A little while back, I wrote a post about getting and having part-time work. Despite the fact that I think part-time work creates more hassles than any flexibility you gain because you get to work and still do all the home/child related stuff. Despite the fact you can end up working longer hours than you get paid for. Despite the fact that most organisations organise important meetings during the times you don’t work and so therefore exclude you. Despite the fact that it’s rare you would be considered for promotions. Despite the…..ok. I’ll get off my soapbox. I know part-time work is important for some women (and men for that matter) and you should pursue this if it is. And I did write a pretty good post about it!Read More
Prue is one of Australia’s prominent portrait and lifestyle photographers, and I got to sit down with her and understand how she built her career as a Fashion Stylist and now photographer! It’s a great story about taking a risk and understanding your purpose, that ultimately paid off.Read More
There is something wonderful that happens when you put a whole lot of women in a room, with a beautiful outlook, fabulous food, glasses of cold prosecco and inspiring stories. The barriers are down and people start connecting and being curious and well...Read More
But last week I attended a lunch and employment law update which was very helpful on a number of levels. The main being that while I know a little something about employment law in the UK (enough to be dangerous), I don't know much. This is actually a good position to be in because it makes me research and learn and talk to people who know more than me. I know what I don't know, which is better than thinking I know everything. It means I will end up in less sticky situations.
One of the items for discussion was Gender Pay Gap Reporting in the UK. I'd heard a little bit about it before I moved to the UK but as the company I work for doesn't have enough employees in the UK to have to complete the report, I let it fall out of my brain. But after some superior sandwiches and other lunch food tidbits I was in the right frame of mind to take in what this meant for employers.
Employees with more than 250 employees are expected to report their Gender Pay Gap by 2018 in the following ways:
- the mean pay gap between men and women,
- the median gender pay gap, and
- the gap in bonuses paid to men and women.
The brief included what exactly constituted 250 employees and what formulas you used for the calculations and when it all had to happen by. It struck me that this type of reporting has the potential to change the culture of how we look at gender and equal pay in the workplace. Because I'm assuming that the pay gap is not going to be positive for women. Actually I know it's not because of the clever research conducted by the International Labour Organisation and the World Economic Forum and the United Nations and many many other private and public sector organisations. We know the gap is not going to be pretty and this is going to force employers to start to do something about it, because there is going to be a bit of an uproar. You would think.
But then the presentation took a bit of a turn. There was a discussion about how you could potentially avoid reporting and how if you engaged a lawyer to help you look at your data, then the data would fall under legal privilage so you could get away with not reporting (say if your results were really bad and you needed time to sort it out). And then some information on how there wouldn't be any sanctions for companies that didn't report and then I started to feel a bit "half glass empty" about the whole situation.
In my home country, Australia we have been doing reports like this through the Workplace Gender Equality Agency. At least since 2008 the reporting requirements include numbers of males and females at each level, having policies that support gender equity in relation to all parts of people management and some other stuff that I don't think anyone cares about. I think the Workplace Gender Equality Agency is doing a great job driving this agenda but most companies I have worked at have all the right policies on equal employment opportunity and flexible work practices and so on. What is harder is having the right culture and leaders who believe and live the intent of the policies.
In various roles I have either been responsible for completing the report, part of a team completing the report or reviewing the report before CEO sign off. I can say generally that most years it is a scramble to demonstrate that the organisation has done anything to move the gender diversity issue along (though maybe I haven't worked for the right organisations) and to be honest it's exhausting applying creative thought to situations that don't deserve it.
The legislation that sits behind this reporting is well intentioned and should produce outcomes where organisations really look at what's happening in their patch and start to engage in dialogues to improve the situation. Equal pay for women and men has a huge impact on our community at large. Instead the lack of teeth in forcing or reviewing the public reporting means for many HR people tasked with filling out the sometimes excruciating details, is that it is all for nothing. We seem to be lacking some real grit and courage to deal with the problem.
Gender and diversity reporting attempts to create transparency around organisational remuneration, policy and cultural practices but how can this happen when there are no ramifications for non reporting or for reporting poor figures with no robust plan to fix it?
I really like this TEDx video which was shared on my social media a number of times this week so I had to pay attention. In January this year, David Burkus talked about why sharing salaries could benefit employees, organisations and the wider society.
Take a look. What do you think? Would you want your colleagues to know what you get paid? I think the new UK legislation is attempting to create transparency around pay gaps and that's a good thing.
Or maybe we could just pinksource? Its pretty, cheap labour. Go watch this video, now!
*code for writing about a topic without getting sacked
I have noticed something in my current job. The shock on my male colleagues face when I say I have a nearly 4yr old and a 14 month old. This is often followed by questions and statements:
How does your husband cope?
It's generally a disbelief and shock and and sometimes a little judgement. Judgement that I could possibly leave the house with such a small child there. I guess. I'm finding the double standard quite surprising but I'm not always offended. It comes from a curious place. Usually. And when it comes from a curious place I am always happy to explain how my husband Arran and I work it. I myself am curious about the double standard I perceive to be there.
It seems to be ok that men work when they have a little baby, but not women. Has anyone else experienced this? That women somehow have that magic ingredient that only they have, which means they are the ones who need to be the primary caregiver. Of course if the baby is being breastfed then it's a little tricky but on all other matters it's not. I think a lot of women promote this too. I have seen men in the relationship with a small child treated as though they are stupid or unworthy to look after their own child because they do things differently with the kids.
From the very start when Aiden was a new-born, Arran used to defer to me on lots of issues, because he perceived that I somehow knew how to do something for him, because I was the one who gave birth. Complete crap. I didn't automatically get an instruction manual as my milk came in. Nor was I an expert just because I carried him for 9 months. In the end I said to Arran that I only knew about as much as him and that he could make decisions too. Arran took it all on board and probably became a bit of a baby hog. He had as much or as little confidence as me. That's ok. Made both our lives easier.
I don't believe men get the same questions in the workplace. They don't ask each other these questions, and if they do it's about sharing and comparing and showing how proud they are of their beautiful children. There is no judgement. I don't think men consider judging other men about their children because there is an assumption, in my view, that there is a woman somewhere who is carrying the child care and domestic burden.
The questions I get the most is "how do you work and travel with small children?" I don't think a man in the same circumstance would get this question. I'm not sure Arran ever gets this question when he is away for the weekend, riding his bike in the middle of nowhere. Will any of his mate's acknowledge or even wonder who is looking after his two boys when he does Tour Divide in June this year? Men seem to acknowledge that it's hard at home with small kids and they will have to "pay" when they get home from a work trip. There seems to be a belief that the man will be in a "points" deficit when he gets back but there is no issue with him working long hours or having to travel away from home. It's ok because there is a woman around and she is expected to look after the kids and tend to the home, whether she works outside the home or not.
I get questions like "how does your husband cope?" Firstly, no one asks me that question when Arran goes away! I am just expected to cope. Secondly, I think it's also offensive to Arran and to men, who are completely capable of looking after kids if only women would just let them.
When I have to travel for work of course I miss Aiden and Charlie, and they miss me. There are lots of "mum, mum, mums..." from Charlie when I'm not there and lots of "Where's Mummy" from Aiden. I try to do a few things to make the days I'm away a little easier for Arran, who has to take the burden of getting them to and from childcare, caring for them if they are sick and feeding them, dressing them, bathing them and generally making sure they are ok.
But I enjoy the time away too. How shocking! What kind of mother am I? I enjoy hopping on a plane in my freshly dry-cleaned work clothes free of drool and jam. I like having a little time to myself to read a magazine. I enjoy having a hotel bed all to myself without the chance of being woken by a screaming child and having to fling myself out of bed in the small hours of the morning, to replace a dummy before the crying escalates so much that it will take 30 minutes to settle him down. I like just having to do my own hair and get myself dressed. I like eating breakfast alone in the hotel restaurant or a nearby cafe. I like not having to get up and down a hundred times to tend to some small child's need during said breakfast and then rush them to daycare. I'm sure my male colleagues who travel also enjoy such things. And I like coming home again. Actually the time I came home to a vomiting bug wasn't great....anyway you get the point.
I love my work and the company I work for. I also enjoy working with men. I have always worked in more industrial businesses which have tended to be more male dominated. I often find myself as the only woman in the meeting. I like these businesses because they are practical and down to earth, and I feel like what I do can make a difference. That's all very well but driving innovation and creativity in businesses requires diversity of thought and that I believe requires diversity in the employee group. Different ages, different experiences, different cultural and religious backgrounds, different ways of working, and men and women in different roles across the organisation.
Inspire meI wanted this post to be an observation of what I experience at work, as a woman and as a woman with children. I wanted it to be thought provoking and a conversation starter. I asked Arran to read the post before I put it live on the blog, mainly because I didn't want the post to be too critical. I love my job and our workplaces are what they are, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't be challenged and continue to evolve to be places where every person can contribute and be valued, not matter their personal circumstances.
After reading this post Arran and I had a really good conversation about his experience at work and how his responsibilities looking after our beautiful boys are perceived. It's not just women who are struggling. Men who want to contribute equally to looking after their children find it hard in the workplace as well. He suggested I write a follow up post about this but I had a better idea. Arran is an accomplished writer. He writes his own blog called Musings of a Wannabe Racer and has written articles on mountain bike riding for many print and online magazines.
Arran is going to be a guest writer on this blog next week, giving his view of how people in his organisation view his want and need to care for our children equally. Stay posted!