It's two days since International Women’s Day and I always feel like this is a good time to reflect. Not only on the achievement of the amazing women we have heard so much about over the last few days but all on how we treat the women around us for the rest of the year.
Many of the posts we see are sadly still stories of women championing despite the odds and overcoming the obstacles that are placed in front of them.
Now, I’m not going to sit here and tell you about, or explain the experiences of women, and I’m certainly not going to explain why, that would be a stupid idea.
So let's instead talk about something we have observed in our business - during every school holiday, our orders fall off a cliff. We first noticed this a couple of years in business. There was always a random couple of weeks in March/April where we just wouldn't have any orders placed. It took us a while to figure out why this kept happening, but shortly realised it always correlated to a holiday like the Easter break!
Now, of course, it could just be that everyone stops working for that period, but as our client base is about 80% female, it’s reasonable to assume that this was due to a disproportional amount of childcare responsibilities falling to women.
I’m sure that this doesn’t come as a shock to anyone that this is the case, but it does speak to something I feel is easy to overlook or ignore. If you are a couple with children and careers, anytime you take time to look after your children you are taking a hit while your partner isn’t. Now there is nothing fundamentally wrong with that until it starts to affect one partner more than the other (as is often the case)
There are lots of things that can be done of course to help rebalance this and we have seen various levels of government response to this around the world it’s about time the British Government made paternity cover the same length as maturity cover and also made it mandatory to take both.
With all that being said, however, I have a question to pose and I don’t have a full answer to it. Are interventions to our current way of living ever going to be enough or is it just that there is a fundamental flaw in them?
I remember years ago hearing about the ‘Bow-Tows’ of Newhaven. Husband and wife teams that would split the responsibilities of their small businesses down the middle. Men would fish and women would sell and manage the business on land. Now, gender splits and heteronormative-ness aside, it always struck me that there was something in this. With a relationship set up like this, each partner's success and struggles are shared.
Now I know that working with your partner is not going to be for everyone but it is something myself and Nina; my wife and business partner, have embraced and it doesn't half have some advantages. Whether it's emotional support, a shared understanding of the workload or even just being able to tap in when the other is completely burnt out. Working as a team has helped us do more and with less stress and pressure on either of us, for both our work and family life.
I can gladly and excitingly say I have been an active and constant part of our daughter’s childcare throughout her early life, while still maintaining an engaging and fulfilling work life (I believe Nina feels the same too but I am not going to speak on her behalf.) Through Kalopsia Collective we have been able to combine our resources, strengths and focus to be able to build something together that is equally ours and its success is in no small part down to this working and personal relationship balance.
I am not for one minute saying that this is the way we all should live, or that it will magically change everything if all couples start businesses together. But what I do think is important, as we reshape our lives and how we engage with our work post-Covid, is to look at the ways we structure our lives and relationships so that they provide everyone around us with the best opportunities to achieve their goals.
/ Adam Robertson, Managing Director