About Laura Laura is a PhD candidate in the Music Education program at Western University in London, Ontario, Canada. Her Doctoral research, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, focuses on the ways in which involuntarily childless women experience community and…
During recent years, increasing numbers of organisations have started to realise the importance of promoting equality, diversity and inclusion within the workplace. The global COVID-19 pandemic, and incidents of racial injustice, have heightened unconscious bias and the need for inclusivity amongst those whose voices have traditionally been marginalised.
The issues that parents face at work in terms of bias has been well-documented. What may be less well recognised are the issues surrounding childlessness. Childlessness could be considered an “invisible” aspect of inclusivity. Childless women may make up to twenty percent of women employees - the figures for men are less certain, and women without children have been found to work the longest hours of any group. Although the work-life interface is interpreted differently within organisations, if initiatives around it exclude their growing childless employee base, the initiatives will be less effective and may render a feeling of injustice with counter-productive effects.
In addition, some of these employees may be struggling with fertility issues, may have experienced pregnancy loss, or may be permanently childlessness not by choice or by circumstance, all of which need to be handled sensitively, and with awareness. Childless employees may feel excluded and isolated at work if the predominant narrative is one of families and children.
Areas in which I can help by providing training to raise awareness are:
- Uncovering omissions - childlessness may be a blind-spot and omitted from work-life balance considerations, e.g. expanding the concept of what ‘life’ and ‘family’ mean to be inclusive, so that flexibility principles are applied equitably regardless of reason.
- Creating an environment in which affected individuals feel safe to be open about issues affecting them.
Raising awareness of appropriate communication and language within the workplace, e.g., questions around whether someone has children, or why they do not, may be immensely private and painful for some.
If these issues are not dealt with sensitively it can lead to reduced performance and engagement, increased absenteeism and could even lead to loss of talent.
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