Ben Black, Director, My Family Care

Work+Family Summary: October 2016

Ben Black, Director, My Family Care

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Regular work+family updates for
HR and diversity professionals.

Ben Black's monthly summary of everything you need to know about work+family - female leadership, flexible working, gender diversity and a bit of childcare and eldercare news to boot...


October seemed to be almost entirely about women - with a few notable exceptions.

Gender equality

If you do nothing else, then watch this brilliant short clip - Redraw the Balance. It brilliantly summarises all that is wrong with our society. 90% of the children presumed that the fire-fighters/surgeons/fighter pilots would be men. Sad, but true.

Flexible working and maternity coaching

We released our flexible working research with Hydrogen - kindly supported by Norton Rose Fulbright - looking at responses from over 400 employers and close to 2500 employees. The way we live and work in the future will be fundamentally different to the way we live and work now. Lots of interesting numbers thrown up, not least that over 50% of working parents and carers would give up a pay rise for more flexibility.

If that wasn't enough for us to be doing in October, we also released our maternity coaching toolkit. It's an amazing best-in-class product that will make good maternity transitions available to everyone. Please ask for more details if you're interested. But exactly where does the UK rank in terms of how generously it handles maternity? Not bad, but it could do better, according to this beautifully transparent research from the Economist.

Who's in trouble?

Plenty of people seem to be:

  • The legal profession: blasted by Liz Truss for not doing more to support women - despite many leading law firms doing fantastic work in the area
  • The finance industry: blasted by Theresa May for the same thing.

Was there more showboating than substance in the attacks? Possibly, but great to see over 60 employers in the finance industry now committing to have 30% gender diversity by 2021 in any case.

Also in trouble - Lady Judge, head of the IoD, for saying that if women want careers then they should take shorter maternity leave. She was roundly castigated. Personally, I have a bit of sympathy for her position, if not the way she delivered it. Of course, we would love to get to a place where talent rose to the top irrespective of breaks or gender. Society would be better if parents were encouraged to spend a bit more time with their kids. More realistic progress, however, would be parenthood being exactly the same sized obstacle for dads as mums. It might not be fair, but at least it's equal.

Equality and maternity discrimination

If you think we're making progress, then you'll have been dispirited to see the latest data from the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Maternity discrimination is actually on the rise. I think it's probably a short-term blip, but still worrying to see. Likewise, an equality watchdog found that UK businesses are losing out on £280 million a year when sacking maternity leavers - seems like a drop in the ocean compared to how much talent they're likely to lose.

For an alternative view, have a look at The Conservative Woman. Apparently feminism has been hijacked by an aggressive narrow elite, and lots of women are very happy being mothers. I think she's missed the point slightly - it's equality of opportunity that counts. But she might be on to something. Radio 4 found that 90% of women are actually happy being women - in 1947 that figure was a lowly 50%... Wow!


The BBC made the news and was in the news. It was told, in no uncertain terms, to hire older women. It also found that middle class patients were subsidising care homes by up to £10k a year. That is a shockingly huge figure - as our very own Stephen Burke pointed out. No wonder that 1500 care homes have closed since 2010.

Ben Black

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Regular work+family updates for
HR and diversity professionals.