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Future of Property Q1 2024

Mid-career crisis: childcare unaffordability contributes to skills drain

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Chithra Marsh

Director, Buttress Architects

Empower women at mid-career by recognising the impact of childcare on workforce diversity and how a flexible work environment can transform industries.


A skills pipeline gap between early career and senior roles impedes career development for many skilled, educated women. The main drain happens at mid-career, as women struggle to balance their chosen careers with other responsibilities. This phenomenon hinders senior-level contributions and impacts business diversity.

Supporting women at mid-career

This isn’t just about women reaching senior roles either. For many, it is simply about wanting to do a good, professional job, balanced with the daily juggle of children, family, caring for others and having a life. We know that a clear career path, training and mentoring are important. Retention of women is dependent on properly rewarding them throughout their careers. An honest, trusting, flexible work environment will reap dividends for both parties in terms of loyalty, staff retention and the bottom line. 

The main drain happens at mid-career, as women struggle to balance their chosen careers with other responsibilities.

Childcare and the skills drain

While employers delivering a supportive work environment deserve praise, the looming issue of inadequate and expensive childcare remains a significant threat to business. It further exacerbates the skills shortage across all sectors and levels. 

Many parents are faced with difficult decisions: can both parents afford to work, can they afford not to work? How can they realistically return to work if childcare simply isn’t attainable? For many women, this is yet another barrier to progression. It prevents them from staying in a role or forces them to give it up — taking their skills, knowledge and professional acumen with them. 

Hampering an inclusive workforce

Recent research by Coram, Randstad and Pinsent Masons with Working Families all reflect these issues and arrive at the same conclusion. The high cost of childcare, coupled with inflexible work arrangements, is not only hampering career progression but — even worse — preventing some people from returning to work entirely. It is a blow to productivity, a blow to the bottom line and detrimental to an inclusive workforce.

Moreover, it is probably no surprise that the majority of people affected are women. If we are to tackle the mid-career drain, see more women in senior roles and have more industry role models for the next generation, resolving the childcare issue is front and centre.

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