Flexible Working Dad
I am a flexible working Dad.
I am lucky enough to be the father to three happy and healthy children under five years old. This has left my wife and I somewhat happy and barely healthy but apparently things will get easier. More expensive but apparently easier. And we will sleep again. So I’m told.
Our version of parenting these three children is a team based affair, with my wife performing the midfield general role and me as the guy carrying the plate of orange segments at half-time. Jokes aside, we agreed fairly early on that if she were going to make a significant sacrifice to her high-flying, glass ceiling defying city career, then my fairly middling one should also take a hit.
I’m a consultant to the financial services industry. Insurance specifically. I source opportunities for clients to grow and expand through acquisition. Sometimes this will be via hiring individuals or ‘groups of individuals’, other times I will be sourcing or introducing companies for potential purchase.
My clients are male. The people running the companies I speak to are male. 95% of the people I have found roles for are male. You’d be forgiven for thinking, especially if you’ve met me, that I am a sexist, misogynistic boor, but this is me trying to illustrate the bias of the industry I work in.
Lloyd’s of London, the world’s largest and oldest insurance market only let women work in the building for the first time in 1972. Just 11% of the hundreds of companies involved have equal representation of the sexes on their boards. Lloyds has just had to close the in-house pub bar and ban alcohol for the thousands of people who work there due to a culture of sexism and harassment.
I once met with the MD of a £100m revenue unit to discuss a hire and was told “I want a pretty little thing. Or a boy who can play golf. But preferably a pretty little thing, something that’s going to make the lads want to come see us.” This is not a progressive place.
When my first daughter was born, I was working for a firm based in Farringdon. My wife was already pregnant when I joined said firm and I had discussed some element of flexibility around office hours before I joined, I was assured this wouldn’t be an issue.
Living an hour outside of London at the time, I boarded the 5.57am train every day and returned on the 6.30pm train home. I walked through the door after 8pm, missing my daughter and not being able to help my wife in anyway.
The flexibility I was assured never materialised.
“Your clients are in The City, you need to be in The City.” plus “you should be grateful your clients are on your doorstep, most of the guys in the office never meet their clients, you should be raping and pillaging”. (These guys thought Wolf of Wall Street was something to emulate. At the summer party I had the 50 something year old chairman banging on the toilet door asking if I had a note…).
Four months later, after much encouragement and financial commitment from my wife, I had set up on my own. I would be able to be much more flexible. When she went back to work, we were both able to do 4 day weeks. Our daughter went to nursery but also had us for at least a day each. It assuaged our guilt at having someone else parent our child.
This faded pretty quickly, nursery has been brilliant for all of our children and if I could I would make millionaires if every single person who has worked with them , they’re incredible.
“You don’t work Wednesdays?” is a statement I hear on an almost weekly basis. To the point where if I am arranging meetings, I just say my diary is completely full on Wednesdays rather than have the same conversation.
“How very modern” was another one I have become used to hearing. Usually uttered by an individual that would describe a Casio calculator watch in the very same way.
“Ha, that’s what the wife/nanny/au pair [delete as appropriate] is for isn’t it?”
“What are you, a kept man or something?”
“EFFING NURSERY RUN? 😂😂😂”.
Please bear in mind our first child was born in 2014….I’m not recalling my working life in the time of Only Fools and Horses.
Are times changing?
Things are getting better. There are various reviews on working practices in The City. More and more woman are being promoted for their ability, rather than being passed over because of their gender. I recently placed a female CEO, the first in my client’s history. This would have been unheard of ten years ago.
However for the foreseeable future I will continue to be confronted with shocked faces and regular outbursts of ‘how very modern’. I will continue to explain to old white men how I prefer to see my children rather than employ an au pair. I will continue to point out the inappropriateness of their boob jokes.
Because I have not just one daughter, but two. And I’ve witnessed how much harder my wife and other females in the City have had to fight for their careers. I don’t want that for them.
If I can’t change the attitude of the City on my one-man crusade, then at least I will have been present for my daughters, arming them with belief in equality and determination to change the world…or a screwdriver in their handbag.