The average cost of childcare across the UK ranges from £213/week for a registered childminder to £512/week plus tax and NI for nannies, with nurseries sitting in between. In London, our financial centre, the cost rises to £276/week for a childminder, £278/week for a day nursery and £616 plus tax and NI for a nanny (50 hours/week). [Source: Family and Childcare Trust]. This means a family living in London, working full time with one child, without access to free childcare – provided by a grandparent for example – needs to earn a minimum of £14,352 (childminder cost) after tax and the cost of commuting, simply to break even.
Many families take the view that it is better to make the financial sacrifice in the early years in order to keep both careers on track, rather than suffer the huge financial and career penalties that are known to accrue to women who take large chunks of time out. For example, see the work of Mary Gregory and Sarah Connolly.
The financials are only one part of the childcare story though. Women in financial services are often married to men in financial services and herein lies a big problem. Of the hundreds of women we have talked with in financial services who are returning post maternity or a longer career break, many talk about their husbands/partners feeling unable to be as ‘active’ a father as they are a mother. This is because there simply isn’t encouragement for fathers, or men more generally, to work part time or set boundaries about finish times (to collect children from nursery for example) and when they can or can’t travel. This problem becomes more acute the more senior they become and both planned and unplanned (last minute) facetime with clients involving travel (often international) intensifies. We’ve coached many women in financial services who talk about needing to swap roles once they become a mother because they can’t see a way to continue in a ‘demanding’ role and be back in time for when the nursery closes or the nanny needs to leave. “Demanding” is often code for facetime expectations; needing to be able to drop everything for a client at the last minute and work late into the evening if necessary to please the client/win a piece of business. The default setting is that they trade down or switch roles because it’s seemingly unthinkable for their male partner/husband to do so. We believe limits on mothers’ careers in finance will persist until the culture changes such that men in finance are as likely as their female colleagues to:
- Feel comfortable asking for flexible/part time work options
- Make requests for flexible working/part-time roles
- Actually work flexibly/part time
- Be vocal about constraints such as needing to be at home to relieve the nanny
- Be the person primarily responsible for thinking about/actioning tasks that relate to the home and children.
Some suggested solutions:
- A campaign from the Treasury to run alongside or be part of the Women in Finance Charter to encourage men to explore part-time and flexible working possibilities.
- Individual FS institutions raising awareness of the opportunities and benefits of men working part time and/or flexibility.
- Individual institutions showcasing senior males who work PT and/or flexibly.
- Individual institutions gathering data on expectant fathers and encouraging them to take shared parental leave (and paying it at full pay). On this point, also see this helpful article on how employers can increase the number of men taking Shared Parental Leave.
My contribution to this inquiry on behalf of The Talent Keeper Specialists was made in collaboration with Genderbuzz, under whose name this submission appears.