Childcare: The Future of Equality
As the demand for top talent increases, tech companies are becoming more supportive of their employees' family responsibilities.
Claire shares her story.
Read time: 4 mins
Being a working parent is demanding. It requires precision planning to prepare yourself and your little one(s) and get them to Childcare or School and you to work well dressed, fed and on time. Each day I achieve this accomplishment, I give myself a little pat on the back (#jobwelldone) and I haven't even started the working day yet!
I get up at 0600, do a bit of exercise and perhaps some household chores before my 9-year-old son gets up, then help him get ready for School. These days he is a little more independent, but I still need to check he puts on clean socks! I drop him off at school Breakfast Club at 0800, jump on the train to London and arrive at work around 0930 (depending on the reliability of the trains!).
We are a modern family and share the workload. My husband manages the opposite end of the day, travelling back from London before 6 pm to pick our son up from After School Club, having left the house around the same time I woke up in the morning.
We manage the trials and tribulations of navigating the school run and commuting to/from work, with each day bringing its own unique childcare related problems. But we manage and somehow have some sort of family life in between!
This routine might sound complex to some, but we are lucky. Our school offers these facilities at reasonable prices, my son enjoys them, plus our employers are very supportive and provide flexible working patterns, allowing us to juggle work with family life. Not everyone has these luxuries and many families struggle with balancing work and finding affordable childcare.
However, our routine is thrown out of kilter outside of term-time. School Holidays are a nightmare. Even if we wanted to, our annual holiday allowances would never cover the full period! There are plenty of childcare options; Summer Camps, playschemes, nannies - all of which cost an absolute fortune.
So each time our son has a school holiday the negotiations begin. Can we afford to pay for childcare? If not, who is going to take extra time off work to look after the kids - Mum or Dad? We normally balance our work schedules with outstanding holiday balance and generally share the load. But why should the affordability of childcare options define and dictate our working patterns and ability to succeed in our careers?
I have used a variety of different childcare methods throughout the years. Nursery, childminders, babysitters, live-out nannies, nanny shares, holiday schemes, before and after school clubs. I have had different needs during different points in my life so required the range of options. However, there has been a consistent theme across them all - the eye-watering cost. Frequently our childcare costs have been more than our mortgage (and we only have one child!)
Working parenthood is an 18-year job, and it is done by both men and women, biological and adoptive, gay and straight, in all kinds of family structures, with 95% of families with at least one working parent.
Given this complexity, it's hardly surprising many parents chose not to go back to work after having children. When you take into account the cost of commuting, a well-paid job is required to break even, never mind make a living. How is this fair and equal? What can we do about it as both individuals and companies?
Research shows employees place the highest value on benefits that are relatively low-cost to employers, such as flexible hours, more paid vacation time, and work-from-home options. All features that help alleviate balancing work with the rising cost of childcare. Many companies take this problem seriously, considering how their organisation can support working parents, to ensure they attract and retain the best staff. This has never been more important in the Technology industry where the digital skills gap is rising and the war for talent becomes more competitive. This situation could create a great opportunity for parents returning to work in the industry after a break. Employers now strive to show they take inclusivity and diversity seriously and are willing to go the extra mile for the right people. They want to help their staff with their daily battles finding childcare, to support their growth and unlock potential. What is stopping one of them being you?
Claire Donald is a Project & Program Manager with over 15 years’ experience delivering IT infrastructure and application projects using traditional, agile and continuous delivery methods. She has a high tolerance for ambiguity and have worked within fast-paced and high-pressure environments, taking an entrepreneurial approach. She is currently completing an Executive MBA at Surrey Business School.