In this opinion piece Simone McLaughlin, account director at creative agency Marmalade Melbourne and founder of job sharing site Jobs Shared, argues that new mums need to be supported by part-time work if Adland wants to truly show it supports women in the workplace…
Warm beer and cold pizza! That’s what I was told to expect on my first day of my internship many years ago. I laughed, but unfortunately it wasn’t a joke. Agency life is long hours and demanding deadlines. It’s not known for being family friendly that’s for sure. In fact, in one of my interviews I was actually asked straight up, “So what are your plans for kids?” Advertising is family unfriendly, and with an increasing demand for quicker turnarounds, it’s unavoidable. Client’s needs come first, that’s business. But what does this mean for the many mums and dads who work in advertising? How do they balance kids and their career?
I realised after having my first son that going back to work full time wasn’t an option for me. On top of that, I didn’t want to miss out on too much of his first few years. My agency at the time, didn’t even entertain the notion of coming back part-time to ease myself back into full time work. It was a harsh reality, but they were making a business decision, and a full time person is what they needed. This of course is the nature of advertising. It’s not necessarily agencies being unsympathetic, they simply have businesses to run, and that comes before trying to help a mum return to work.
So in an industry full of talented young female staff, what are the plans once many of them inevitably decide to have children? With part-time work almost impossible to find, my solution, for what it’s worth is job sharing; two people sharing the one full time position. The employer gets the role filled full time, and the employee gets to continue their career with flexibility to raise their children.
It might not work for all roles, but it certainly works for a lot of them. And what are the other solutions to flexibility other than not having kids? And on that, it’s not just an issue for parents, what if you need to wind back to look after a sick parent, or partner? Flexibility is a necessity. There are so many arguments for why job sharing should be embraced by the advertising industry. For instance two heads are better than one. Imagine having a process driven suit share with a creative driven suit, it’s the ideal person. And the real kicker, no need to hire a temp to cover holidays, with two people sharing the one role, there’s always someone there. It’s a win win for the employer and employee. The trouble is finding someone to share a job with.
That’s why websites like Jobs Shared are great. It works a bit like a dating website. You register your details and search the database for a match. But instead of a date, you’re looking for someone with similar skills to share a job with. This makes finding a partner, the main barrier to job sharing, a whole lot easier. The idea is that once you have a partner to share a job with, you combine your resumes and put together a business case to take to your prospective or current employer (there’s tips for this on the website). Or maybe you’re on maternity leave, and you already have a job to go back to, and you just need to find someone to share it with. For the employer, they don’t really need to do anything, except be open to job sharing. The teams will come to them.
I’m not saying this is the golden ticket to solve all woes of parenting and flexibility in advertising, but it is certainly an option where there are few to choose from. Women aren’t going to stop having babies, parents aren’t going to stop wanting to spend time with their kids, and I’m pretty sure women are going to want to work past their thirties. So we need to try something, and why not start with job sharing?