It was one of those strange throw away comments that got me thinking. I was having a long overdue conversation with a colleague, who is a woman. Their gender is germain to the story. We were talking about part-time working and how I was trying to go down from three to two days a week. I said that I found part-time hard, basically because you try to cram so much into the days you do work and that a lot of people just expect you to work five days anyway.
I forget her exact words but they were along the lines that she imagined people would be less likely to expect a man to be working a shorter week.
I’d never thought about it before. On reflection, I wondered whether she had a stereotypical view of part-time work or if it was true. Is there a difference between male and female work patterns and is male part-time work a rarity?
I did a bit of research (I searched DuckDuckGo if that counts) and found that around 25% of people worked reduced hours in the UK. 14% of working men and 38% of working women are part-time and so men are by no means rare but women are getting on for three times more likely to be working in this way. Interestingly, about 20% of self employed men and 55% of self employed women enjoy the freedom of (paid) work free days, a very similar ratio.
It transpires that I am a one in seven. It also seems that I am in a growing group. While the numbers of working women in part-time roles appears to be relatively static there has been a slow but steady increase in the number of men in such a position.
My own quick and very unscientific survey supports these findings. I know many more women than men in part-time roles yet the picture is not that simple. The truth is that I don’t have a single part-time role but rather several that fill my time. I suspect that this is the case for many and that some people are working in a number of part-time positions to make up, in effect, a full time role.
DuckDuckGo didn’t help me with this one though my own stereotypical view suggests that more women fit into this category than men. The ratio will probably be similar, however.
The world of work is changing quite rapidly. The advent of the four day week is challenging perceptions of what we think of as a working week. I see this as a good move. We need a much more flexible approach to employment, one that allows a wide variety of styles and needs to be fulfilled. Working five days a week is just one option.
The concept of part-time is unhelpful as it suggests diminutive of the norm. As it happens, I do paid work on two of the days of the week, not always the same ones. On the other five I do other things.