It’s a biological necessity for women to take time off work at certain points in life, but like most modern families, balancing busy careers and parental responsibilities has proved a real challenge for the Sheasby family.
Dr Chris Sheasby told Resource Harbour how he came to don his apron to help remedy his eldest son's weight loss, after he was diagnosed with a serious illness: “Betty Crocker cakes can cure all sorts, apparently. Hey, don’t judge - this isn’t the Bake Off!”
Until recently, Chris’ partner (a research scientist) had shouldered most of the childcare responsibilities (as well as having a career of her own) but, when the family circumstances changed, they decided his career was the one that was best suited to flexing hours to accommodate the hospital visits and additional care their son needed.
Chris met his partner whilst studying for a doctorate in immunology, but these days is an experienced Financial Director (FD) providing strategic financial advice to SMEs and not for profit organisations.
Surely that’s easy in this enlightened day and age?... It would seem not.
In the past when Chris worked in the commercial sector, Chris’ workplace asked why he needed to attend his son’s outpatient appointments. The assumption was that it was the mother’s job to go - not his. Conversely, Chris felt that there was an implied criticism of female colleagues who were 'choosing' to work long hours in the office, rather than being at home with their young children.
Admittedly, this was quite a few years ago and attitudes have improved for the better. But as recently as last year, a friend of Chris’ decided to take shared parental leave, despite a rather awkward meeting where he was told "off the record" by his boss that it would affect his career. Not to be disheartened, Chris negotiated with his employer, condensing his full working week into four days so he could spend more time with his two sons.
Of course, Friday was pretty full, and condensing 37.5(+) hours into the other four working days, makes for a long old week. Yet Chris would often receive comments such as “You must be enjoying your Fridays off...”
So, working as a consultant FD, going it alone, whilst initially a daunting prospect, seemed the best way forward to achieve the flexibility and autonomy Chris needed.
But when he approached recruiters, the most common feedback he received was that part time, consultancy-based work was not worth it for them, the margins were too small and they would not hit their revenue targets.
There were a handful of recruiters, Chris says, like Resource Harbour that he could turn to and he was also able to reach out to his own network. Within a relatively short period, he now has a client base he is proud of.
Mainly working from home, Chris communicates with Jakarta, Luxembourg, Sao Paulo and Sheffield! Unified comms (conference calls and other remote working tools) have enabled him to turn his spare room into a business hub; he avoids the commuting and has more time to spend at the school gate.
A third of parents at his school gate are dads. Ok, so the dads mostly wait in the cars or walk straight to the classroom, avoiding the huddle of mums on the tarmac. Chris himself still feels a little self-conscious when texting mums to organise play dates and has been known to sigh at the frequent mention of mums (and not dads) on the school run, on the car radio whilst he picks up his kids.
So, it’s not all equal yet but it’s getting there. In the scheme of things, this feels like minor, 'casual' sexism but Chris and his partner both feel that this latent, legacy expectation of working dads indirectly impacts the prospect of women achieving true parity in the workplace and closing the gender pay gap.
It is true that equality in the workplace, gender imbalances and 'casual' sexism are reducing, but to truly gain workplace equality, Chris feels we need equality of benefits for both sexes. And that is not necessarily about changes to employment law, but changes to commonly accepted working practices. Fathers are getting more involved in childcare and so changes to social norms are inevitable. Chris is also noticing a change in working practices in the “millennials” who are seeking a better work-life blend and gender balance in the workplace, which will further accelerate trends towards flexible working for both genders.
Only with structural and attitudinal changes, mums and dads will be able to share the load equally and be truly equal partners both at home and at work. To quote Professor Bohnet “we need structural change – to examine procedures such as how do we advertise, how do we evaluate people, promote people…. To start closing some of those gaps.”
Resource Harbour is a recruitment agency with a difference. We want to help employers attract exceptional talent like Chris across Finance, IT, Marketing and more, and help companies do this by advertising roles that are structured differently to allow incredible people to bring real business benefit while living full lives outside of work.
If we can help your business, contact us at email@example.com
At Resource Harbour we’re always on the look out for exceptional talent and our flexible working event last week uncovered some real gems!
Our flexible working event at the Lime Tree in Chepstow, held in collaboration with the Children's Hub and Information for Parents (CHIP) enabled us to share some of our expert knowledge on the range of flexible working options that many employers now offer. We were overwhelmed by the number of professionals who turned up to the event and the feedback we received was really positive.
We are continually blown away (but not surprised) to find that Chepstow and the surrounding area is teeming with professionals from different backgrounds, with a diverse range of transferable skills that we know employers really want. One highly skilled attendee mentioned that having recently been made redundant they are finding it difficult to find part time work that fits around their family commitments - a perfect candidate for Resource Harbour. These are exactly the kind of extraordinary professionals we are talking about, when we refer to there being exclusive - yet elusive - talent out there, which we help our clients to reach.
We explored a range of different flexible working options and how they can work well in different industry sectors and roles. Once again, job share partnerships came up as an attractive option for many of our participants who are looking to make their next career move, not just because of the flexibility it can offer, but also for the opportunity it can provide to work in collaboration with a talented colleague.
We're confident that many traditionally full time job roles can be effectively restructured to work as a job share, and we aim to stand out as a specialist in pairing up professionals for roles as a job share team. In certain roles (such as change management, or project management roles) the job share pairing of a technical expert with someone who has a flair for relationship management/business strategy can work extremely well, offering to the employer a broader skill set across the role than they might find by employing just one person full time.
We are working with employers across the region to reengineer roles to attract the very best talent, reimagining their jobs to appeal more to talented professionals just like those we met last week.
Thanks so much to everyone who came along. Please spread the word within your network of friends, colleagues and family, that we are building our talent pool and we would love to hear from them if they have skills and experience in one of the job functions we specifically cover:
Job sharing isn’t a new concept of working but can it really be done at a senior level? YES IT CAN!
Vicky and Sam are both Directors at a private bank, working as a job share. The advantage to Vicky, mother of three and Sam, mother of two, is of course the flexibility to work part time around their home life and outside business interests. What’s in it for the bank though?
Employing a job share, the bank get two brains instead of one. Vicky and Sam work ideas through before involving their wider teams, taking less of their boss’s time. They can cover each other’s holiday and sickness, and will flex their own hours to meet peak demand where required. They always have each other’s back, so the stresses and strains of management are shared.
Their job share journey hasn’t been without its challenges though. All the way, Sam and Vicky have had to make the case for it.
How did it begin?
The idea of working as a job share started when they decided to start a business together. They both handed their notice into their employer at the time, a big 4 accountancy firm, who convinced them to stay on 2.5 days a week and run their business alongside their employment. They looked after the same clients and their job share journey began.
Their hours were adapted at different stages to meet their own family and business commitments as well as the business needs of the firm, but between them they always covered the whole week with some overlap. When a particular project ended, they choose to take redundancy, and used the opportunity to grow their own business.
Sam in particular was after a greater degree of financial security and so the hunt for a part time role began. A friend showed Sam a contracting role at a private bank but it was a full time role that Sam couldn’t commit to on her own. Sam suggested to the recruitment agency involved that herself and Vicky could fill the role as a job share. At first the agency were unwilling to consider putting them forward but Sam and Vicky’s perseverance led to the agency giving them a chance, and after being interviewed separately, the bank agreed. After trialling the approach on a contract basis, the bank were extremely pleased and the job share become a permanent position and team S&V were soon promoted.
How is their job share perceived?
The bank were really impressed by their ability to work together at a senior level and the feedback they received was fantastic. Comments were made that the company should definitely do this set up more often (there was only one other job share in place at this level). Their immediate boss was initially wary of the concept but now he champions them.
Sam and Vicky see jobshare as a great opportunity for women to keep progressing into senior roles and is a way of creating more diversity at the top of organisations.
How to job share effectively
Sam and Vicky have made job share work by overlapping their days, being willing to have complete transparency with each other and fundamentally having the same outlook, sharing the same values but having complimentary skills. Even though they look nothing alike, they sometimes get called by each other’s name. While that would not necessarily be an aspiration for every professional, it is certainly a measure of a job share’s success!
Next week we speak to Sam and Vicky’s boss to get his perspective on job share - does it work for him? What are the benefits and pitfalls for the business?
Are you interested in hiring people who work flexibly?
If you are interested in flexible hiring as an employer, we can help! At Resource Harbour, we bring compatible professionals together and work with companies to highlight the enormous benefits of this way of working. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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