Part-time doesn’t make you a less capable worker

There’s an increasing number of people wanting the flexibility of working part-time, but it can be tricky not to be overlooked for leadership roles. 

I participated in a women’s leadership programme recently. When it came to the Q & A after the guest speaker had delivered a very inspiring and authentic speech, a participant asked, can you work part-time and be a leader?

What a great question, I thought. The question challenged the speaker who didn’t want to give a negative response. She said that there were roles for different times in your life and that when you are stepping up to leadership it is difficult to be part-time, however when in a role for some time it may be easier.

I am not sure of the motivation behind the question, but I suspect it could be that the woman wanted to be a leader and also have a balance in her life. She may want to accommodate caring responsibilities, hobbies or just have work that wasn’t all consuming.

part-time

Alienating a potential work-force

In my experience there is often a penalty for being part-time. This could include being passed over for promotion, not being considered as committed, or important meetings taking place or exciting projects being given out when you are not around.

According to a report carried out by Timewise for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation in 2016:

  • 1.5 million people are trapped in poorly paid part-time jobs below their skill level
  • 400,000 people can’t work unless they can find a part-time or flexible job
  • 202,300 well-qualified parents, older people and disabled people are living in poverty who could benefit from quality part-time work.

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The part-time gender gap

Much has been written about the motherhood penalty and the fatherhood bonus. Men go part-time less frequently than women, particularly after having children. Research reflects assumptions that fathers are the main breadwinners while mothers are expected to fit in work around looking after their children. However these assumptions need to be challenged with a third of Mums now being the breadwinner in their home according to IPPR research.

There are some real life examples of Leaders working part time. The Time Wise Power Part Time Top 50 shines a light on these outstanding business leaders; nine of which are job shares, and over half the people on the list were actually hired on a part-time basis, from day one in the role. Unsurprisingly just 10% of the Top 50 people on the list are male.

How to help as an employer

So, yes, you can be a leader and work part-time, but you must have an enlightened and inclusive employer. An employer that understands that to attract the best talent; you must offer flexibility; that you can retain and motivate your staff through understanding the way in which they want to work; that you are likely to have a more diverse workforce if you open roles up to being flexible; you can save money by them working from home and ultimately happier staff are more productive.

What to do as an individual

And what can you do as an individual who seeks a part-time leadership role?

1.    Offer creative solutions to roles that come up, such as job share & working remotely.

2.    Step up and suggest part-time leadership, don’t be overlooked.

3.    Demonstrate your value, don’t be side-lined. Show that your contribution makes a tangible difference.

Have you had a part-time leadership role? If so, how did it work out for you?

Or maybe your leader works part-time? If so how do you find that? Do you think part-time leaders will increase in diversity and frequency in the future?

I welcome your thoughts.

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Originally published in Pulse LinkedIn