Overcoming the Motherhood Penalty: New MotherBoard report

Jan 22, 2024


by | Jan 22, 2024 | Leadership and Culture, News


The tech industry faces a problem. A reported 50% of talented women leave the sector by the age of 35, typically at the point when they become a parent. This ‘Motherhood Penalty’ is preventing the industry being truly inclusive and gender-balanced, and businesses are losing out when it comes to attracting and retaining talented people.

So what can be done about it? This month, Modern was featured as a case study in MotherBoard’s latest report with the Tech Talent Charter – a brilliant resource that explores the steps businesses can take to create an inclusive workplace that supports the needs of working mothers. We’re proud to be a part of this movement and want to help spread the word to help other businesses make change too.

When I returned to work after maternity leave, it was a bigger shock to the system than I could’ve imagined. Wanting to impress at work, catching up from a year of being ‘MIA’ and proving I still had loads to offer, all while being present for my son, navigating sleepless nights, illnesses and the growing mental load. I knew I wasn’t alone…


The guilt at needing to drop everything at 5.30pm to do the nursery run.

Declining a meeting because my child was ill and I needed to take them to the doctor.

Asking a colleague to move a deadline to accommodate my non-working Friday.


If we’re really honest, there are things we’ve all done – albeit accidentally – to alienate a member of our team who’s grappling with the juggle of balancing a career with parenthood. Not including them on an important project, presuming they won’t want that promotion, scheduling a meeting when they’re not around.

Sometimes, it’s all these things that add up to a parent just not feeling welcome and deciding it’s not worth it, dropping out of the industry all together and taking their buckets of skills and experience with them. When Sophie Creese, founder of MotherBoard, spoke at our company Modfest event last year, she told her own story about leaving the recruitment industry for all these reasons. She started MotherBoard to help others dodge that bullet. Last year, Modern pledged its support as a signatory to the MotherBoard Charter.

That’s why the new Tech Talent Charter & MotherBoard report ‘Overcoming the Motherhood Penalty’, published this month, is such a useful resource for our industry. With MotherBoard’s research finding that 42% of women experience a loss of confidence in their abilities after maternity, this can be crushing if they’re not given the support and positive motivation.

As our CEO Nicola Ray comments on page 13:

“For the ambitious women in our business, maternity leave isn’t a time for their career aspirations to die. As we’ve had recent restructures and promotion opportunities, we’ve made a concerted effort to give our team members on maternity leave the opportunity to step up and shape their roles when they return. Keeping an open dialogue while they’ve been on maternity leave, and having regular meetings and KIT days, has been key to helping them feel valued, motivated and empowered when they return.

As someone who experienced this first hand at Modern – being offered a promotion upon my return from maternity leave in 2022 – I can vouch for how motivating this can be. Being made to feel valued, knowing the leadership has faith in you and relishing a new challenge, can boost your confidence at a time when it’s really common to feel vulnerable, insecure and be grappling with a new identity.

Of course, there is always more that can be done to truly make a working environment accommodating for new parents. Things recommended in the MotherBoard report include…

  • Treating the return to work as an onboarding experience with a thorough briefing on company processes and tools, as you would a complete new starter
  • Making company-wide adjustments, including timing meetings and company socials to accommodate childcare arrangements
  • Integrating training into working hours
  • Importantly, not ignoring working fathers – 73% of fathers would like to work flexibly to spend more time with their children, according to the report.


Special mention should go to QBE Insurance Group, which also features as a case study in the report, for its enhanced partner leave policy. In order to better support working families, close the gender pay gap and promote equality, they have equalised their paternity leave to mirror their other parental policies so that regardless of gender, sexual orientation, or how their people become parents, all employees are entitled to 52 weeks of leave with 26 weeks at full pay. 

Until more organisations take steps to make change, not just in their own business but more widely within industry, issues like the gender pay gap and lost productivity will continue to be an issue. Hats off to Sophie Creese and the MotherBoard team for the work they’re doing in this space.

Want to learn more about our work with MotherBoard? For more on Modern’s work with MotherBoard and why we at Modern came to sign up, see our blog from CEO Nicola Ray: MotherBoard: Why Mother’s Matter

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Further reading

The impact of the strategic skills gap in marketing technology

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