As the related issues of gender bias and part-time work continues to grab the headlines, Helen Brennan talks about her own experience, arguing this is a problem for fathers and carers as well.
If the publication in January of PwC’s report on fairness and equality in the BBC’s policies for determining the pay of on-air talent was intended to damp down discussion of gender pay, it didn’t succeed. The topic of gender bias in the workplace continues to burn as hotly as ever.
Research published by the Institute of Fiscal Studies indicates that the lack of earnings growth in part-time work has a particularly significant effect on women – that is to say, if you work part-time, you don’t get pay rises.
It’s hard for me not to take this personally because last September, I reduced my paid working hours from 35 to 21. There were two reasons for this: with a son starting secondary school, I wanted to be around more in the evenings; and even though my firm allows me to use some of my working time for volunteering, with my volunteer roles putting increasing demands on my time, I wanted to be able to build a bit more “air” into my days.
I was surprised at how difficult this change was for me, emotionally and psychologically. I hadn’t realised how important my role as a professional and – to put it bluntly, my economic value - was to my sense of self.
The reaction of many male colleagues to my announcement was to refer to their wives having made a similar choice; this only increased my sense of having moved into an “out-group” of invisible Mrs Columbos at home.
However, this isn’t exclusively a problem for women. Fathers increasingly want greater flexibility in the workplace in order to spend time with their families. And it’s not just about parenting either – 42% of the UK’s working age carers are men.
It will be very interesting, therefore, to see what comes out of the research commissioned by Business in the Community, in partnership with Santander UK. This research will explore the experiences and needs of men with caring responsibilities in the UK, the relationship between men’s involvement in family and women’s progression, and involvement in the labour market. Focus groups with employers in the public and private sectors will investigate what interventions in the workplace are having positive effects.
Helen Brennan is Deputy President of the LSCA
Read more at:http://www.icaew.com/en/groups-and-networks/local-groups-and-societies/london-ds/london-accountant/opinion/mar18-councillor-brennan
Your comment regarding the reaction of your male colleagues is what really struck a chord with me. In my view employers have to focus their efforts on encouraging men to choose to be around more for their families in the evenings and days so that it becomes just as likely that a man will work part-time as a women and women gain equality that way. I can see why a man might find it hard to be one of the first men in an organisation to make such a request but how else will it become an accepted normal?
My male colleagues over the years that have wanted greater flexibility have limited it to a day working from home or some rearrangement of hours rather than reducing hours in total and it has been so that they can be around more than be the sole childcare provider at that time.
Equality in the home first and the workplace will follow.
Thank you so much for your comment Emma. I agree. The times I have felt most supported by my male colleagues are the times when I have seen them speak out on the importance to them of their own ability to choose flexible working, shorter hours or other adjustments, whether because of parenthood, other caring responsibilities, or other priorities outside the workplace, including study. I think it's about everybody being able to choose working patterns that allow them to live life to the fullest, without facing unfairness as a result.
Apologies for not replying sooner - I've been on holiday. :)
Wow great article)
That really is an interesting one. It obviously is hard to take care of children and be fine with your career and when women handle it, it's just worth of respect. Our son is twenty now and only now my wife is fully getting back to her career because now he can but all the time and effort into it. And it definitely is a positive change. I can see the passion to what she is doing in your eyes. And it leads to a lot of changes. She changed her hairstyle to something like https://therighthairstyles.com/category/length/short-hairstyles/ , started to do makeup, bought some fancy clothes, we started to go out much more and generally speaking, the life is much easier now.