Numerous studies reflect the fact that women face adversity in the workplace, ranging from outright discrimination to side-lining and unequal pay structures. On top of this, most women also have to juggle family demands. These pressures ring true for single mothers in particular, who are often not only the family breadwinners but also the primary caregivers. With some organisations having stringent and, often, restrictive office hours, the workplace can be difficult to navigate for working mothers who have to balance parenthood and full-time jobs. This challenge formed the basis for Anna Auerbach and Annie Dean's company, Werk, a people analytics platform that provides insights on flexibility in the workplace. Dean and Auerbach found that more than 30% of the most talented women leave the workforce entirely after having a child, but 70% would stay if they had flexibility. Unfortunately, having children is a crossroad at which talented women often feel that they have to part company with their male colleagues who can continue on the road to growing their careers and climbing the corporate ladder. This, in turn, leads to larger issues like underrepresentation of female leaders in the workplace, gender pay gaps, and plateauing careers. Werk’s solution was to advocate for flexibility in the workplace, not only because it improves productivity, but it also creates a more equitable environment for women.“We found that a lack of flexibility can hurt the performance and productivity for as much as one-third of the workforce,” wrote Dean and Auerbach in the Harvard Business Review. In an economy where productivity is stagnant across the board, flexibility is a key disruptor for improving productivity.CEO South Africa of Naspers, Phuthi Mahanyele-Dabengwa, agrees there needs to be a shift to a more flexible, career-building work structure – particularly for single mothers. Companies need to start re-aligning themselves with the changing work environment and nuclear family structure.“We should celebrate the fact that for the first time in history, more women are graduating from our universities than men,” she said. “Women are integral to our country’s ambition to drive innovation and future-proof our economy. Many of these women will go on to be the breadwinners in their families, supporting wider networks in their communities and ultimately contributing positively to our economy.”Her advice is that companies need to think about how they focus on offering women flexible, career-building work. Flexible working hours and fair policies around maternity leave, for example, are just some of the ways in which future-focused companies can help enable and support working mothers. In South Africa, we still have a long road to walk in achieving this. According to The Basic Conditions of Employment Act, mothers are entitled to four months maternity leave, and just last year President Cyril Ramaphosa signed a landmark law providing new fathers with ten days of paternity leave. When it comes to maternal and paternal leave, companies that implement supportive policies can potentially garner more trust and dedication from their employees in the long run.“Whether we’re talking start-ups or major corporations, mentorship plays a vital role in helping women achieve their potential,” said Mahanyele-Dabengwa. She added both women and men have a key role to play in mentoring and empowering women in the workplace.This post was sponsored by Naspers and produced by Brandstudio24.