Simone McLaughlin, Founder and CEO of Jobs Shared, works with companies to provide innovative and practical solutions for flexible working arrangements. Simone shares her advice on normalising workplace flexibility and how to visibly Share the Care.
FLEXIBLE WORK ISN’T JUST FOR PARENTS
While it is one of my pet peeves to hear flexible work and gender equality talked about in terms of parents, because I am a strong advocate of flex for all, I am going to do just that right now. I am slapping myself on the wrist for doing so, but I can’t make this point without it.
It’s no secret that we have a gender equality issue when it comes to women in the workplace. There are numerous statistics from the Australian Bureau of Statistics to back this up. We know that there are impediments to women’s increased participation in senior leadership roles, other than simply not being qualified. Australian women account for 92 per cent of primary carers for children with disabilities and 70 per cent of primary carers for parents. Mothers spend twice as many hours (8 hours and 33 minutes) each week looking after children under 15, compared to fathers (3 hours and 55 minutes). And what about the pay gap? Well the full-time average weekly income for women is 16.2% less than for men.
But if you’re like me, you’re bored of statistics. We know there is a problem. So lets focus on some easy solutions that can start chipping away at this mountain of inequality before us.
UNFORTUNATELY THERE IS NO MAGIC SOLUTION
The Scandinavian countries, like Sweden with their first feminist government, are kicking ass in this area and all have substantial government policies around parental leave and childcare. Most telling, is that tax is viewed by citizens as a necessity to provide these benefits, not the government lining their pockets and taking holidays on our hard earned cash. So, this is why I advocate simple, easy solutions to start with. Because if we wait for the government, we’ll be waiting a long time!
SO WHAT CAN WE DO?
I was listening to Elizabeth Broderick at a panel discussion just before Christmas and she said something that struck a chord with me. “The number one thing men can do, is make their caring responsibilities in their workplace visible” . Yes! I promptly went home and told my husband to do just that. He’s already a hands-on dad, but he had never formally stated to his supervisor specifically when he was on kid duty. He was just doing it. And it was accepted, but not openly acknowledged. So this is what I believe we need to do.
When I drop off (yey!) and pick up (sigh) my kids from daycare there are plenty of dads doing their bit. They’re not bumbling about like they are so often depicted in television ads. None of them are expecting to be congratulated on their outstanding efforts at picking up or dropping off their child. They are just parenting.
MEN, LET IT BE KNOWN THAT YOU HAVE CARING OBLIGATIONS
How many of these dads have actually said to their employers, “this is the deal, I have kids and on these days I have to be there to pick them up and on these days I have to be there to drop them off”? How many have let it be known that their absence from the workplace isn’t a ‘mystery meeting’, it’s caring responsibilities? If men start normalising their caring responsibility and formalising the time they need off, we might start normalising the concept of sharing the caring. In a lot of cases we’re already doing it, but the men are just more covert about it.
IT SEEMS EASY, BUT THERE’S A LOT OF CHANGE THAT HAS TO HAPPEN FOR THIS TO ACTUALLY WORK
We need more workplace flexibility, which means we need to see employers trusting their staff more. For the record, if you don’t trust your staff to work from home, they sure aren’t going to be kicking goals for you at work either . So trust your staff, create a culture of flexibility for all, not just parents. Everyone has shit to do, so give everyone the opportunity for a bit of flexibility. Men, let it be known that you have caring obligations. Employers, trust your staff and stop thinking of flexibility in terms of mums. If we can do this, I think we might start seeing some of those startling statistics decrease.
Simone McLaughlin Founder and CEO of Jobs Shared created Jobs Shared to provide a solution for employers who were struggling to accommodate their senior staff requesting flexibility on their return from maternity leave. As the company has evolved, so to have her goals, Simone now works with companies to create a culture of flexibility for all. She would like to see gender equality in the workforce, more women mentors, role models and leaders. She believes it’s about flexible careers, not just flexible jobs. When Simone isn’t working on solutions for gender equality in the workplace, she is raising her two boys, training for open water swims, and doing her best to feed her TV addiction.
This article was originally published by Femeconomy