Try Not Having Kids!

not having kids, female breadwinnersA similarly child-free friend of mine sent me this witty video  - Try Not Having Kids!

As a 38 year old woman who only recently has started feeling confident enough to tell people I won’t have children, it resonated. It’s a light-hearted look at the ‘side effects’ of not having kids created as a parody of prescription drug commercials. What we love at Female Breadwinners is not that the video pokes fun at parents, but that it shows the highs ‘alleviate daily stress and gain personal fulfillment!’ and the lows ‘mid-life regret and eerily quiet apartment’ of not procreating. We love the ‘safety warning’ of ‘Please tell your doctor if you already have kids before you ‘try not having kids’ as this may result in you being a selfish a***&^*&*”

Statistically, the better educated a woman is, the less likely she is to have children. This makes us wonder how far off the mark BBC presenter and Historian Lucy Worsley was when she controversially claimed: ‘I’ve been educated past my reproductive function.’ Clearly, it’s not an easy choice for anyone debating to become a parent, but we love how the video cleverly uses humour to show there is no right answer – just very different lives.


3 Killer Ideas for Recruiting Professional Women

recruiting professional womanFor some of our clients, retaining professional women is less of a struggle than attracting them in the first place. This is particularly true in fields that recruit from the academic disciplines in which women are under-represented; like the physical sciences and engineering. That’s not to excuse those who use the all-too convenient excuse: ‘women just aren’t’ interested in our field’. There’s still plenty of help for them.

Here’s three ideas of how to recruit professional women. 

1. Set a realistic job specification: In discussion with a recruiter friend of mine, he expressed frustration at calling prospective female candidates. He said they explain away their qualifications for a role based on the over-optimistic person specification. He explained: ‘Women don’t seem to understand it’s just a wish-list. So I get inundated with men who have 6 of the 10 qualities, but are pretty sure they could do the other 4 if pushed. What I don’t get is women applying until they can prove they fit all 10 requirements; and that they can claim full credit for those 10! So my clients end up picking over-confident men who have some relevant experience over under-confident women who could do it all.’ His suggestion? Simplify the job description so only the bare essentials are seen as requirements. Don’t list the ‘desirable’ elements, as they are currently still perceived by too many women as requirements. What extra experience or insights people bring, above and beyond the essential, can then help them secure the actual job.

2. Go where the women are: Consistent corporate sponsors of external women’s networks, like Girl Geeks or Women in Banking and Finance, are better able to position themselves as employers who value women. Perhaps not surprisingly, research shows an organisation’s reputation for diversity is considered more important to women and candidates from diverse backgrounds, than it is to white male candidates. It’s the unofficial ‘word on the street’ that affects who applies and who doesn’t. Discrimination cases, bad press and the lack of diverse Board members all send a far louder message than a perfectly written diversity policy or any stock-photo images of women and ethnic minorities on the website. Candidates want to see evidence for how you walk your talk.

3. Play the long game: In our experience, women are less likely to pick up the phone to enquiring recruiters, particularly if they are satisfied where they are. They see speaking to recruiters as a waste of precious time unless they’d leave. Men, on the other hand, are more likely to speak to recruiters to get a sense of their external market value and then use that intelligence to negotiate pay raises at their current companies. Employers aiming to increase the number of senior female employees should view attracting the right women as a long game. One global technology firm with whom we’ve worked used recruiters to identify women from across the UK with the right core competencies they would eventually need in senior roles. The recruiters approached them, not to offer them roles, but to invite them to a series of events tailored to this group of women and hosted by the company. They were clear no jobs were on offer, but the series has been very successful in getting women to engage with a brand many previously doubted. The women expressed interest in future events, and the company has improved it’s image with this highly skilled and in-demand group, which is leading to a greater willingness to consider roles when they eventually become available.

Dads to Share Parental Leave in 2015 is Good News for Working Women

dad's sharing parental leave, female breadwinnersA new bill outlined by the expectant Jo Swinson, Equalities Minister for the Lib Dems, will change expectations that newborn babies are primarily mum’s work. In her speech Swinson said she wanted to change the culture of workplaces to prevent the “conflict” between people’s jobs and family life, making it just as normal for fathers to take on caring responsibilities as mothers. According to the Guardian she criticised the “cultural double-standards” and said it was not right for men to be disparaged for wanting to work less to spend more time caring for their children.

After wrangling over the details with the Conservatives for the past year, parents will be now allowed to take a total of 52 weeks off work after having a baby or adopting. Currently mothers can hand some of their leave over to fathers, but only when the child is 20 weeks old. Under the new rules, a mother could choose to return to work more quickly and hand over her unused allowance to the father. They could even switch back if they chose. Fathers will still be entitled to their two weeks’ paternity leave straight after a child’s birth. We applaud this change as too many new working mothers see their only option as taking the entire leave themselves or putting their child into daycare earlier than they’d like. Modern couples need flexibility to make the right choices for their growing families; whoever is doing the main earning.

Swinson said more must be done to encourage men to take up their rights and questioned a culture in which men who take their family responsibilities seriously are “ribbed”.

“Why does a man who works flexibly and part time get treated differently from the woman?” she said.

“It’s a symptom of how we do have cultural double standards in many workplaces, where for women to take flexible working or leaving early on a particular day to pick up the kids from nursery is deemed to be acceptable but for some reason we treat a man who is making the same choice differently.”

With More 1/2 Women Grads, Why Does Legal Sector Still Lag on Gender?

women working in lawA recent “Profile of the Profession’ survey by the Law Society found of the 14,000 lawyers in Scotland more reported types of gender discrimination than any other type of workplace discrimination and that the number of incidents hadn’t shifted since their last survey in 2006. I spoke at a launch of the research recently and talked about the myths I see in our work with law firms. The first is that women are not as ambitious as men. In fact, the LSS research showed that promotion was actually more important to women than to men. Women I speak to show great ambition, but often don’t want partnership roles as they are exercised now – with a perceived lack of integrity is some firms and an ‘always on’ mentality. Equally, unconscious bias keeps many out of the top slots as we all favour people who are superficially remind us of ourselves – which is a problem if the top slots are held primarily by white men.

The second myth was that improving flexibility is something we should do for working mothers. Not surprisingly, the research indicated women were more likely to need flexible hours but men more likely to work remotely – showing that being at the office long hours is not a model that suits either modern men or women. Moreover, it entrenches the belief that working mums are a problem to work around rather than recognising that parents and non-parents of both genders demand more flexibility in a world where technology enables it. Lastly, I challenged the assumption that most organisations ascribe to of ‘client being the only king’. Firms often perceive flexibility means being unavailable to clients and is therefore too high a cost of pay. However, the cost, both financial and on morale of ‘managing out’ a senior, well-respected woman can’t always be instantly available, sends a far stronger message to the other more junior women and modern men on the team.  Furthermore, it makes you question how good the team is if people can’t manage without a single member of staff for 24 hours, the same way they do when people are sick, on holiday or travelling? Which of these myths do you recognise?

How Comfortable are You with 80% Perfect?

perfectionism‘Get comfortable with 80% perfect.’ That was the advice given by a male head of HR at a Microsoft event at which I spoke several years ago. His advice to the largely female audience resonated with me, particularly since so many of our coaching clients at Female Breadwinners are ‘recovering perfectionists’.

Perfectionism is a hard trait to give up, as it largely serves us early in our career. Being known as the woman who dots the i’s and crosses the t’s makes many rely on us. However, after a certain point, smart women recognise they have to delegate more and trust others to do elements of their job.

The truth is that no matter where you are in your career at this moment, you will not get to the next level without more delegation and getting comfortable with being 80% perfect. As a recovering perfectionist myself, I know how stressful it can be to relinquish control. But I also know how many people I’ve discovered can do large elements of what I perceived to be my job, far better than me. Very humbling, trust me. In fact, the more I give up, the more my business grows. And better yet, most people don’t even notice the 20% I think I’m missing.

Research by CNN recently showed that wasting time and energy trying to be “perfect” only leads to unhappiness. The article stated “We get sucked into perfection for one very simple reason: We believe perfection will protect us. Perfectionism is the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect, and act perfect, we can minimise or avoid the pain of blame, judgment, and shame.”

Holding yourself to an unattainable perfect ideal will only create bottlenecks and distrust at work and dampen your your mental health.

If you are a recovering perfectionist, what 20% did you give up?

3 Reasons Young Men Know the Smart Money is on a Working Wife

female breadwinner, working wifeAs the progress of working women sweeps the globe, men are becoming more accepting of changing gender roles today. Today’s young men are not threatened by better educated and higher earning wives In fact, they are adapting their lifestyles to support her career and spending more time with their children than ever before. This is one trend that we at Female Breadwinners wholeheartedly encourage.

A Pew Research Centre analysis on Female Breadwinners in the US found that almost 40% households with children under 18 in the United States has a woman who is the primary breadwinner for the family. Most Americans support this demographic change with only 18% agreeing ‘women should return to their traditional roles in society.

Interestingly, you can see the biggest difference between older and younger men. Young adults (18-29) were pragmatic and more likely to see this positively. The research stated, “While 78% of those adults ages 30 and older say having more women in the workforce has made it harder for parents to raise children, only 60% of those ages 18-29 agree with this assessment. Similarly, while more than half (54%) of adults ages 30 and older say the rising share of women in the workplace has made it harder for marriages to be successful, only 36% of young adults agree.” In our own work, consulting for companies, we often hear younger men talk about the expectation that they will be sharing the parenting responsibilities that historically fell to her alone. While there is clearly more to do, younger men increasingly view working wives as a good bet.

A USA Today article on female breadwinners identified 3 reasons why men today are appreciating their wives’ careers:·

  • Education – A better educated woman does not mean she is ‘smarter’ than her man. A wife with an education and a career is a financial asset, and means they won’t be reliant on him alone’.
  • Parenting – The role reversal has freed moms who prefer to work and dads who like to nurture, to take on roles that suit their personalities rather than societal expectations.
  • Health insurance – In the US, getting medical insurance is a perk of professional jobs, and increasingly is falling to her. When kids arrive, the couple’s decision often involves who has better insurance.

When paired with a professional female, men simply have more options. They can go back to education or retrain, start their own business, leave a dismal job or opt to raise kids. Young men have a unique viewpoint. They increasingly see working women as great partners because of the flexibility with economic stability they can offer, and who doesn’t want that?

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