I was at a City Event yesterday: capital letters for the Power & Part-time Top Fifty awards. It was bright, cheerful and positive as the achievements were recognised of 43 women and 7 men who had demonstrably successful careers on a part-time basis. Many of them were on 4-day weeks, but quite a few work on three days or even less. One man is on a 9-day fortnight, which sounds to me as if ‘part-time’ is a label which stuck only precariously to him.
I had several interesting conversations with winners or their sponsors, who all had good stories to tell. I asked them (as per previous PP posts) whether they think ‘part-time’ is a helpful term. Most of them have come to terms with it as individuals, but agree that it’s not generally helpful. One woman told me that her husband also works part-time, I think in a logistics company, and gets regular stick for it. The consensus was that if we could move to ‘flexible working’ it might better – a category which includes full- as well as part-time. The key argument is that in advertising jobs flexible working should be the default position.
Anyway, I happened also to be browsing the European Quality of Work Survey. It asks two questions relevant to flexitime: Can you vary your start and finish times? and Can you accumulate hours for time off?
The chart gives the answers for the UK on the first question. The UK has higher averages for both men and women (only 45% of EU men and 40% of WU women can vary their start and finish times); but there’s a big difference between the genders.
Here’s a (possibly) surprising further comparison: the country with the biggest gap is Sweden, where 69% of men and 56% of women can vary their times. Maybe that means that Swedish men are more involved in the school runs etc; but it’s still a big gap.
The same picture emerges on the accumulation of hours for time off. In the UK, 48% of men say they can do this, compared with 44% of women. EU figures are 47% and 41%; Swedish are 74% and 68%.
So the P&P-T evening left me with two thoughts. One is that there is still massive scope for more flexible working, across most sectors and most organisations. Secondly, it is decidedly curious that the gender gap runs the way it does on this…..