Middle Aged White Men Can Jump

January 8, 2019

This week, I attended a New Work Network event about embracing flexibility in the work place. On arriving, the first thing that struck me was that I was one of only a handful of men in a room of over 100. I was well and truly in the minority. At the end of the event, attendees left their comments on post it notes, and I spotted several about men needing to get involved in flexible working practices and I couldn’t agree more.

Last month at the IPA and Campaign Magazine’s Women of Tomorrow awards, Sharon Horgan, writer, actor, director and owner of Merman gave a talk where she addressed the lack of diversity in the TV industry. She shared a letter she had written earlier in her career to TV show producers and it started ‘Dear middle aged white man…’, at that point a woman two seats away reached out to touch my arm and apologised. Sharon powerfully highlighted how age, gender and race can limit you in her industry.

We win awards for our flexible working, our culture and the professional development of our people. Every time we win, my sister and business partner, Caroline, is asked for comment even though I am responsible for the people side of our business. In these instances, I find myself on the other side of the gender gap.

Flexible working isn’t just about working mothers, it’s about people, working people, whether they be dads, school leavers, recent graduates, carers or those with no dependants at all. Everyone can have flexible workplace needs, so without equal involvement we will continue to see flexible working being siloed for the few.

Corporate level, senior managers and managers can be architects and advocates in flexible working. We need to get involved and lead by example, building trust within our teams and embracing these new ways of working, or risk being left behind.

For those who say it doesn’t benefit the workplace, I strongly disagree.

The workplace, along with the world, is changing at an alarming rate and there are ever increasing numbers of people freelancing or working for themselves, on top of this unemployment is at an all-time low in the UK. Offering flexible working is not about being a good Samaritan. We offer it in the interest of the business, to tap into the rich pool of talent where competition is tough. Attracting talent is only going to get harder so by showing a lack of flexibility your talent pool immediately shrinks.

As a business, in the last financial year we had the lowest staff turnover since we set up business seven years ago and we grew 43%. When we review other benchmarks, we are in line with or exceed industry standards, so yes, there are clear benefits for business. Listening to our people too, they report feeling more valued, motivated and have improved morale.

We will continue to campaign for flexible working for all, stopping the long hours agency culture and developing many other ways to make business work better for everyone, and that means everyone regardless of gender or personal circumstances.

If more people take action and jump into the world of flexible working, we can create the shift that the workplace needs. Join us!

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