexible work policies, but the truth is that many are less than accommodating. Speak to your staff, find out what they actually need from a flexible working package, and work with them to make it a reality. 

What advice would you give to working mothers? 

For working mothers the most important thing is to remember your worth. I know from experience that this is not always easy and that finding work/life balance can be tough. But be confident in the value you can bring to your company. While looking for workplaces that offer flexible working as standard is obviously important, keep in touch with legislation to protect working parents, such as the UK Flexible Working Bill which allows new employees to request flexible working from day one of a new job. 

Executive Profile

Victoria Usher

Victoria Usher is Founder and CEO of GingerMay, a multi-award-winning global agency for integrated B2B tech communications. Victoria has received national acclaim for her commitment to flexible working, winning the Leadership Award at the UK Company Culture Awards 2024

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