The so-called ‘motherhood pay gap' is the impact on long-term earnings that many, if not most, mothers experience when they return to work after having children. Many who are trying to balance childcare and earning a living opt for flexible or part-time work. But this shift to flexi-work is still frequently made incompatible with highly skilled or senior positions. This is costly to women, employers and economies.
Lija Wilson experienced the difficulty of finding flexible, executive-level work after having kids in her late thirties. The Australian marketer thought that job sharing – two people sharing a single role – could enable people like her to continue working at their experience level, and pursue other responsibilities and interests in their time away from work.
In 2017, with the help of ex-colleague Mike Hill, she launched Puffling, an online platform, which matches job seekers with similar skillsets (if it sounds a bit like a dating app, you’re right – that was the site’s model). Puffling enables these pairs of workers to apply to employers that are willing to consider job shares for certain roles. It was immediately flooded with interest from women.
Researchers tell BBC that quality part-time work, like job shares, can be a good solution for working parents. But it’s not an instant fix: until more men start taking up flexible work options, stigma and disadvantage will always accompany part-time work. “It’s not a magic bullet,” says Dr Heejung Chung, of Kent University. “Mechanisms to change perceptions need to be there, too.