The Balancing Act – International Women’s Day 2019

It might be all #balanceforbetter at work and in the board room but it’s all balance bikes and bath time at home

With tomorrow being International Women’s Day it’s been a week of reflection at Savvy HQ.  Balance is a word we use and hear a lot. But when considering barriers for gender equality it was hard to separate the obvious facts that more often, women at work are the ones that have to find a way to strike that ever elusive balance; and the ones that have to face the reality that sometimes you can’t quite make it work like you thought you would.

However, this is not a tale of the woes of being a working woman and mother; quite the opposite. It’s a personal reflection on how Savvy encourages, supports and grows its female population and removes barriers and stigma from those who want to have the boardroom and the bath time too.

IWD – ‘A Balanced World is a Better World’

Agency life can be intense with some long days in the throngs of major projects for many of the teams diving in to deliver to critical deadlines.  We are alive to this and use a variety of ways to try recompense lost evenings from lieu time, to staggered start times, to social activities to let off a bit of steam.  Balance being restored is in my opinion, not just a gender or generational inequality – ‘life balance’ is crucial for organisations to strike too.

The two are not mutually exclusive and where I feel this can be most impactful (both in a positive or negative way) is when it comes to flexible working.  Formal flexible working and changes to the way roles are performed tends to be at the request of female employees.  Mothers who are seeking to strike balance in their lives often by working fewer or different contractual hours.

It is a sad fact that many working mothers feel that they have to make a choice after they start families, and that even where flexible working is offered and accepted, it comes at a price.  Many women in my own social group report missed promotions; unconscious bias and report that colleagues do not look favourably on those working anything less than full time.  The obvious ramifications of this is that this can lead in some organisations, to a failure to strike a gender balance at all levels, not just senior ones.

The Savvy Spirit

Savvy is a gender equal employer without a shadow of a doubt. In fact, our Senior Management Team and Board is 65% female with 86% of those senior leaders being mums. This means not only do we approach flexible working a little creatively, but we also recognise that working differently is not a barrier to progression and actively support women in their careers at every level.  Within the remaining team we have a 55%/45% female to male split.

My own personal experience at joining Savvy was refreshing, and I use that word because being a first time mum in search of a senior leadership role; new to agency; new to Leeds and requesting a reduced working week I anticipated some push back. Again it’s hard to ignore the negative perception held by many working mums that flexible working and senior roles are not a match made in heaven.

How comforting it was then to find that Savvy with its female CEO and owner Catherine Shuttleworth normalised my flexible working discussion upon accepting a Senior Management role when I came to interview; “Savvy can make anything work” she said.  And this really embodies the Savvy spirit towards balance and diversity –  it doesn’t matter if you work 3 days or 5 – your skills and expertise are what are important and if we want you on our team, we want you on our team.

Final Thoughts

Looking back through my career I can see that I have always worked for powerful women.  Unconscious bias on my part?  Perhaps.  Or maybe it’s demonstrative of the way the world is slowly changing and how aspiring female professionals should celebrate this shift by joining the professional sisterhood.

How proud I am now to be part of an agency that reflects rich diversity and supports the social values of this world in which we exist and is genuinely committed to providing a stimulating environment free from discrimination.  We make sure our team has equal opportunity of access, participation and advancement in everything we do. 

Our gender stats show clearly that Savvy really can make anything work.  Life is a tightrope, but work doesn’t have to be.