‘Entitled’ is a new one. Part-committed, part-invested - these archaic descriptions of flexible working have done the rounds for years, but flexible working as an entitlement bestowed on parents is a new low.
In case you missed it, comments were made this week about parents working from home that knocked me sideways. You see, wherever there is progress, dinosaurs are waiting in the wings to roar and take us back to the Dark Ages. This time it was Tina Knight, more ironically known as the Chairwoman of Women into Business. She claimed that parents working from home are entitled, and this entitlement is setting a bad example for their kids.
She said we would all like to “do an hour in the morning, a nice long lunch hour and an hour in the afternoon.” I don’t know about you, but my working and parenting day doesn’t revolve around elevenses and luncheon with the ladies.
This, to be clear, is the rhetoric that keeps the Gender Pay Gap alive and kicking.
The suggestion is that flexible working is a privilege, not a necessity and that working from home is an excuse for slacking off from the job. These words are incredibly damaging to the progress that’s being made to level the playing field.
Flexible working is anything but simply a ‘nice to have’. It’s often the only way for many mums, dads, men and women to work. One lady told me, “I’d love to know what she [Tina] makes of me, maximising my time and energy by working from bed because I am disabled. I’m bloody good at my job. I need a laptop, a phone, and some adaptations for accessibility, and then I’m away. I didn’t realise I need my legs in a job that is mainly about thoughts and words.”
Flexible working isn’t about where you are sitting, it’s about who you are including at the table - and it’s good for business. Research from Gartner June 2021 has shown that 43% of people said that flexibility in their working hours had helped them achieve greater productivity.
Another woman told me, “If I didn’t work from home, I wouldn’t have a business, and I wouldn’t be able to care for my medically complex son while trying to earn a living.”
The reality is that without flexible working, we won’t close the Gender Pay Gap, get as many women into business, and reach equal pay for equal work. The number of UK businesses currently owned by women is now 32.7% which has increased dramatically from four years ago when just 17% of founders were female. This is because we can work flexibly.
When it comes to equal pay for equal work - we have a long way to go. In fact Fawcett Society has just revealed that November 18th 2021 is the day that women on average stop earning relative to men across one year’s earnings because of the Gender Pay Gap.
Research from The Equality and Human Rights Commission has confirmed flexible working is the ‘primary way’ to close the Gender Pay Gap. The primary way.
So when my daughter sees me working from home, I hope that she sees that she, too, can grow up to have a family and a career. That the two aren’t mutually exclusive. That flexibly isn’t an entitlement. That it’s the only way to bridge that gaping hole of gender inequality.
Raising the next generation isn’t a recreational side hustle, it’s one of Mother Nature’s biggest, most privileged tasks. It seems, Tina, you’ve forgotten where you came from.