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Search for the ‘hidden’ part time professionals

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Julie Tomlin
WVoN co-editor

Can women work part time hours in a senior role and still do as good a job as their full time colleagues?

That’s one of the questions that part time recruitment agency Timewise is seeking to answer with its search for the Top 50 part time workers.

Having carried out research for its new report The Part Time Paradox, Timewise discovered that 650,000 people in the UK have part time roles paying salaries of at least £40,000 a year.

But despite the fact that one in ten of all part time workers hold down senior roles such as marketing managers, finance directors and chief executives, part time work is still viewed negatively (see WVoN story).

But perhaps it’s not surprising when 72 per cent of people in the UK still think that ‘you cannot work a senior career on a part time basis’ that those who do often keep the fact from their colleagues.

Despite 90 per cent saying they were up to target and successful in their jobs, 41 per cent of respondents said they felt there was a negative stereotype about working part time and a significant number said that they let fellow employees “assume” that they work full time.

Timewise founder Karen Mattison MBE hopes that by compiling the Top 50 list the profile of part time work will improve and that more and more women will be more up front about it.

Although senior part time jobholders exist, they remain invisible, says Mattison.

“We know that senior part time workers don’t like using the words ‘part time’ because of the negative connotations of the words (low skill, low pay), but this means you end up in a vicious cycle.

“The perception that part time ‘can only work’ for lower skilled persists, because employers don’t see examples that show otherwise. This is what we want to challenge.”

One of the part time workers Timewise has identified so far is Lynn Rattigan who works four days a week as deputy chief operating officer for UK and Ireland at Ernst & Young and spends Wednesdays with her three-year-old twins Lauren and Hannah.

Rattigan has been responsible for developing a flexible working policy and believes it is an option that suits younger employees:

“Our graduates, many of whom are generation Y don’t just want great remuneration and a job they can be passionate about: they want both these things, plus flexibility,” she says.

“As long as the work is done, to an excellent standard – the pattern of those hours should make no difference. By being open about my working patterns and through building the Ernst & Young Flexible Working policy for our partners, I hope I can build a legacy and blaze a trail for the partners of the future.”

Mattison will be selecting the Top 50 from all the part time workers nominated with Steve Varley, Ernst and Young’s managing partner for the UK and Ireland and Emma de Vita of Management Today magazine.

“Since I set up Timewise, I actually have met many, many people who are working in top jobs, but in less than five days a week – many of them in some of Britain’s leading businesses,” says Mattison.

“For some people it’s because they have children, others need a day to care for an elderly relative, many are juggling a portfolio career and some just want more time to do the things they love.”

Although these people are “achieve amazing things and working at the top of their game” the stereotype of ‘part time means low skilled, unreliable’ still exists, as does the view that you can’t do a senior role part time.

“By celebrating and highlighting the people who are actually doing it, I believe we can break down this stereotype and the stigma that goes with it.”

To find out more about nominating a part time professional click on the Timewise website.

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