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Motherhood, career, and the tightrope walk: Supporting women in Local Government

What does International Women’s Day mean to me?

Imagine needing to decide on whether to start a family or put your career first. Statistics from 2018 show that fewer than one in five of all new mothers and twenty-nine per cent of first-time mothers return to full-time work in the first three years of maternity leave.

One of the main agendas of International Women’s Day is a strong reminder that we still have plenty of work to do in achieving gender equality worldwide. Celebrating this day allows us to raise awareness of the biases faced by women in various aspects of life. Our agenda is to inspire and empower women who not only want to be a powerful businesswoman but also become a mother.

Whether a first-time mum or if you have done it before, the fears of returning to work after 6-9 months or even longer from maternity leave remain incredibly daunting. Recently, I had the great opportunity of speaking with a range of women who have felt the need to take a step back in pursuing their careers, due to the lack of flexibility or confidence from peers to do so.

In 2021, research showed that nearly a quarter of mothers said that they had found the workplace completely different once they returned from ten months of maternity leave, and thirty-one per cent found it harder than they expected it to be. We are now in a day and age where flexible working is becoming the new normal, and our mental health is treated more seriously than ever before. We have plenty of articles and forums supporting mums returning to work and restarting their careers, but do we have enough internal training for managers to understand the importance of inclusion particularly around coming back to work from maternity leave? As I discussed returning to work with a lady who worked in the particularly challenging service area of Children’s Safeguarding, it was highlighted how hard it is to step back into the long work hours and emotionally draining cases, especially when you factor in your new role as a full-time mother.

When applying for a position with progression, the challenging conversations and stigma surrounding being selective on working hours or days can seem like you are asking for a lot. Statistics show that women are more likely to turn down applying for roles due to appearing difficult when it comes to their needs as mothers. During these processes, are we being conscious of candidate’s backgrounds and circumstances both internally and externally? After hearing from each of these incredible women and hearing their experiences, it is clear that applying for certain roles depending on age, experience and appearance is challenging enough, without the added pressure of applying for a role post maternity leave.

As a woman who would love to start a family one day, whilst also being a powerful woman in my field, I look up to all of the women I have spoken to. Women who are working hard to juggle the demanding reality of being both a full-time mum and a powerful woman in Local Government.

Are Local Government doing everything they can to support women returning from maternity leave? After reading my article, I encourage you to watch the video below and consider if we provide them the ability and tools to pursue becoming a powerful leader.



Grace Killick is an Associate Consultant for Local Government Executive Interim at Penna. To learn more about how Penna can help you with any recruitment needs, please visit

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Grace Killick


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