Well, make mine a strong one because apparently I have something to celebrate. It turns out part-time workers are good for more than stacking shelves and manning (womanning?) tills. We, for I am of that tribe, are capable of running retail chains, writing economic tomes of national importance, and making partner in a law firm. And all with time to spare in the working week.
I'm talking about a double shot of caffeine, of course: anything else might slow me down, and I've got a lot to pull off in the three days that I'm paid for my work. I'm sure the 44 women on a new index singling out 50 people at the top of their professions, despite working part-time, will get my drift.
And there lies the rub: just six of the so-called Power Part Time List are men, which reflects the sorry truth that the vast bulk of people working flexible hours are women. I know I'm supposed to rejoice. Look! Women can work part-time and be good at what they do. But really I want to weep. Lists like this just remind me that it's still women blazing the trail when it comes to pulling off the near-impossible: balancing home and work, while managing to cling onto something resembling a career. I've been trying to do this for the past three or so years since my first maternity leave.
The theory goes that working three days gives me four at home with my children. Obviously I've pulled this off with such aplomb that I'm now at the helm of a global media company. I jest, of course. The reality is somewhat different, as most of my mum friends working part-time can attest. (Note the word "mum". I'd love to include dads but, as this is the UK and not Sweden, it's not possible). What this list shows is how much women have to juggle if they want to achieve Great Things at work.
Of the six men who made the cut, just two cite children as their reason for working part-time. I know there are other reasons for cutting your hours: some people do things like writing books, or setting up their own businesses on their days off. Then there are those who look after someone who has fallen ill, or their ageing parents. Yet the bulk of people working part-time do it to spend more time with their offspring.
This may be out of necessity: my husband has dropped one of his weekly shifts because we couldn't find any childcare for our youngest. But, the small print stipulates he must return to his old schedule by January, leaving me as the only part-timer. So much for Nick Clegg's dream of rewriting the "clapped-out rules" holding women back.
My own personal upside is that finally – finally! – my husband gets it. "It" being both the challenge that is looking after two kids day in, day out, and the extra love kids reserve for the parent that stays at home. Yet the sorry truth is that I won't be celebrating until more men are back in the home – something that Sweden achieves through legislation. That is precisely the sort of even footing women need if they are to progress beyond token lists celebrating their achievements.Reuse content