Leigh Lafever-Ayer, HR Director, UK and Ireland, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, on how her company is adopting family-friendly policies and why it's so important
Gender equality is vital to women when choosing a career and a company. I hear this from our recently joined graduates all the time. As businesses, we must factor this into our business model and people strategies to ensure retention and employee engagement.
As Enterprise is one of the largest employers of graduates in the UK and we promote 95% from within, I have also been considering over the last few years what our millennial employees think about family-friendly policies and how these initiatives assist in ongoing career progression.
Millennial women are the highest percentage of women giving birth in the UK today. Their views have influenced many actions in our company including maternity coaching, alternative working policies and a phase-back programme from maternity leave. Listening to the needs of millennials is crucial as we strive for gender parity as a ‘promote from within’ company.
Being Generation X, I remember making it clear to interviewers that I was career-focused when I was interviewing after graduating from university. I wanted to give the impression that I wasn’t even thinking about a family. I thought it would make me a better candidate to potential employers. Have things changed?
Research over the past decade has shown that women are just as ambitious as men. The 2016 Think Future Study, undertaken by the 30% Club and sponsored by KPMG, showed Generation Z women graduates are just as confident in their ability to succeed as men. While this is encouraging, the survey also shows that women are more sceptical about how fairly they will be treated as they progress in their career path. Female graduates say they avoid industries that they perceive as not being ‘female-friendly’. Think Future also showed that ‘having time to spend with family’ is one of the top three factors for a fulfilling career for Generation Z men as much as women.
In 2015, ahead of the introduction of Shared Parental Leave in the UK, Enterprise conducted research looking at the impact of starting a family on the UK work force. This research polled the views of over 2,000 men and women in the UK between the ages of 18-48. This age group incorporates Generation X, Generation Z and millennials. We discovered that one in four has denied planning to have a family in a job interview to look more favourable to a potential employer. So, things may not have changed so much since I was interviewing years ago after all.
The Enterprise research showed that 67% of all participants examine parental policies when looking for a job. Interestingly, more men than women were willing to discuss their family plans or ask about parental policies at job interview stage. One in three men aged 18-28 also told us they had actually rejected a job based on the company’s parental leave policies, showing these issues are important to men too.
So, if millennial and Generation Z men are taking parenting seriously when they look for work, that means that lots of men have taken up joint parental leave since it has come into law, right? Wrong. We are seeing few families taking up the scheme even though men are saying they want to share in parenting responsibilities. There is still a perception that taking time out of your career to raise a family isn’t great news for your career whether you are a man or a woman.
Getting past this barrier is a challenge. Equalising shared parental leave and maternity leave pay is a first great step and we do this at Enterprise. Overall, more work is needed to communicate policy and share positive examples of male employees choosing to take leave. We must make it more acceptable to talk about balancing career and family aspirations as a part of good employee engagement to both men and women.
The recent CIPD survey, UK Working Lives, shows that two thirds of UK workers want to reduce their working hours, suggesting that improving work-life balance is not just a millennial or Generation Z issue.