New year, new job share: Walking the talk on gender equality and flexible working

by 05th Jan 2017
Job share: where two minds are better than one… Two women share a task in Niger. Job share: where two minds are better than one… Two women share a task in Niger.

In my line of work we all feel passionately about creating greater gender equality globally, and for CARE and many others, achieving greater women’s economic empowerment is a major goal. But how good are we at keeping our own houses in order when it comes to flexible working?

I’m currently living the career vs. family conundrum. Touch wood I think I’ve got a pretty good thing teed up. My employer (CARE International UK) has agreed to its first job share so I’ve come back from maternity leave to work three days a week while my daughter is in childcare. I have the chance to continue my career whilst still spending more days in the week with her, which feels right for me given the crucial point in her childhood development.

And BTW, I realise I’m one of the lucky ones as I can afford quality childcare – as this great ODI paper points out, globally there is a childcare crisis and for those under-fives that do receive any, it is largely inadequate or dangerous.

In the international development sector as a whole, job share is quite early days – when my HR team were looking for examples they found about five other organisations had job shares (if anyone has a definitive figure please tell me!). The civil service seems pretty switched on in recent years with the creation of a job share network to help people find potential job share partners and an estimated 1,300 job sharers.

But how do we really make the shift to job sharing becoming the norm not the  exception? This story of how two women rose to the top as CEOs through a number of years job sharing really inspired me – but these stories are rare and many mums I’ve met haven’t been so lucky. For them, it’s been ‘full time or nothing’.

When it comes to women in the world’s poorest countries, discussions about the intricacies of pure or hybrid job shares seem a million miles away. Yet really the challenges are the same – you can’t have more economically empowered women without addressing how to balance their caring responsibilities. And currently women spend an average of over three times as much time as men do on unpaid care.  

Another thing that has really struck me on my return to work is how much harder being a mother is compared to my office job. Yet motherhood remains under-appreciated and under-valued in society – despite the fact that it’s actually a long-term investment in society’s future.

It’s clear from the above that my head is spinning with the work/life conundrum and what it means for me and for women more widely. As a way of helping to get some clarity around job sharing, my colleague and I are keen to establish an informal job share network for senior types in charities here in the UK. We want to share tips, learn what works and doesn’t, create a pool of job sharers and ultimately encourage more employers to adopt job sharing as the smart thing to do. Please email if you are interested.

Alice Allan

I lead CARE’s policy and advocacy on women’s economic empowerment which includes influencing the private sector. I'm passionate about the social and economic benefits of savings-led financial inclusion.

I've been with CARE International UK since 2011 and have spend a big chunk of that time working with Barclays and other banks to responsibly link savers to their services. Before CARE I spent nearly 20 years working both ‘inside’ government – as a Human Rights Advisor at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and as a researcher in the UK parliament – and ‘outside’ at supporter-led organisations, Amnesty International UK and Saferworld where I helped push for the Arms Trade Treaty. Before that I was a journalist in Colombia and Mexico.

My current interest is how to tackle the unpaid care economy and balancing being a mother and having a career.

One good thing I've read

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (1958). An all-time favourite book that sums up how change can go so wrong. Generally, however, I am an eternal optimist.

Email: Allan@careinternational.org