What? You’ve got children?! That’s a deal breaker.
Here’s a statement. I wouldn’t employ anyone who has children, they are bound to be unreliable, need an excessive amount of time off and get tired easily.
Sensible? Nonsensical? Where do you stand?
I have heard two stories recently from friends who are successful female business owners (who are also mums – important point here!) which I have found surprising (actually no – very very irritating!) in today’s business world.
Both involved a broken-deal following the female business owner mentioning the ‘c’ word: children.
Fair weather client
My friend had been dealing with a client for months. The relationship seemed to be good, the project was progressing, deadlines were being achieved, deliverables delivered.
During a particularly bad snowy patch last year, she contacted the client and they discussed a meeting that they may have to postpone the following day due to heavy snow forecast.
My contact happened to mention that, all being well, they could still meet, but just to let the client know, her child’s school may shut – as schools sometimes do. She offered a conference call, a skype call or an alternative date – this was all ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ as the snow hadn’t fallen yet. As it happened, the meeting went ahead the next day as planned – no dramatic snowfall, no school closure.
A few days later, the client sent an email out of the blue ‘terminating’ their agreement as he felt she was unreliable due to her childcare commitments.
Holidays are for wimps
The second story involves a potential new client. My friend, and her potential new client were in discussion arranging a date when she could travel to London to present to them.
The first date mentioned happened to be half term. My friend had, some time ago, booked that week off as annual leave to spend it with her children. She didn’t need to tell the potential client what she was doing with her annual leave, that’s her own business, but it happened to come out in conversation.
The potential client asked how she could be seen as reliable if this happened every school holiday, what if they needed her at the very last minute, how could she possibly drop everything?
The fact that my friend had a number of employees who would ultimately be doing the work didn’t even come into the conversation. And if that week off had seen her jetting off to Spain for a holiday, or moving house – would that have been perceived differently?
Until that point in the conversation, my friend had already started to mentally make plans so she could attend this meeting in London during half term. It was her business; she knew she had to make sacrifices. But she quickly decided she didn’t want to do business with the new client and cut her losses.
She’s lucky – she has run her own business for more than 10 years, so she is now comfortable with who she deals with. There are many business owners and workers who don’t have that confidence.
In both situations the outcome, the business, the work delivered were not affected by having children. Yet the clients clearly made an incorrect assumption that having children meant the women in question would be unprofessional and unreliable.
Flexible working isn’t just about children
Many of us work flexibly in order to manage childcare, but then there are just as many who work flexibly to accommodate an elderly or sick relative, to pursue a hobby or interest, or even to run another business. Whatever the reason, we should be confident and open about it and not be afraid that we will lose business or respect as a result of working and being a mum/dad at the same time.
As Helena Morrissey, chief executive of Newton Investment Management and mother of nine (yes, nine!!) says, ‘we have to redefine success at work. It should be judged on output, not hours put in.’
There is a silver-lining…
Don’t be disheartened by these two examples. There are many businesses out there who really get the benefits of flexible and part-time workers. A recent survey by Regus found that:
- Nine out of ten businesses reported that offering flexible working options is a highly effective way of improving staff morale and helping them to achieve a better work-life balance.
- 81 per cent of business owners see flexible working as a way to improve business productivity – a higher figure than the 74 per cent in the previous year’s survey.
Honesty is the best policy
In my opinion we should all be honest about our working style and choices.
In the case of having children, most people I meet in business have children, either young or grown up. So why should it still be such a deal breaker?
The simple answer is, it shouldn’t be. Flexible workers and those with childcare or other caring commitments have already addressed those demands to ensure their working lives aren’t affected.
I am sure mothers including multi-millionaire businesswoman Karen Brady, CEO of PepsiCo Indra Nooyi, CEO of General Motors Mary Barra, former CEO of Pearson Plc Marjorie Scardino… and 5.3 million working mothers in the UK, would agree.
Find out more about Ten2Two a specialist flexible and part-time resourcing organisation providing affordable, part-time professionals to local businesses. www.ten2two.org
Interested in your own professional development or thinking about a return to work? Ten2Two run FREE workshops for Members. We have a free social media workshop and Member Get to Know you session in June – full details here.
An endorsed Guest Blog from Tracey Adams at Ten2Two
Ten2Two is a specialist flexible and part-time resourcing organisation providing affordable, part-time professionals to local businesses. Originally established in early 2007, Ten2Two has a community of over 20,000 professionals and has worked with companies ranging from FTSE 100 businesses to new businesses seeking their first employee. Ten2Two offers permanent and contract professional staff and can advise employers on the processes and terms and conditions involved in employing people flexibly.
Tracey Adams, Director of Ten2Two Gloucestershire and Bristol knows what it is like to fashion a career with family commitments. She is an experienced marketer of 20 years. When she started looking for part-time work in marketing she was frustrated with the lack of dialog between businesses and recruiters and set up her own niche recruitment business in Gloucestershire focusing on flexible working, particularly women-returners. Tracey joined Ten2Two in December 2016.
There is no doubt that the economy can benefit greatly by getting professional and experienced women back into the work place at a time and place that suits both the employer and employee. The challenge is to marry the requirements of both. This is the opportunity that enthuses Tracey and the Ten2Two team, one they feel is a successful and winning formula.