Investment banks and other financial services firms are awash with diversity programmes aimed at working parents. They have breast pumping rooms. They have onsite crèches. They have everything, in fact, that could encourage a smooth transition back into the workplace after taking time out to have children.
Is this working? Well, not really. In some predictably depressing stats produced in a wide-ranging new survey of 1,100 finance workers with children by website City Mothers, the vast majority of women still feel unable to achieve an adequate work-life balance and that their career is difficult to maintain.
The tail refuses to wag, despite instructions from the dog. Banks have various schemes and policies in place, yet it’s the individual line managers who are unable or unwilling to bring about real cultural change and stamp out prejudice to working parents.
But what are the real concerns of working parents in the City? The most illuminating part of the report is the ‘open text’ responses of anonymous City workers. HR take note…
“Managing home/work/childcare around Spouse's employer's expectations (he also has a city profession), and the majority of his superiors assume he has someone at home full-time. We both dance around these expectations a lot.”
“Working with a manager who is unsympathetic to flexible working arrangements, despite our bank's initiatives on this.”
“Always feeling like I'm not spending long enough in the office but not spending long enough with the children.”
Transition from maternity leave:
"Whilst the firm had maternity coaching in place, which was brilliant, the experience I had from colleagues and my function was not positive.
“Generally the support offered by my employer is good. However I was subject to a specific incident in my team that resulted in my return experience being highly negative. I put that down to my new line manager not understanding or dealing with the issues in the team despite me raising them, as he was away from the office and wasn’t aware of what was going on and what my specific needs were.”
“Negative – I was offered third party maternity coaching (which I took up) but very little active support from the employer in day to day work.”
“In reality it is slowing down career my progression. My work involves a lot of travel as I work in an international bank. All senior jobs are global so minimising travel is the biggest restriction on my progression.”
“My career has progressed but my flexible arrangement is routinely run roughshod over.”
“I might have to give this up if I want to progress, depending on my (new) line manager. I am therefore put off trying for progression.”