WomenEd Blogs

Flexible working isn’t just for mums, but it IS a women’s issue.


by Lindsay Patience, (Flexible Teacher Talent) @mumsyme @FlexTeachTalent

We set up Flexible Teacher Talent because Lucy Rose and I were frustrated by the lack of flexible working options for female leaders in education and we wanted to help stem the flow of female teachers (particularly mums) aged 30-39 from our schools. Our research, campaigning and work with schools have all contributed to a realisation that flexible working isn’t just for mums. The benefits are multifaceted and the desire and reasons for wanting to work flexibility are diverse.

However, the recent @WomenEdLondon unconference reminded me that lack of good flexible working options is very much an issue faced disproportionately by women. Women are still more likely to be primary caregivers, for children (64% of mothers are primary carer for their children) and for elderly relatives (50% of women will have caring responsibilities for sick or elderly relatives by the age of 46). Many want or need to work flexibly around these commitments. Women are frequently told or feel they cannot work flexibly. 67% of people in a Teacher Tapp survey said they thought their flexible working request would be turned down and 70% think working part time would damage their career prospects. Yes, we need to see more men taking on caring responsibilities, sharing parental leave, working flexibly but the impact of revolutionising our approach to flexible working in education will most directly impact on women initially – and it is urgent that we change the culture of our schools. Which is why it is so important that #WomenEd includes flexible working in their core aims. 


Better flexible working will allow women to continue in senior roles in schools while, or after, working flexibly. We frequently see women asked to step down from leadership responsibilities if they want to work more flexibly. This does not have to be the case. Schools need to ask themselves – could roles and responsibilities be organised in a way that could support this? Would a job share work instead? Can we offer flexibility such as late starts or early finishes for full time staff? We will continue to see a gender pay gap and lack of diversity in leadership positions unless more school embrace flexibility. There are now many examples of people working flexibly in middle and senior leadership positions showing that not only can it work – it can be effective and successful. Our case studies on the Chartered College of Teaching website is a great place to start looking for examples. 

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It is well documented that a lack of confidence and imposter syndrome are issues which impact women more than men.

It takes guts to make a flexible working application, to negotiate pay, hours and flexibility in your contract and to be “the first”. The first person in your school to work part time as a middle leader, the first person to be on SLT with two small children, the first person to ask to work from home during your PPA.

There were so many amazing and inspirational women @WomenEdLondon unconference that it fills me with hope that moving forward there are people paving the way. Being the first person to work flexibly in your role, the first flexible working request you agree as a Head, the first time you apply for a full time job and negotiate flexible working after you get it. These are all scary things which require confidence and being 10% braver – but not only are you securing the life and balance that you want personally; you are also paving the way for the women of the future.
We work with schools to support them in implementing flexible working and we help individuals who are looking for flexible work in schools. Flexible Teacher Talent are proud of the small part we play in helping change the landscape in education to ensure #EthicalLeadership and #EachforEqual. Flexible working can help increase diversity in leadership, retain female teachers in the profession and show future generations that they can work flexibly and be successful.


Women can expect to take on caring responsibilities for an older, sick or disabled relative more than a decade earlier than men, a report concludes.
Research by Sheffield and Birmingham universities shows half of women will take on caring responsibilities for an older, sick or disabled relative by the age of 46.


While 83% of parents believe society’s attitudes towards childcare have changed since they were young, two thirds (64%) of mothers are still the primary carer for their children, compared to just a third (36%) of fathers.
While workplaces are increasingly family friendly, offering flexible working hours, the option to work from home and shared maternity/paternity leave, two-fifths (41%) of parents don’t think fathers are held to the same standards by society as mums.
Mothers also get less recognition for their contribution – 12% are never praised for looking after their children, compared to just 4% of men. Men also have more leisure time without their children. On average, men go out five times a month without their children, compared to women at only four times. One in twelve (8%) parents never go out without their children.
The research also showed there are other significant differences between the sexes, with a quarter (25%) of women using the term ‘my’ rather ‘our’ to describe their children, compared to just 13% of men.
Jane Morgan, business manager at Direct Line Life Insurance, said: “While how we view childcare may be changing, the research shows there are still a few differences between the sexes, with the responsibility of looking after the children being different in every household across the country. There are many competing pressures as a parent and time can feel like an incredibly precious commodity.”


Why not work part-time?
Last week, we were amazed to see that half of the full-time teachers would rather not work full-time, given the chance. So, why don’t you take the part-time leap? We know from questions asked previously that only a small fraction of you have put in a request for flexible working. We had a hunch that you DO want to work less, but either felt your headteacher would refuse a request OR you felt it would interfere too much with your job.
This week our hunch was confirmed. The majority of you believe that your headteacher would reject a request to work part-time. Plus, 7-in-10 of you feel your current role would be difficult to do on a part-time basis and 7-in-10 feel that working part-time would damage your future career prospects.

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Monday, 28 November 2022

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