Stop tip-toeing around awkward conversations......
I shared this image on our Facebook page this week and it got quite a reaction and I haven't really been able to stop thinking about these words since then. (**BUT before I start, I'd like to say that this isn't supposed to start a gender debate- please substitute daughter for son or daughter for child....I shared this particular one because we had our 20 week scan this week and found out we are expecting another little girl, nothing more than that!**)
Anyway, I digress. With our little girl starting school in September, we have suddenly found ourselves in the maze of arranging pre and post school childcare as well as being forced to think about how we are going to manage holiday cover and boy, did I under-estimate this task! For all of you who have been doing this for years, I take my hat off to you- it's a blooming' minefield and that's before I even start to quiver at the thought that once she does start school, she will only be attending from 12.30pm to 3.10pm every day in September. How on earth are we working parents supposed to manage?
The one obvious option of course is to ask for flexible working. Yes, I know, it's just not possible for some jobs and in some companies but with some careful thought and planning, it can work and it can alleviate the holiday headache for companies and their employees.
But being able to enjoy the benefits of flexible working involves having, what for many can be some awkward conversations- with your line manager, HR and colleagues alike, but trust me, surely we owe it to ourselves and our children to take the bull by the horns and risk the dreaded chat?
I speak to between 10 and 15 people a week who have registered with Flexperience who are either on a career break or looking to change roles for many reasons. For those already in work, the majority are looking to change because they want more flexibility but I can't help but be surprised by the fact that many of them haven't even yet had a conversation with their employer about finding a way to make their request work. Most just write this request off before they start and think it will just be easier to find a new job. What a shame for them and what a complete waste of talent for their employer. Many of us make assumptions based on the views of others, but we all know what they say about assuming....
The world of work is changing and many are seeing 2018 as a pivotal year in the gender debate. I set up Flexperience in the wake of the #metoo campaign and amid the backdrop of the gender pay gap controversy at the BBC and I felt the momentum behind what companies like ours are trying to do. I believe with every fibre in my soul that now is the time to act and if we don't then we will miss the best opportunity women and men have had in this country to make having children and a career a possibility for everyone who chooses that path. It really is now or never.
So, as we find ourselves in the middle of the third week of the summer holidays, I ask all of you who feel trapped in the cycle of feeling totally drained with the efforts of juggling work and childcare to be honest with yourself. Have you fought your corner enough at work? Have you braved the difficult conversations or have you just assumed that flexible working is not going to happen for you at your current place of work? If the latter is true, then read the above quote again and think about what you would say if it was your daughter in your situation right now? Or a long suffering friend feeling totally miserable at work? And now, take a deep breath and be brave because we totally owe it to our children and their children to make the playing field for parents in the world of work a much more even place to be.
Oh, and if you've had those conversations and you still aren't getting anywhere, get in touch with Flexperience to see what we can do to help.