New research findings by Regus, a flexible workspace provider, reveal that mindsets are rapidly changing as 72 per cent of Rwandan firms believe companies that shun employing women returning from maternity leave are missing out.
The research says far from returning with rusty memory, working mothers bring valuable skills and expertise.
A truly equal world would be one where women ran half our countries and companies and men ran half our homes,” writes Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg in her book, Lean In.
A new report by Regus, the flexible workspace provider, reveals that mind-sets are rapidly changing as 72 per cent of Rwandan firms believe companies that will not employ women returning from maternity leave are missing out.
In the last parliamentary elections, women claimed 51 of the 80 contested seats, representing a 64 per cent female presence in Parliament’s Chamber of Deputies, once again setting a record for Rwanda and the world.
However, apart from the higher female representation in Parliament and near equal representation in the state minister and permanent secretary posts, women’s representation elsewhere is generally lower than that of men.
Rwandan women and the government thus still have to ensure gender parity at all levels of decision-making.
But far from returning with an obsolete address book and a rusty memory, working mums bring skills and expertise, say 67 per cent of Rwandan businesses.
These are the key findings of the latest research by Regus that canvassed the opinions of more than 19,000 business owners and senior managers in 98 countries.
Much as equal employment opportunity is the case in Rwanda today, Lynette Nyirakigeri says the way she was treated during her maternity leave is the reason she is self employed today.
“I had two meetings postponed due to my pregnancy, my boss listed me among under performers and at the end of the month, I did not get my statutory maternity pay. As if that wasn’t enough, I found that they had promoted someone to a position that everyone knew was rightfully mine,” she told this paper.
Nyirakijeri who sells clothes in Kigali says thanks to her decision, she has given birth to her other three children in peace.
“Even though it was hard for me, I thank God for the Rwandan Government today that supports equal empowerment at work. My sister is a civil servant but has been accorded all the due compensation and she is doing fine even on her maternity leave,” she said.
Allen Kamanzi, an employee of Deliotte (U) describes her job as one that gives peace and doesn’t discriminate.
“I went for the job interview when I was seven months pregnant but by bosses did not find any problem with it. They gave me the job basing on merit rather than my condition,” she said.
When Kamanzi’s maternity leave was over, her bosses still gave her another month of working half-day for health and safety reasons as well as take good care of her nearly born son.
“I have spent quality time with my son while still doing my job. It has given me a piece of mind and I am not stressed,” she said with a smile.
Respondents cited flexible hours, working closer to home and video conferencing as top strategies to get more mothers back into the workforce.
Ildephonse Mungwarakarama, the CEO of House of Technology, urges employers to see their female employees in the eyes of women like the mothers who produced and nurtured them.
“In House of Technology, we do not discriminate against ladies, regardless of whether they are pregnant or on maternity leave. This means that a lady on maternity leave cannot be dismissed or demoted,” he said.
Mungwarakarama said maternity leave is a women’s right and should not be misunderstood.
Commenting on the report, Joanne Bushell, VP Africa at Regus, said: “Reports highlight that the non-participation of women in the economy is costing some countries as much as 27 per cent per capita GDP.
When combined with the fact that companies with a higher percentage of women on board are more profitable, it is clear that businesses need to adapt protocols to suit working mothers.
“When women return to work after maternity leave, they often find that juggling profession and and family can be very demanding. It is not surprising, therefore, that more and more mums are seeking flexible jobs, opportunity to work closer to home at least some of the time, or the option to choose video conferencing over business travel. These incentives are key to encouraging more women back into employment,” Bushell said.
Regus customer, Zandra Persson, a web based masters student in Kigali, said: “I believe Rwanda encourages women to have a professional career and Regus makes this possible. For businesswomen that are on the move and who want to cut expenses this is an attractive concept.”
63% of Rwandan respondents think more women are demanding to work remotely when they return to the workforce
Perhaps due to increasing financial pressures, 42% of those surveyed say they are seeing women take shorter maternity leave (under 3 months)
48% say working closer to home is a key incentive
29% report that the option to video-conference over travelling would help returning mothers.