Why promote flexible working just to mums?

14 May 2014

Jeremy Davies writes:

As part of our #DadsExcluded campaign we wrote last week to the organisers of the ‘Mumandworking’ awards, having been alerted by a follower of our Facebook page to what looked like a missed opportunity for the promotion of flexible working opportunities to all parents, rather than just mums.

Here’s what he’d said:

“I would have nominated my employer, as they allow me to leave the office for school run, sick days etc without question, and work some days from home even if this means the office has to close. Yet it seems completely biased to mums”.

We copied this message to the people behind Mumandworking, along with the following commentary:

Having looked at your web page I have to say I agree with him. Such a shame as the work of promoting flexible working is clearly very important – for both mums and dads. Until employers start to see flexible working as something men as well as women want/need, it’s hard to see how we can move beyond the current situation of women being discriminated against in the workplace.

By the way – I note that in various places on the page you lapse into using the word ‘parent’ – which perhaps suggests that in fact you might be interested in dads too….but a) the whole focus/name/design is very mum-focused and b) just sprinkling the word ‘parent’ around won’t work if you’re serious about reaching men too…most people (of both genders) tend to read ‘parent’ as ‘mother’. So if what you mean is mums, better to say that…and if what you mean is mums and dads, better to say that explicitly.

We offered them the opportunity to respond before we published anything. This is their response:

Thank you so much for your email.

Always a pleasure to connect with like-minded organisations.

Please be reassured the mumandworking awards are all about promoting ‘family-friendly’ working opportunities – to benefit the family unit as a whole, ie mums, dads and indeed same-sex couples with children.

This is why throughout the ‘categories’ we consistently, deliberately refer to ‘parents’ or ‘families’ rather than mums or women.

I do apologise however if your follower felt in any way excluded by our terminology. Today I will ensure that there is a clear statement online stating that the awards are for mums AND dads hopefully ensuring that dads will feel more confident that they can nominate and indeed be nominated – especially if they find the term ‘parent’ alienating.

They also pointed out that DaddyNatal founder Dean Beaumont had won ‘Business Parent of the Year in the 2011 awards (well done, Dean!).

Our response

It’s good to receive such a swift and positive response from Mumandworking, which has now amended the awards page in a couple of places to clarify that dads can nominate (although overall the tone of the page remains resolutely women-focused, which seems central to the company’s purpose).

We’ll look forward to hearing more about how many dads nominate their employer this year, and how many themselves receive nominations in this year’s awards. Click here to nominate your employer.

Even more interesting will be to see how long it is before Mumandworking or a similar company decides to branch out into promoting flexible working opportunities to dads, increasing numbers of whom aspire to work more flexibly. It’s still very common for employers, HR specialists and job agencies to bracket ‘flexible working’  and ‘mums’ together, rather than pushing such opportunities to everyone with parental and caring responsibilities – regardless of their gender. Could Mumandworking eventually become ‘Mumanddadworking’?!

More about #DadsExcluded

#DadsExcluded is our new campaign which invites you to:

  • share your experience of dads being ignored, excluded or marginalised
  • read others’ experiences and see that you’re not alone, and
  • help us change things for the better.

We’d love to hear from you If you’ve had experience of dads being discriminated against in terms of access to flexible working. Perhaps you’re a dad who had your flexible working request rejected (it’s more likely to happen to men!). Or maybe you’re a mum who feels that by marketing flexible working options to mothers, your employer is unfair to dads who would like to take them up – and to mums, who find it harder to reach the ‘top table’ as a result.

We’re in the process of creating a way to capture and display your stories easily online – but for now we’re doing it ‘the old way’ – just email your story to our Head of Communications Jeremy Davies, post something on our Facebook page or tweet us @fatherhoodinst using the hashtag #DadsExcluded.

Soon we’ll be posting people’s stories, and updates about where we’ve followed them up, and linking to them on Facebook and Twitter. You can also keep up with the latest by signing up to our monthly newsletter.


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