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RPS challenges the "motherhood penalty": Bec's story

RPS' human resources team is leading by example when it comes to challenging the "motherhood penalty" with parental leave no barrier to promotion for long-term team member, Rebecca Mawdsley. 
23 May 2024 | 3 min read

Family no barrier to success at RPS

When women take time away from work for maternity leave, a level of concern about the future is natural. Will my role be the same when I come back? Will I be forgotten or overlooked? What impact will the absence have on my long-term career prospects? 


Australian workplaces have come a long way in terms of gender equality. But the "motherhood penalty" – the disadvantages that working mums encounter in relation to pay, perceived competence, benefits, and opportunities – persists in many organisations. 

Policies and procedures are important in addressing this issue. But so is leading by example. Something that RPS’ People Director, Karina Cossum, is doing within her own team through the promotion of long-term team member, Rebecca Mawdsley, while she was taking time off with baby number two.

“When you work in the HR industry you hear a lot of stories about women having a terrible return-to-work experience after parental leave. It’s always been important to me to challenge that”, said Karina. 

“With changes happening in the business I saw the need for a management level role for someone who could lead and shape our HR systems and operations. While Bec was on parental leave at the time, I knew she was the right person for the job.

“She had taken on operational responsibilities organically in the past and is a natural leader. She deserved that opportunity. People don’t stop being part of your team when they take parental leave. Whether Bec had her ‘out of office’ set at that particular moment wasn’t a factor.”

Returning to work in January, Bec has stepped into her new role as HR Systems & Operations Manager, working flexibly. She works in the office part of the week and the rest of the time from home. It’s an arrangement that allows her to be there for her kids, while giving her all to the job.

“I’ve worked at RPS a long time (thirteen years) and now that I’ve had kids, I’m ready to refocus on my career and pursue whatever opportunities I can,” said Bec.

“Working in HR, I know a lot of women feel like they need to look elsewhere to get to the next career milestone – particularly after having children. I’ve been able to grow my career at RPS and have been promoted over that time, but a small part of me wondered if that might be the case for me, too.     

“Karina and I had talked about this kind of role before, so to get the call and be made an offer while I was on leave was a really good feeling. It proved that out of sight isn’t out of mind, and the fact I was taking time out for family didn’t mean that I was written out of the work story.”

Interested in working somewhere family-friendly and flexible? Check out the latest career opportunities at RPS