I thought I should practice what I preach and fly the flag for networking last week. The last time I posted some event soundbites from clever women on issues facing working women it was hugely popular. Meryl Streep once said “I’m curious about people. That’s the essence of my acting. I’m interested in what it would be like to be you”. I think we are all a little like that. Or Zora Neale Huston: “We (women) poke and pry with purpose”.
Off I went to a Mum Talks series focused on Work That Works, put on by The Motherhood Network. From how to achieve flexible working with your employer to attaining affordable childcare, the idea was to cover the challenges faced by women (in particular mums) in the workplace and provide tools to empower women to speak up and create work that works.
Here are some of the discussion points:
We all need to champion the cause.
Anna Whitehouse: “Ian McKellen’s grandfather pioneered the two – day weekend in 1846. The same people who are saying no to our flexible working now are enjoying the fruits of the first-ever flex. working campaign”
“The gender pay gap is a glaring beacon of why we need to do it”. “54000 women lose their jobs just for procreating each year”.
“Everyone should be eligible; we should be fighting for the individual. From the person with a very needy labradoodle to the head of HR at Virgin, who famously can be found at the V&A once a week on Friday morning because ‘it helps her work better’. The statistics are there, flexibility equals profitability”.
She suggests we create a “working forward pledge” to ourselves if employed, setting up a network or a movement within our organisations to improve the situation.
Anna Whitehouse: “The concept of shared parental leave needs to be an ideology across the board, not just (as it pertains to) childcare/parenting. It’s part evolution, part revolution”.
Pay Transparency & Gender Pay
Rachel Carrell: “An interesting trend (especially in the tech startup world) is pay transparency where there is a huge move to publish salaries. This will remedy the pay gap quickly but it feels very risky to founders”.
Urgency of the Gender Pay Gap
Emily Fawell: “If we sit back it will take 70 years to close the gap and we will fix nothing for the girls born today”.
Women Supporting Women:
Njambi McGrath: “Trade with each other, support each other, we make up 50% of the planet…so if we support one another, we will change things”.
Your Own Business? Good Idea?
You must have a viable commercial product/service.
Anna Whitehouse: “Don’t see it as an escape route. Get to a pop-up business school or course to really understand (what you are undertaking and the risks/costs)” . “Don’t do it as a reaction to what’s not working”.
Conversely, Njambi McGrath said: “You don’t want to wake up when you are 90 saying “Why didn’t I try?”
Is punitively expensive and confusing: Rachel Carrell ”Parents want high quality, flexibility and a good price…pick two, it’s nigh on impossible to get three”. She set up Koru Kids which brings university students and parents needing school pick up until tea time covered. A masterstroke. “Only one in three London schools have after school clubs”. A key stat. – “Most people spend more on childcare than they do on their mortgage in the UK”.
The UK’s childcare costs are the second highest in the OECD. The “bewildering morass” of subsidies you can potentially secure is “hard to understand and take advantage of”.
Rachel Carrell: “We need to shift the dialog from childcare being a women’s issue to a parents’ issue. There should be no judgement about women who want to work”.
Emily Fawell: “Businesses need to see men out of work for extended periods of time on parental leave so that we get the perception out of our head that women have to look after the children”.
Anna Whitehouse: “It’s not about (men and women) surpassing each other, we need to evolve together”.
Importance of Partnership
This was such a big point of discussion for the audience, which offered a number of examples of where men were better carers than women.
Njambi McGrath “I couldn’t be a comedienne if my husband wasn’t a feminist”.
Women Need Coaching and Mentoring
We need to move away from talking to women only about stereotypical roles.
Emily Fawell: “Ryanair and Easyjet have looked at their gender balance and found anecdotally that men were told at an early age to be pilots so most knew from aged 11. For the small percentage of female pilots, they worked it out themselves in their 20s”.
Njambi McGrath: “I’m a double-negative…a black African woman. If there is already a black or a female comedienne on the bill, I don’t get the gig. But I remember JK Rowling, writing out of a tea shop in Glasgow, and I thought ‘If she can I can’. I just put my head down and work”.
The Need to Relinquish Control
Anna Whitehouse: “We need to look at ourselves and ask…are we isolating the other (individuals who could share the parenting/caring workload)? What can we just hand over (in order that we can lead more fulfilled, purposeful working lives)”.
Support the Flex Appeal campaign
for flexible working for all
Now I understand the WEP manifesto: apparently plundered massively by the main parties. I don’t agree with all of it but I love their unity, clarity of purpose and so many of their initiatives. I’m informed.
Mind expanded, frame of reference broadened, more ideas on how to help women return to work; I also had a laugh at some of these issues that are so far from being solved, only humour can edify. I love being able to get out of my little universe and hear what other people’s rants are. Through going to a local networking event I met my next podcast guest; Liz Ward of Slick Pivot, an amazing career coach with razor sharp tips that you will find profoundly helpful wherever you are [Liz’s podcast debuts next week – you can find the other Comeback Girl podcasts on Soundcloud and iTunes].
The potential for me to reach out to that group from last Thursday now, using the line “I heard/met/was with you at the MotherHood event” is huge and I will make great connections. This is a great networking strategy if you are looking for work. Be out and about, learning, meeting people, sharpening up your story, expanding your thinking. Keep your eye on Eventbrite or your local equivalent and make a date with yourself to network.