Restaurant manager Margaret Phua, 36, has been working with fast food chain McDonald’s for more than 20 years.

A mother of three, she has managed to juggle a fulfilling career and family life. In fact, she was surprised that she was promoted shortly after she resumed work after being on maternity leave for three months. 

On top of this, she also received a University Accredited Programme (UAP) degree scholarship from her employer to further her studies. Because her employer demonstrated an interest in her future and invested in her development, Ms Phua is now a more motivated employee.

Opportunities like these are not always abundant across all industries. A recent survey by workplace solutions provider Regus reported that fewer employers are keen on hiring working mums.

In this survey, employers expressed concern that family responsibilities would prevent women from giving full attention and commitment to their jobs.

However, it is not difficult to find many instances where this can be proved wrong.

Many women who need to balance family life and work can be as productive as other workers, especially if they are given the right support and opportunities.

At McDonald’s Singapore, for example, women make up 66 per cent of the employees. The company has harnessed the talent of its women employees successfully.

It believes that a focus on work-life harmony will help them to be even more productive and find greater satisfaction at work.

Here are some insights on how McDonald’s accommodates the work-life harmony needs and creates opportunities for its female staff:

1. Work-life harmony and flexibility

The company understands that juggling between work and family life can be strenuous. Women who prefer to place more emphasis on family life will find flexibility and support at work. A flexi-hours scheme allows female staff to adjust their work to suit their needs.

Ms Tan Chiew Yen was a housewife with little experience when she joined McDonald’s as a part-timer.

In six months, and on the flexi-hours scheme, she was able to advance herself and fully develop her strengths. She has now converted to full-time employment and has been promoted to shift leader.

She says: “Because of the flexible working hours here, I work the night shift regularly so I can spend time with my children. This is like the best of both worlds where I am finding a good chance to develop myself while enjoying quality time with my family.”

2. Empowering women

The company believes in giving  career advancement opportunities to all individuals, regardless of gender. In Singapore, about 60 per cent of its directors and senior management are women.

The best example is Ms Randy Lai, who was recently appointed as managing director of McDonald’s Singapore. She is the first woman to take on the role here.

Says Ms Lai: “The company has taken steps to better understand women’s needs at the workplace so we can foster closer engagement with them. In fact, in the mid-1980s, we were pioneers in hiring women who were keen to return to the workforce after years of home-making.”

3. Equal opportunities as a driving principle

Providing equal opportunities for all builds a solid foundation for employee engagement.

An employee who sees a future for herself or himself in a fair organisation will be motivated to deliver better performance.

As a “people” company, McDonald’s is fully aware that an inspired and passionate workforce can distinctively differentiate its brand as a service leader.

Providing opportunities also goes hand-in-hand with offering good training programmes. While equipping employees with the relevant skills, training also helps to boost their confidence and the morale.

McDonald’s UAP, which allows selected employees to attend intensive courses in hospitality and business management, has been very successful in the retaining and growth of talent.

Says recent UAP graduate Audrey Ang, 58, a mother of three: “There were many things I had to manage while studying for this course, like my work and family. But I wanted to learn something and upgrade myself.

“This is actually my second diploma. I am not sure if, at my age, I could do it easily elsewhere, so it was a very valuable chance for me to go back to school again!”

4. A supportive environment

In February this year, the company launched the Singapore Women’s Leadership Network (SWLN) as a way to support women employees.

It aims to help them reach their fullest potential while taking into account work-life harmony.

Apart from skills courses and get-together activities, it also provides mentoring support.

All this is underpinned by the company’s employee value proposition, which aims to make all employees feel valued in a fun and supportive work environment.

 The three components of this proposition are: family/friends, flexibility and future.

For employees, this translates into a work environment where everyone feels part of the team; challenging and varied jobs are provided with the flexibility to suit different lifestyles; and ample opportunities for personal learning and progress are provided.

A supportive environment makes women employees feel a sense of belonging and engagement with the job. Every step to create an inclusive company that embraces diversity will go a long way towards building better performance eventually.