I am an expert on diversity with a specific focus on gender equality. Currently, I am completing my PhD research on men's support for gender equality, and I have gained work experience in the diversity department of the EU Council in the past. I enjoy engaging others in conversations about these topics, and like to discuss strategies to achieve change. Ultimately, my goal is to make a contribution towards creating a society that provides equal opportunities to all of its members. To maintain a healthy work-life balance I like to move a lot: running, football, dancing, cycling, swimming, … One of the things that excites me the most in life though is exploring new places - one can never travel enough!
“having it all” thanks to flexible work
Frustrated with the lack of women in senior level positions, former recruiter Romanie Thomas founded Juggle Jobs, an online platform matching businesses with professionals looking for flex time employment. With the majority of these professional platform users being women, Juggle Jobs contributes to closing the gender pay- and power gaps.
After a decade in recruitment, Romanie Thomas experienced ongoing frustration regarding a recurring request from her clients: More and more clients, especially in technology and other stereotypically “male” fields, were looking to increase the number of women in their senior level positions, and were hence requesting shortlists of qualified female professionals. At first, Romanie accepted that this task would always pose a challenge to recruiters.
Keen to make a more long-lasting contribution to gender equality, however, Romanie started to explore the reasons for the lack of available women. It became evident that, due to the disproportionate amount of care work women still engage in, most women were looking for flexible working arrangements. Unfortunately, this used to be largely incompatible with senior positions. In fact, employment data shows that this dynamic is one of the main reasons for the persisting gender pay gap.
Startled by the situation, Romanie set out to find a solution as, she explains, women should in fact hold 50% of all business leadership positions. In conversation with her clients, she found out that a lot of firms were indeed interested in reviewing workplace policies and practices in order to retain qualified women and to recruit more diverse teams.
The solution to the companies’ requests for more women in senior positions seemed to be to offer more flexible working schedules that would facilitate the combination of work- and family life. Accordingly, Romanie founded Juggle Jobs, a recruitment platform focused on flexible working. The online platform matches businesses with mid- to senior-level professionals who would like to work on a flexible basis.
Historically, flexible working has meant part-time work. Juggle Jobs defines it in broader terms: having the freedom to set your own schedule. Specifically, they offer three types of flexible working options: Part-time, i.e. 2-4 days per week, usually incorporating working from home (“tele-working”), Full time with flex hours, i.e. 5 days per week with flexibility to arrive or leave early or late, and Portfolio Style, i.e. 1-4 days per month, usually on-site.
Another popular type of flexible work is job-sharing. Under “normal” part-time, employees partially fill one post each within an organisation. Job-sharing means that two employees share the same post (50% each). The practical implications of this include the concerned employees sharing working space and equipment, and their working time not overlapping. Flexible working arrangement might also include leave arrangements, such as generous parental or family leave.
Dr Heejung Chung, reader of sociology and social policy at the University of Kent, confirms that Romanie’s approach is likely to tackle gender-related workplace issues such as the gender pay gap. In her research, she found that women who were able to use flexible working options were only half as likely to reduce their working hours after the birth of their child. Indeed, if given flexible working options many women would stay in work and maintain their hours and pay after having children.
Importantly though, Juggle Jobs does not only focus on women. “90% of flexible working requests come from women which is why we are geared towards women”, Romanie explains, “but there is an increasing number of men who would also like to work more flexibly, often to spend more time with their families.” Indeed, according to the 2017 Modern Families Index report, almost 70% of men would like to work more flexibly, and 47% say they would like a less stressful job, reflecting the challenge they face in achieving a good work-life balance. It seems like women’s more urgent request for more flexible workplaces is only a driving force to an employment landscape undergoing fundamental changes as a whole.
Next to recruitment, Juggle Jobs also offers support and guidance to companies that are transitioning to more flexible workplace practices as “the majority of companies are open to the idea of flexible working, but struggle with the implementation”. Juggle Jobs consults mainly organizations in the professional services: law, accounting, and management consulting firms. Their clients are increasingly asking for a more diverse workforce, and their response is to offer more flexible workplace options. Romanie needs her clients to be committed to the cause though: “We only work with companies who support the idea, and not companies who would just like to employ one token flexible worker.”
Impact on Employees
The benefits of flexible working seem to be plenty both for employer and employee. Whilst employers attract and retain a larger and more diverse pool of qualified workers, employees are given an option to combine care responsibilities and a career. Overall, the increased freedom resulting from more flexibility has been found to increase workers’ productivity.
Romanie admits that there might also be downsides to flexible working: “It might sometimes get a little lonely, and there is still stigma surrounding flex-workers.” Nevertheless, the demand for more flexible jobs is constantly increasing. Juggle Jobs has experiences a consistent growth of 30% in monthly revenue, and has been listed as recruiter.com’s top 10 tech start-ups globally. Clients, both female and male, seem overwhelmingly satisfied by the sudden possibility of having it all: “Flexible working does have its challenges but getting it right means that I was able to work at a senior position for an exciting company whilst still spending time with my family” (Natasha Natt, lawyer).
Find out more and join Juggle today: https://www.juggle.jobs/
~Reference: Sudkaemper, A. (2018, January) Juggle Jobs Recruiting – “having it all” due to flexible work. Retrieved from www.antoniasudkaemper.com