Welcome to the inaugural Part-Time Power List—a list of successful men and women that have managed to climb the career ladder while working in a flexible manner.
Workplace flexibility is not a term that is usually goes hand-in-hand with career progression in corporate Australia. However a growing number of high-power executives are breaking with convention, showing that it is not only possible work flexibly, but to also sustain a substantial role in the corporate sphere in the process.
ProfessionalMums.net—an online platform that looks to connect professional women with flexible work opportunities—in conjunction with Women's Agenda, has uncovered 31 senior executives and managers who have worked with their employers to create a mutually beneficial flexible working arrangement.
While the list is called The Part-Time Power List, these arrangements vary from working part-time and job sharing to working remotely with alternative hours or from a home office.
ProfessionalMums.net chief executive Kate Mills says that the list is intended to break down the stereotype that to successfully hold down a leadership role it is necessary to work full time in the office. "It's my belief that many high-performers actually work in a flexible manner and that working from home or less than five days a week is no longer the impediment to career progression that we think it is," she says.
To create the list Women's Agenda did a call out in July and then a researcher from ProfessionalMums.net contacted 60 large organisations and asked them to nominate the most senior person in their company that worked in a flexible way.
While the list predominately comprises women executives and managers, there are two men on the list—Tim Thurman, the CIO at the ASX, and Dylan Smith the executive officer at the Fremantle Foundation—demonstrating that senior men are also choosing to work flexibly where they can.
"Women are the natural pioneers of flexible work, however flexibility is important for everyone," Mills says. "Very senior men, such as ASX chief information officer Tim Thurman work some days from home or work alternative hours."
Thurman works from home once a week and works flexibly across the week so he can spend more time with his family and do the school drop off. He usually completes tasks that do not require him to be in meetings, such as reading board room notes, when he works from home.
"I use my schedule to allow working from home to be successful: dialling into meetings where practical; using working at home time for reading, slidedeck preparation and reading through board papers," he says. "I don't have an office at home...instead I use the dining table or outside table, together with wifi, phone, bluetooth and surface device which to make flexible working possible."
The star of the list, however, is job-sharing, with eight people on the list working in this fashion. Marketing managers Saffron Solomon and Sarah Clarke started job-sharing at insurance company SJO after returning from maternity leave. The pair took the arrangement one step further when they applied for a new job five years ago as a job-share package.
They pitched themselves as a "two-for-one-deal" complete with a humorous one-pager outlining their complimentary skills and what an employer "got for their money".
AFG (Australian Finance Group) agreed to employee them, but not without reservations, asking them to undergo a trial period to ensure the arrangement worked. Its reservations were unfounded—Solomon and Clarke have rolled out a successful broker communication program to about 1,000 broker businesses, significantly expanding the business.
"We tend to think that people working flexibly aren't serious about their career," says Mills. "This list shows that employers that discount people that want to work flexibly are missing out some serious talent."
Check out the full list here.
Jane Lindhe is a freelance journalist specialising in business writing, and the lead researcher on the Part Time Power List. She has worked for many well-known Australian publications, such as The Age, BRW and The Australian Financial Review.
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