Jenny Garrett is a leadership coach and founder of Reflexion Associates, she is author of Rocking Your Role, the ‘how to’ guide to success for female breadwinners. We have agreed to guest blog on each other’s sites this week.
You ask one of your senior managers to stay late for a meeting or to meet a client for drinks after a work and he says, not for the first time “my wife is away on business and I need to collect the kids”
- Do you frown in disbelief, wondering why he can’t put his foot down
- Start thinking about ways to replace him
- Accept this as the plight of the modern family
The reality is that for a fifth of families in the UK, the woman is the breadwinner, which usually means that if there is a conversation to be had about who works late or attends the evening meeting, it will usually be her. Ultimately as the main earner, her work is vital to keep the family afloat. This is not ego driven but practically driven.
As Andrea, a Change Management Consultant, who has been the breadwinner for a couple of years said “he has to tell his workplace that my work takes precedence as I earn more”
How comfortable would most men be with this?
How comfortable would employers be with hearing it?
You see, although employers espouse a commitment to family values and flexible working, there are still some inbuilt assumptions that are deeply held by many of us. That men work and women nurture. A recent article by Ruth Choji by on the rise of female breadwinners in Nigeria epitomises this view, saying ‘women breadwinners is against the order of God and nature!’ Although extreme, I suspect this view secretly resonates with many.
These same assumptions mean that women in the same role still only earn 80% of their male counterparts and men who choose to stay at home are often asked how long will stay off work for, because it has to be a temporary arrangement.
Sally, who works as an Interim Manager and has been breadwinner for twenty years, said that her husband as homemaker had taught her children lots, but as breadwinner she was showing them how to go out into the world.
We talk about unconscious bias in terms of race, gender, sexuality, age but have you stopped to think about the roles people play?
- How accepting and welcoming are you of women who are the breadwinner and are striving to achieve in the workplace for themselves and their families?
- How do you look upon men who have decided not to be the main earner but provide a different type of support for their families?
These assumptions maintain the status quo and need to evolve for the future. How will you start the conversation?