Released On 19th Aug 2015
Catherine's blog: Career trajectory
I have been working ‘part-time’ for just over 6 years now. Part-time is in quotation marks because inevitably I squeeze 5 days work into my 4 days – and this is an all to familiar story I know. It’s not ideal, but the trade off is I get to enjoy that precious day with my children.
My company has always been supportive - my request to move my role to 4 days was immediately approved upon asking and my contract swiftly amended to make it all official in pretty much record time. I have even been promoted while working ‘part-time’ which was all fantastic. But lately I feel as if things have stalled a little or that I have to fight just a little bit harder to be clear that yes, I may work 4 days a week but I am still serious about my career. And there are days when I definitely wonder if the fight is worth it.
In one more year both of my children will be in school full-time and while I had always hoped to remain working 4 days a week, I am not sure there is genuine appetite within my company yet to fully embrace senior managers working on reduced hours. So the question is will I need to return to 5 days a week to be able to move on? I spoke to a relatively senior female colleague recently, who also works 4 days a week and asked if she would be willing to share her story internally but she declined stating that her line manager liked to keep it a bit under the radar!! It's clear we still have a lot of work to do…
I don’t believe working 4 days a week or reduced hours or any other form of a flexible working arrangement is asking to ‘have it all’. We know if there was wider acceptance of part-time hours and flexible working it would help to attract and retain top talent. Many companies have excellent policies but application of such policies can be random. Policies are often left to line managers to adopt and implement, creating inconsistencies across companies and the old attitude remains of ‘part-time’ equals lack of commitment. While one of my line managers created a diverse and flexible team another in my more recent experience has mentioned in our conversations that as I progress visibility is going to be important – a rather thinly veiled swipe at my working arrangements. The real shame of this is that the lack of senior support can often prevent people from even stepping up and requesting the option in the first place.
So how do we progress? We need more leading by example for sure. We need education and learning on how flexible working can work in an organisation, and the conversations need to be easier to have. The annual Power Part Time List makes for inspirational reading, proving that it is possible to work part time at senior levels, although it would be great to see a few more names from the legal and banking professions in there too.
Attitudes to part-time and flexible working arrangements have certainly come a long way in recent years there is no doubt about it, and the rise in the number of agencies dedicated to part time roles is another good indication that the market is changing. But there is still a challenge ahead if we are to make targets set by the government to get women back into the workforce and keep them there.
However, for today I do feel as if it is definitely worth the fight and hopefully one day soon I can create that internal case study myself!.
Catherine works for a financial institution in the City on 4 days a week and is a mother of two boys.