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Pregnancy bad for our careers, say third of parents in Northern Ireland

By Ann W Schmidt

Published 25/10/2016

Pressure: Roseann Kelly
Pressure: Roseann Kelly
Experiences: Olivia Hill

Nearly a third of parents in Northern Ireland feel they have been held back at work after having children, a survey has claimed.

One in six said they were passed over for a promotion and one in 25 said they were denied a pay rise.

The study was a UK-wide survey commissioned by the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) in an attempt to analyse attitudes towards women in the workplace.

In one instance of the national results, a woman was told in an interview that she wasn't worth hiring because she had just been married and she would soon leave to have children.

Another woman, who was 21-years-old, was told outright she would not be able to advance within the company if she had children.

Olivia Hill, the AAT's chief HR officer, said: "The results of our survey are a sad indictment on our workplaces and the experiences of mothers and fathers.

"Across the UK, a third of women believe that having a child has had a negative effect on their career, a figure which is three times as many as men, and shows just one area where women have a harder time at work than their male colleagues."

The survey also found that in Northern Ireland, 38% of adults were concerned that having a child would impact on their career, while 10% were told that having a child would be detrimental to their career opportunities.

Because of that, 15% said they were putting off having children.

Ms Hill said that men and women actually do experience the workplace differently after having children.

"Despite solutions such as shared parental leave coming in, the onus is still that women will generally pick up on childcare arrangements and ultimately it is more likely to be their career which will be affected," she added.

"Organisations can still do more to redress the balance if the gender gap is to truly become a thing of the past."

One non-profit organisation working to help women advance in their careers is the network, Women in Business NI.

Its chief executive, Roseann Kelly, said: "This report highlights the pressure many working parents still feel in the workforce.

"As we move towards a more diverse economy, employers need to be adaptable, so they can get the best from all their employees."

She added that Women in Business is running a new programme in January specifically for women returning to work from maternity leave.

"Such initiatives can do a lot to reduce negative career impacts as revealed by reports such as this," she said.

The AAT survey had a total of 2,000 UK responders, 39 of which were from Northern Ireland.

One eighth of those Northern Ireland responders said their boss is not supportive when they need time off for childcare.

Other findings in the survey showed that one in seven adults in Northern Ireland believe that women and men should not be paid an equal amount for the same work and 26% believe that the gender pay gap should be bigger for mothers.

Also in Northern Ireland, 18% of adults said they have been paid less than their opposite gender for doing the same job.

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