This year’s International Women’s Day 2020 campaign theme is #EachForEqual, which centres around equality being a collective issue rather than simply ‘a women’s issue.’
In support of this year’s theme, we spoke to DMW consultants Bronek Carr and Victoria King to discover how the firm provides flexible support (regardless of gender) to enable busy careers and personal lives.
Meet the consultants
Managing Consultant Victoria joined DMW in 2015 with 10 years’ experience in the industry. She specialises in Programme Delivery and has worked in product owner, business architect and programme management roles.
Outside of work, Victoria is the dedicated mother of two children under ten and holds the role of Planning and Development Chair of Beckenham Rugby Football Club, as well as being a keen runner.
Bronek joined DMW in 2016 with 13 years’ experience in consulting, currently working as a Principal who specialises in Transformation Programme Management.
Outside of work, Bronek looks after his a two-year-old son and is a Board Director for a teacher support services company. He enjoys exercising and fits in the occasional game of squash.
In support of this year’s Each for Equal theme, we’re interested to find out what flexible working means to our people. What does it mean to you?
Bronek: For me, flexible working means trust; trust that I will get the job done regardless of location and that I will be present when necessary. Some clients track 'bums on seats' and this isn’t healthy for a flexible working environment and in building trust. However, I can say without a doubt I have this trust from DMW.
Victoria: I agree with Bronek – it’s about trust. Consulting is traditionally a full-time job with unpredictable working hours based on client site, which can mean being away from home throughout the week. Flexible working in consulting is about opening the dialogue between the firm and clients to try and allow for people to work outside of these traditional constraints.
Why is it important for companies to offer flexible working options to their employees?
Victoria: I strongly believe that a diverse workforce delivers well-rounded feedback and ideas that underpin a reflective and progressive strategy for any business.
Everyone should be entitled to open-up the conversation around flexible working, regardless of the reason behind it. They should receive the support that allows them to prioritise the things in life that matter to them most while also being the best consultant they can possibly be. I have seen DMW’s support of flexible working grow in strength since I joined.
Bronek: Work can be stressful enough without worrying about spending enough time with your family. Like many people living in London, my wife and I moved away from our extended families in order to work. This means we must share responsibilities equally whilst managing two successful careers. It’s a choice, but not an uncommon one in today’s market.
What does flexible working look like at DMW?
Victoria: When I joined the firm, I was the first consultant with a part-time contract. I chose to work four days a week because I had two young children at home and wanted an extra day a week with them until they started school.
Initially, I think DMW found it a bit uncomfortable to have open conversations with clients about part-time working, but our clients have part-time workers too, so the conversation quickly became easier.
Bronek: DMW offer the tooling needed to make flexible working easy and further support is offered to families through DMW’s optional benefits package. Although the company need to balance where consultants are sent based on client and business need, there is always a conversation to try and make it work for them.
The reality is that flexible working in consultancy is never going to be as simple as in a 9-5 office job, but DMW are at least doing their best by their people by opening up the conversations with clients.
Sometimes there are client needs which don’t have a flexible alternative; I recently did a short-term role that was far away from home and required long hours, but DMW regularly checked in with me to see what support I needed and tried to ensure I was receiving it.
Flexible working is often seen as a 'women's issue.' Do you think that men feel as comfortable discussing flexible working and does DMW encourage these discussions with all employees?
Victoria: At DMW, there aren't separate gender processes to discuss flexible working; we have one process and all employees are equally encouraged to engage with it. I think men feel less comfortable talking about their flexible working needs, but that stems from a consulting stigma which we are working to overcome. For example, one of our Principals recently took shared Parental Leave and was away for three months. This is a new initiative and one that I know is receiving very positive feedback.
Bronek: For me, the short answer is yes. I am proud to talk about my need for flexible working to ensure I see my family, but also so my wife and I have equal career opportunities. We are both fortunate to work for employers who foster an environment where flexible working opportunities can be discussed openly.
What is your advice to anyone struggling to balance work and personal commitments or to someone who may be considering a flexible working agreement?
Victoria: Start by identifying the areas that you're not willing to compromise on and build from there. For me, that’s time with my children, my partner and my work commitments. Around that, I fit in exercise, socialising, my rugby club commitments and personal development.
Prioritising what really matters to you is key. Occasionally, I still find I’ve taken on too much, which I recognise by feeling overwhelmed. I use this as a cue to realign my priorities and take a step back from some of the less important activities.
The first step to a successful flexible working arrangement is to talk about it and set expectations, as flexible working in consulting works both ways. By choosing a career in consulting, you are expected to travel and work on client site, so it's important to go into it knowing this. However, there will be things that happen to buck the norm, such as a sick child who needs to be at home, but it's important to remember that there are ways to make it work. Don’t be afraid of those days where it all goes wrong as those are the days where you learn the most!
Bronek: I couldn’t really say it better than Victoria. Most employers and clients are understanding that modern working is about delivering value. If we can do this, then it should be an easy conversation.
For me, routine is hard to create, but my wife and I support each other by planning the week ahead every Sunday, which includes identifying time for exercise and cooking. We have also agreed to spend 30-60 minutes a night catching up on admin or work at the same time so there is no animosity.