More women than men are searching for new jobs with a higher salary as the cost of living crisis impacts female employees and mothers returning to work, new research has suggested.
The findings reveal more than three-quarters (77%) of women are looking for roles with increased wages, compared to only 59% of men as finances are squeezed and childcare costs continue to rise.
Families are having to fork out more than two-thirds of their salaries on childcare, which could have a knock-on effect on the income needed to cover the costs.
This may, in part, explain why so many women are looking to up their wages and make it worth their while, finance-wise, returning to work after maternity leave, adoption leaving or looking after children.
Alistair Williams, executive business coach at A Clear Path Ahead, has noticed this pattern recently with his own clients too.
He has worked with a number of post-maternity leave returners who have had to re-evaluate their current position, particularly if they have been going back to a part-time role.
"Typically they have looked to either take on more responsibility (and in turn negotiate a salary increase within the role) or have simply increased their negotiated number of days," he explains.
"The opportunity to work for organisations who embrace hybrid working and, crucially, have a clear return-to-work initiative feature very highly alongside salary and remuneration considerations, while any benefits package that can include childcare support is always highly sought after.
"These enhanced benefits will often be exactly what's needed to make the difference between taking on a role or not."
But it seems searching for a better paid role and actually achieving one are two different prospects, with over two-thirds (68%) of the mothers taking a career break claiming they experience confidence issues about negotiating salaries.
The same is not necessarily true for their male counterparts, however.
Williams describes something known as the "ask gap", which is the difference between what women and men ask for within salary negotiations.
"Put simply, men have tended to ask for larger salaries and have been more likely to negotiate and play off organisations against each other," he explains. "While there are many reasons for this, confidence is a key influence."
Watch: What is the ideal time to return to work after maternity leave?
It isn't just while negotiating salaries that women's self-esteem is taking a hit, however, with further results from the survey, by Reed.co.uk, finding that 69% feel taking a career break has affected their confidence when applying for a new job.
Thankfully, there are some simple tactics women can adopt to improve their confidence in the workplace, particularly when returning after taking time out raising children.
Ask yourself what you need
We often focus on what the organisation needs from us, however Williams says any new role or return to a role should come with an opportunity for you to share what you need from the organisation.
"Your life is now different and you may have different values, priorities and interests," he explains. "Ensuring that you are clear about what these are and how both this role and the organisational culture fits with these needs will equip you with the confidence that you are in the right place."
Have absolute clarity about the role itself
If there's no job description for example, how will you understand what's needed, what the necessary impact of the role is and what you should be prioritising?
"If you sense high levels of ambiguity here, seek to address these without delay," Williams adds.
Reframe your back-to-work fears
For example, are you noticing 'self limiting beliefs' popping up such as: 'I can't do this', 'I'll struggle', 'I've forgotten how to do it'?
"These are all extremely common and in some respects serve us to prepare and get into the return mindset," Williams says. "However, they often have little truth to them. I often suggest that clients think back to a time when they have been thriving at work and focus on those positive feelings, describing what they have been doing, and then remind themselves of this sense of achievement.
"In turn, this will address these self-limiting beliefs head on with an alternative version," he adds.
Williams says he often hears a theme around "this is now it, for the rest of my life", but suggests working to reframe into smaller chunks.
"Think of returning to work as being something that you'll (personally) re-evaluate after three months or six months in the role," he suggests.
"It may help to think of it as a contract that will work for us as long as it is working for us," he adds. "There will always be alternative options."
Remember your worth
Williams suggests being confident in your own abilities and remembering that there will be areas where you will need some support and development. "In exactly the same way as your other colleagues," he adds.
Build your support network
This will include colleagues, friends and family. "Share your challenges, but keep talking, keep encouraging each other and keep a sense of perspective," Williams says.