How to be an ally for women: the benefits of job sharing

by Lulu Oragano  @LuluOragano

Jan: So, I was being serious when I asked- do you want to job share?

Me: Yes, I would love to.

Jan: Let’s do it.

And so we did….

I was the Head of Drama in a Secondary school in South London and Jan was the Head of Visual and Performing Arts. Having returned from her maternity leave she had requested to work part-time, wanting the benefits of keeping her senior middle leader role, whilst also spending time with her new baby.

The Principal was  at first, skeptical; ‘Who will run the large faculty of Arts teachers when you’re not here?” he had asked her. 'Lucy will.' was her reply.

Job shares were not a new thing then and are not now, but even our Principal who had led two schools by that point and had been teaching almost 30 years, had not come across one in teaching. Perhaps the expectation had been that Jan would demote herself, as other women have done when they return from maternity leave, or that she would ‘step aside’ or take on another role in the school or even that she would never come back. None of these things were ever suggested; he was a superb forward-thinking Principal, but neither were there many options on the table or discussions or questions, which is often what women can face when they return to teaching after a period of time off.

Could we ask more women what would suit them? How would they like to work now they have children or even if they don’t? How can we work around them and create a flexible working day or role? We should.

 The benefits of our job share were felt by the whole school. I was ready for a promotion and had begun to look on the tes, but now I didn’t need to- I got one in title and pay. More importantly, I learned ‘on the job’ from Jan - how to run a larger faculty and all what goes with leading others.

Jan remained a middle leader and could successfully have her time away from school knowing she wasn’t having to pick up work whilst at home, or that a full-time role was squeezed into three days. The students knew us as ‘The Joint Head of Visual and Performing Arts’ and could see two women sharing a job,  and wherever we went we spread what we had done.  Colleagues from other schools were sometimes shocked but sometimes pleased to see it ‘could be done’. Crucially, even if I do say so, we were excellent at what we did and the Principal and the school retained us.

 How to be a #HeForShe ally in a school!

Think about how you can support women to progress and retain what they have worked for when they return from maternity leave. Even if they haven’t, be open to job shares and consider the benefits for your school. Even suggest it for those  who want to go part-time. You effectively have two people sharing a role and it’s a win win for students and the whole school community;  collaboration, learning from each other, modelling flexible working and letting other women see that it can be done.  Being part-time can often mean a career gets put on hold (and more women are part-time compared to men in the profession) and there’s a view in teaching, that those who are part-time can not always have a role with responsibility. The more we show this can be done the more we dispel this myth.

 

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