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Having spent the morning at the DLA’s WIN event “Making the Board Room Pitch – How to Prepare for a More Senior Role”, in which BCL’s Victoria Moore was on the panel, I was struck by how the word “flexibility” divided the audience.
Why is it in today’s world where the developments in technology are such that we can be accessed by phone or email 24/7, does this word create such a negative effect for some?
One attendee, a mother of three, mentioned that she would not raise the subject of flexibility at any stage in the interview process unless it was included within the job description. Should she be appointed to the position, she would then see how her role evolved within the company. In her current role, she is in senior position within the company and feels that as she often works long days, she has the flexibility to attend Junior’s nativity play.
Another individual mentioned that she would raise the question at interview and a third individual also thought you could broach the subject provided the term flexible working did not mean working a three day week!!
The chartered occupational psychologist and life coach on the panel, also a working mother, thought that the first interview was not the best time to mention it unless your intuition told you that it was a good idea (and you had built up a good relationship with the Interviewers).
Many companies now have programmes in place to promote “flexibility”. However, the size of legal teams compared with other functions within the business is usually small and therefore, it is arguably understandable, that it is difficult to provide women with the flexibility that they require whether that be in terms of hours or days.
However, on the other hand, some companies appreciate that should they be open to the idea of flexibility, this in itself can bring its own rewards. Recently, one such client, who was open in their recruitment process in respect of the concept of flexibility, offered the role with their company to a senior lawyer on a part time basis, rather than employing a junior lawyer full time.
Whilst I appreciate that this is not possible for all companies, I embrace this, not just from my own perspective as a working mother but it shows that the company is prepared to think outside the box, be innovative and follow the lead of our Scandinavian counterparts who have embraced flexible working for an age.
Finally, I believe that this discussion also highlights the importance and role of a good recruiter, who will be able to understand your requirements (including flexibility) and that of the company and will be well placed to discuss the options on your behalf without you questioning whether you should or should not have raised the subject.