PROPERTY industry experts fear firms are missing out on talented people because mothers find it difficult to get back to work at the same level that they left.
The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) also warns that businesses in Yorkshire have problems recruiting because of a lack of qualified candidates.
Now it is calling on the industry to recognise the value of mothers returning to work and older people. The RICS says firms which recruit from a more diverse workforce with measures to help parents return to work - will gain a competitive edge and attract a wider pool of talent.
Richard Schofield, 65, managing director at Rider Hunt Management Services, in Leeds, said: “No matter what your age, ethnicity, religion or gender - there should be no barriers to anyone’s aspirations.
“We must attract and retain young talent, but we must not forget about those with years of experience, including parents who took a career break to look after their children.
“Their invaluable knowledge and expertise can help address any skills shortages by encouraging young professionals through training and mentoring initiatives.”
The RICS believes that one of the reasons it has so few female members, currently 15 per cent is that women struggle to get back in to the industry at the same professional level they left to have a child, unless they return to work within a year.
The organisation says firms that are not willing to offer flexible working are leaving some parents with no alternative but to leave the industry.
Chartered building surveyor, Rebecca Hailey of JLL in Leeds is a mother of a two-year-old boy.
She was able to returned to her role as associate director after 13 months of maternity leave.
She said: “Where women opt to take a career break, it is essential that they can re-enter the workplace at the appropriate level. There is also a culture that if you are not seen to be at your desk, then you are not doing your job.
“This attitude needs to change. My employer is supportive of flexible working, but I know this isn’t the case for many working parents, which is why they may struggle to go back to work.
“The property industry changes so quickly, so we constantly have to develop our skills to adapt to the changing market.
“Parents, who return to the industry after having a number of years off, may find it particularly hard adapting.
“The same can be said of older professionals who return to the industry after being out of work for years.
“Employers need to ensure that any such staff has access to the relevant training and development opportunities to refresh and improve their skill set.”
By 2020 the Office for National Statistics (ONS) predicts that a third of the working-age population will be over the age of 50.
RICS encourages older members to continue their careers, as experience is highly revered and rewarded. It launched a Senior Professional Route to membership “to help encourage greater diversity and recognise the career achievements of those operating at a senior level within an organisation.”