Jobs for the girls
Updated: Feb 2, 2019
I wrote this blog in early 2016 as I was returning to work after mat leave. I'd always had a focus on D&I as part of my roles, and this was the start of a full time focus on D&I in Talent at Capgemini.
Jobs for the Girls...
Maternity leave: Well that’s one of them isn’t it? You leave behind the world of meetings, clients and laptops, and replace it with sleepless nights, snot and (in my case) school runs. At the beginning of 2015, I was coming to the end of an amazing year with two mini feminists in the making (both girls — but they would be feminists even if they’d been boys — see a 2016 speech by Justin Trudeau), and whilst I was obviously sad to be stepping away from full time motherhood, I was absolutely buzzing with excitement about going back to work… You see, I was that rare and jammy creature who had been offered her dream job (well — maybe second place dream job after being a zoo keeper — but I’m definitely better qualified for this one). This dream job was “UK Talent Diversity and Inclusion Lead” — focussing on embedding inclusive talent management practices in the Capgemini UK business.
Addressing of the gender balance (the first area I was asked to focus on) in the workplace had always been something of a passion of mine since I first started work. I have been very fortunate to work in a number of organisations which support the flexibility of their employees, after all, technology is a great enabler of flexibility. However, I know that we (companies across the UK) can do better. Maternity leave brought this home to me in a big way, chiefly because my older daughter started school in September 2015 whilst I was off.
Being on maternity leave meant that I did roughly 180 “school runs” in the five months before going back to work, and the thing which struck me — “Where are all the dads?” In the playground on any given day, the parents dropping off and picking up their children are 90% female. It niggled at me for months, so based on speculation/ my scientific* (*not scientific) research, these were my thoughts as to possible reasons why:
1. There are no men in the sleepy Hampshire village where I live: I’ve eliminated this one as a possibility, and have had eyes on confirmation of the existence of all of the Dads from our reception class (the Nativity play is miraculous on many levels).
2. The dads are better paid than the mums: A distinct possibility, if my own household is anything to go by… When my partner and I first met, twelve (ouch) years ago, we were both fresh faced grads, earning exactly the same salary on grad programmes in different companies… I even completely emasculated him for a while by being primary breadwinner in the house (not true — my husband is a feminist — luckily for him). But then, I was the one who had the babies, the maternity leave and the part-time working, which does erode the earning prowess. But why was I the part-timer? Well that brings me onto my next point…
3. Flexible working is more accessible for women: Possibly — it’s certainly more typical for women, and (again based on anecdotal evidence), more socially acceptable. But why? In order to get to a place where we are truly able to embed flexible working, it has to become more the "new normal" for everyone, not just for women. Then we'll be able to really reap the benefits of this under-valued talent pool.
Which brings me to why I was so delighted to move into my role focussing on addressing gender balance in the organisation within which I then worked. I was lucky enough to meet an amazing group of five other women (four out of the six of us featured at the top of this article). These women in their former lives were a lawyer, a global design manager, a marketing guru, a regional sales manager and an actor. They are clever, funny, articulate, supportive and sanity saving creatures. And none of them are working in the same places or ways that they were pre-children. BUT they are working, and they are innovative about how they do it, and creative about making sure that they manage every second of their days in the best way to ensure that they do what they need and want to, both for their clients and for their children. Two of them have taken the opportunity to set up their own businesses, one of them is a human rights lawyer who works more hours than anyone else I know, but is almost always there for the school run, one of them is using her skills to teach other small people, and one of them is a company director.
Can you imagine if, instead of having to leave their roles in corporations (as three out of five did when the organisations “couldn’t” allow them to work flexibly), these women could have worked in a way which suited them, in their organisations, harnessing the creativity, relationships and passion which they are now pouring into their own ventures? You *almost* feel sorry for the companies which let them leave. So this is part of my mission: to work with companies to find even better ways of allowing more women to work flexibly, to tell the world about it, and to allow us to reap the benefits of more diverse teams coming up with even better outcomes for individuals, companies, clients and shareholders. Now that really would be jobs for the girls….
To talk to us about making flexible working work for your organisation, and harnessing the benefits of a truly flexible talent pool, why not get in touch through firstname.lastname@example.org