Having a conversation to request flexible working doesn’t have to be hard: Introducing ‘Happy to Talk Flexible Working’ – Fiona Tatton, Womanthology Editor

Meeting
Fiona Tatton - Womanthology Founder and Editor

Fiona Tatton

Hello and welcome to issue 81 of Womanthology. In this issue, we’re looking at Myth Busting. I think it would be fair to say that myths are still rife in the gender space. It was funny – I revisited the Myth Busting issue we published with the same theme a year ago and I was wondering if there was a danger that we would run out of myths to write about. How wrong I was…!

The gender space is strewn with myths:

  • Women lack ambition and don’t want to be promoted – WRONG!
  • Women just need to ‘fix’ themselves and act more confident in order to succeed – WRONG!
  • The gender pay gap would disappear if women learnt to negotiate harder – WRONG!
  • Women who take time out of work to care for their families will lose all their skills – WRONG!
  • It’s only women who want to work flexibly and men don’t want to be able to take time out from work to spend with their families – WRONG!
  • Women have to accept lower paid position with less seniority when they have a family – WRONG!

We’re constantly hearing about employers who want to retain talent and are now trying to lure women back to the workplace with initiatives like returnships. But what I’d like to ask is: Why we have to lose so many women from the workplace at all?

Most of us are craving flexibility in our employment. Whether we’re working parents, we’re carers, or even if we’re looking for additional income to supplement revenue from a new business venture, the main thing we want to be able to do is to find employers who understand this desire for flexibility.

47% of the workforce would like to work flexibly, but only 6% of job adverts advertise flexibility

The vast majority of people say they are looking for flexibility in their role. According to research from the campaigning charity, Family Friendly Working Scotland, 47% of the workforce would like to work flexibly, but only 6% of job adverts advertise flexibility.

So, things get awkward. Mainly due to historical reasons of custom and practice, there’s faux barriers in the way to having these conversations. When applying for a role that doesn’t make any reference to flexibility it’s a very brave individual who raises this with a prospective employer.

As a result, sister organisations Working Families and Family Friendly Working Scotland (FFWS) decided to do something about this, and they created a campaign using a practical strapline for anyone to advertise their commitment to flexible working. It is free for anyone to use, regardless of where they are in the UK. Check it out.

Happy To Talk Flexible Working logo

I’m not sure I could love this more. Happy to Talk Flexible Working is a strapline for employers to show they are ready to have a discussion about flexible working. Employers use it on a case by case basis and the results will open up the application process to more people with the skills and talents they are looking for.

Women in particular tend to be ushered into lesser paid, less senior positions after they have children as these are the roles that tend to offer greater flexibility

FFWS and Working Families point out the elephant in the room – we all know the statistics which show that women in particular tend to be ushered into lesser paid, less senior positions after they have children as these are the roles that tend to offer greater flexibility.

By recruiting flexibly and adopting family friendly working practices, UK and Scottish employers have reported to FFWS that they can achieve increased productivity and performance, reduced absenteeism, better morale and well-being, as well as improving staff retention and recruitment. Family friendly and flexible working brings benefits to employees, while also delivering high performance and successful organisations.

It’s also relevant for anyone else who’s looking for flexibility, for whatever reason this might be – caring responsibilities or otherwise.

Working in partnership with Family Friendly Working Scotland and Working Families

For this reason, I’m delighted to announce that Womanthology will be partnering with Family Friendly Working Scotland, as well as their sister organisation based in London, Working Families, in order to raise awareness of this campaign throughout the UK.

Womanthology will be encouraging all employers who post job ads with us to consider supporting the campaign. It’s free, and anyone can use it. More details can be found here:

https://www.workingfamilies.org.uk/campaigns/happy-to-talk-flexible-working/

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