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Balancing work and family better to help close the gender pay gap – Oliver Black, Founder of My Family Care

Family walking in the woods

Oliver Black is one of the UK’s better known childcare entrepreneurs – the founder of My Family Care and a non-executive director at Tinies. My Family Care was founded in 2006 with support from IBM’s work / life balance fund and has established itself as the leading provider of work and family solutions for many of the UK’s best-known employers including IBM, Google, Shell, P&G, Freshfields, UBS, Barclays, Baker & McKenzie, Bank of America, McKinsey, Deloitte, Citi, KPMG, Rolls-Royce and Allianz. In his spare time Oliver is a proud father of three young children, which some describe as “living the brand” and is a fan of endurance races and sport. 

Oliver Black
Oliver Black

“…the story really isn’t about the gender pay gap, it’s more about the narrative that goes around it. It’s recognising that there is a gender pay gap and the actions you’ve got to put around it. Nearly everyone has got a gender pay gap…” 

Background to My Family Care

So, I’m a director at My Family Care, I guess one of the founders as well. My Family Care is a business that works with employers to help people combine work and family. Work and family is a big deal, so nearly all of us are either ankle deep or neck deep in combining work and family ourselves.

sandwich-generationThe sandwich generation is alive and well, we’re all having children slightly later in life, but, equally, our parents are living much longer and we’re the kind of schmucks in the middle who are going to be working for much longer trying to combine these two elements.

If you help people combine work and family you get three very distinct outcomes as a business. Firstly, you get great engagement – I love the fact I am able to have a career and a family. Secondly, you get great productivity – so somebody that’s combining work and family will nail their work in the timeframes they’ve got available, the people that most benefit from agile and flexible working. The third element is that you drive loyalty. Someone who’s been able to combine work and family will be much less likely to go somewhere else, even if it’s for more money.

So, we work with around about 160 clients; these range from your Googles and LinkedIns to your Proctor & Gambles, the UBSs and Barclays – so really a vast array of different clients, but the issues are the same. Our work is really about proving the metrics , so this year alone we’ll get 14% more of Norton Rose’s female lawyers coming back to work, staying and being promoted than previously. We’ll save our clients over 50,000 days in lost productivity through our award-winning Back Up Care programme, and we’ll move people like Northern Trust’s engagement scores by 12%, so there’s real metrics behind it.

It clearly falls into the diversity in inclusion space as well as the talent piece. That’s really My Family Care in a nutshell. 

Supporting our clients in the run up to the deadline for compulsory gender pay gap reporting

Out of the, sort of 9,000 or so employers that need to report, about 900 have reported so far. We’ve been running various webinars and we’ve got live events running as well. So, really just trying to help our clients and other people get their head around the narrative behind the gender pay gap reporting.

The reporting is simple and straightforward in itself. If you have gone above 250 employees you need to report, that needs to be on your website, you need to report to the Government, it’s going to be on your website for three years.

Woman-in-STEMThe story really isn’t about the gender pay gap, it’s more about the narrative that goes around it. It’s recognising that there is a gender pay gap and the actions you’ve got to put around it. Nearly everyone has got a gender pay gap. (Equal pay however, is a different issue – paying men and women for doing the same job but in an unequal way is clearly illegal.)

We are assisting our clients around the narrative and then what support they’re going to put in place to move their gender pay gap. The issue isn’t necessarily about the gender pay gap today. It’s about next year and the year after woe betide anyone whose gender pay gap hasn’t improved. It will be about showing that the initiatives that companies have put in place have actually begun to move the needle.

Clearly, people combining work and family, attracting people into the industry and helping women (and men) stay the course, naturally leads itself into the parent and carer territory, which is where our services, we think, make a vital difference in terms of helping people not only come into the industry but also stay in it.

Accelerating the pace of closing the gender pay gap

Accelerating the closing of the gender pay gap is first of all about recognising that there is one and, secondly, it’s going back to the narrative piece.

If you take Rolls-Royce, for example, there’s just not enough women going into that industry so you’re going to have a gender pay gap whether you like it or. Rolls-Royce simply don’t have enough women going into engineering, but if you look at the seniority of those women, they’re actually doing a pretty good job of developing them.

So, there’s two elements, one is attracting enough women into the industry so that you don’t automatically start out with a gender pay gap and, secondly, recognising all the bits that cause people to off-road in their career, which stops them from accelerating – taking that talent pipeline up the food chain.

I think companies need to look at it in those two ways (a) the attraction piece and (b) what are they doing to make sure that those people stay the course? I’m biased because I think family plays a massive part of that but if you can help people over that hurdle you going to have much bigger talent pipelines to be able to draw from. You’re not going to have this issue with trying to “fix the women” or treating women differently but a meritocracy where natural talent rises to the top.

I don’t know whether you’ll accelerate it quickly but people, the narrative about recognising it and getting the business to recognise what the issues are and tackling those I think are a great place to start. 

Encouraging uptake of shared parental leave by men

You could put shared parental leave and the gender pay gap reporting in the same sort of space.

Dad-and-childShared parental leave is a great piece of legislation, complicated, but great. I think there is no reason now why companies don’t enhance their pay on shared parental leave. The uptake’s been small (around 2% of eligible men) so the financial risk is small, but it’s more about the message that goes with it. Culturally, it’s about men being willing to take that leave and women also giving up some of their leave for men to do it.

The legislation is there. I think there’s no financial reason, and if there’s no financial reason, which there shouldn’t be from companies, then you’re creating a debate almost in the home, which is a great place to start.

Mum and dad are sitting down and working out who’s going to take the leave. If it financially doesn’t make any difference then you can have a really honest debate about it. If dad says: “Well, it might really hurt my career,” you’re going to have a mum saying: “No sugar Sherlock, guess what we’ve been facing!” So, the debate at home is almost as cathartic as the debate at work.

It’s a cultural piece for me that we need to work on. It’s men taking shared parental leave, making sure that we’re amplifying those stories, watching their careers like a hawk because if anything does happen to their careers then clearly, organisations need to think more broadly. 

Coming up next for My Family Care

For us it’s really growing what we currently do. We have got great data from the services that we provide and it’s really trying to scale what we do.

We’ve a live gender pay gap event on the 22nd February and a webinar. We’ve got about 800 people on the webinar and another 200 at the event. We will, through our various services and programmes, save our clients huge numbers of days in productivity, we’ll drive their engagement and wellness agenda, and we’ll keep people on the course, those who are combining work and family.

People in the parkThe metrics only point one way in terms of people combining work and family from Millennials, where 80% of them will both be working and caring for families so it’s carrying on to take what we do further afield.

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