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Retailers discuss juggling work and family life

In retail as in most industries in Australia, women are underrepresented in senior leadership positions. While they make up 57.7 per cent of the retail workforce, only 37.3 per cent of senior managers are women, and the figures continue to decline the higher up the chain you go. Just 10.8 per cent of retail CEOs are women.

One barrier to closing the leadership gap is the perception – backed up by the most recent Household Income and Labour Dynamics Survey – that women still perform a greater share of housework and caring duties than their male partners. This may prevent some women from pursuing career opportunities they otherwise might, and it may lead businesses to overlook female employees for promotion.

According to a survey by the recruiting firm Hays, 13 per cent of women have been asked in a job interview about their plans to have children or their caring responsibilities. Of these, 22 per cent think the asking and answering of such questions impacted their chance of securing the job. A further 34 per cent were unsure.

Erica Berchtold, CEO of The Iconic, recently said in an interview that the question she gets asked most often by women in the workplace is how she juggles it all.

In light of that, we’ve asked four retail executives how they juggle their personal and professional responsibilities. Keep reading to hear what Edible Blooms’ Kelly Jamieson, Deliveroo’s Levi Aron, Adore Beauty’s Kate Morris and Retail Prodigy Group’s Stephen Younane had to say.

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Kelly Jamieson, Edible Blooms

Kelly Jamieson, co-founder and CEO, Edible Blooms

How many hours do I devote to my “job” every week? Too many hours right now! We have a particularly intensive schedule in our business at present with our London and Geneva offices opening just over 12 months ago, building our new headquarters in Adelaide and working on an exciting series of innovations in our business. My sister and business partner, Abbey, has relocated to London, which has made our Europe openings run much smoother than if we were managing it remotely from Australia.

Being completely honest, I don’t turn off enough and feel “on” too much to have any semblance of balance. This has been a conscious decision for us to run hard right now and I know that in a few months time, particularly when we are moved into our new office, that the sprint will have been worth it. I think it’s important to choose “busy” and know when it’s time to take some time out too. My current devotion to Edible Blooms is a little extreme but it’s a short term choice for our long term vision.

On working from home

My husband Andrew and I have two children, our son is 8 years old and our daughter is 5. Both are now at school which has given us more routine as a family – although school hours seem to pass really quickly on the days I do a drop off and pick up working from home. I’m sure most other working parents would relate to this. We travel a lot with our children and last year combined a 12-week trip to Europe, which was part work, part play, and took them with us. It was an amazing learning experience for them, and it also made them appreciate school when they returned!

We live on a farm one hour from Adelaide so I commute three days a week to our office and work from home two days. We have cattle, a great dog called Buddy and a family of kangaroos that hang out close to the house. I use my drive to the office to make as many calls as I can and also consume as many podcasts as I can. It’s time well spent each day.

On making time for exercise

Honestly, I don’t have enough personal time. Hobbies and personal activities? Next question! Family time is my priority outside of work. Exercise is the regular activity that always seems to be sacrificed first and so my goal for 2019 is to get back into a regular routine which will allow some more personal time too.

On the pitfalls of flexibility

As a business owner, flexibility and deciding where I work is my greatest privilege. However, that flexibility honestly means that I end up working more because I can work pretty much anywhere! I always take time out for my children’s school events and sports days – they are essential. We try and give as much flexibility to our team as possible because I know how important that is as a parent. I am also hot on taking annual leave each year, it’s really important for everyone in our company.

On making the right choices

The best choice you can make is who you surround yourself with. If you have the right team around you, and particularly your partner in life, it will make the juggle more enjoyable. I consider myself very lucky to have a supportive husband and we work as a team at both home and at work.

Levi Aron, country manager, Deliveroo

I love my job – it’s incredibly fun and challenging, so I don’t really count the hours, but on average I would say that I work around 16 hours a day during the work week. However, I’m a big believer in switching off, and therefore make a concerted effort each week to completely switch off and disconnect over the weekend. I view this as a sacred time for me to spend with family and friends with whom I give my whole attention.

On making time for family

I’m the eldest of nine, so I’ve always been surrounded by mayhem. I cherish my family and am lucky that most of my family live just ten minutes away from our house. I have three kids – one just started prep, one is in Year 12 and my eldest is spending a gap year in LA. I’m so immensely proud of her and terrified at the same time! Every Saturday, I take my kids to visit my grandmother. Safta is in her nineties and she inspires us all – she lives independently and has the brightest vitality for life. I learn a lot from her.

On doing what works for you

Time is the most precious commodity, don’t we all wish there was more of it! I try to carve out more time in the day for my family and I think it’s about doing what works for you. For example, most days at around 3pm, I get on a video call with my eldest daughter in LA just before she goes to bed, and we talk about her day and I give her advice on anything on her mind.

Right now, we’re having a robust discussion about what she wants to do at university. It’s heartening to know that even though she’s on the other side of the world, we are still so connected and we can thank technology for that.

On counting the outcome, not the hours

At Deliveroo, our business is all about flexibility, so we encourage our people to practice that. At the end of the day, it’s about the outcomes and not the hours that you work, so our people have the flexibility to work from home if their child is unwell, or if they have a personal appointment.

As a start-up, we’ve had the opportunity to design workplace policies and benefits to suit a modern and growing workforce. Some of our fun policies include free Friday lunches (delivered by Deliveroo riders, of course) and weekly PT and yoga sessions. We offer great career development opportunities for those who want to travel and work abroad. Our maternity and paternity policies are progressive compared to other companies around us, because we believe spending time with family and friends is important.

On a new reality

The reality is, there is no work-life balance – these days people are working harder and for longer hours. When I was a kid, my dad would come home every day before 6pm and we’d have family dinner together. Unfortunately, for many people, those days are long gone. So my advice is this: do what works for you. Only you can define what balance looks like – perhaps you’re so passionate about your job that you are happy to dedicate long hours (like me), and that’s okay. There may be certain hours of the day or the weekends which you hold sacred for personal time, and that’s okay too. Don’t let society define what balance looks like. Set your boundaries, communicate it with your family and your team, and make it work for you, but also know that this will likely change month to month, year to year, as the priorities of what you focus on changes too.

Adore Beauty, Kate Morris

Kate Morris, Adore Beauty

Kate Morris, founder and CEO, Adore Beauty

I don’t work crazy hours in the office. It’s pretty much a normal 38-40 hour work week. But sometimes you have to take calls with people outside normal work hours when you’re working across different time zones as we are. I think anyone who has their own business will understand there’s not really a time you’re not thinking about the business, but I try to be as present as I can when I’m with my kids.

On saying goodbye to dinner parties

I spend most of my time outside of work with the family. I have two kids, one is school age, and one’s a toddler. I try to see friends when I can, but that’s always challenging because most of my friends have little kids too. I have time blocked out in my calendar three times a week to do some exercise, and lately, I’ve been trying to get up a little earlier to do some meditation, which sometimes happens and sometimes doesn’t. That’s about all there’s time for. I used to host dinner parties and go out more before I had kids, but that happens much less these days.

On setting a good example

There’s generally no one in our office after 6pm, and we try to encourage that as much as possible. It’s not the sort of workplace where there’s virtue in staying late. When our managers have their one-on-ones, the first question is how is your workload. If you’re here every night, we need to look at that because it’s not cool. There are certainly businesses that think if you’re not there, you’re not working hard, but I don’t think that way because that’s not how I want to live my life.

Everyone on my leadership team has young children – they work flexibly and leave at a decent time, and I think Adore Beauty is a pretty high performing company. And I think it’s important for me as a leader to model that to the people who work for me.

On equal division of labour

My partner and I both work in the business, so it’s been great because we’ve been able to pretty much arrange things how we like. Everyone’s got their own ideas as to how they want to do things [at home]; my partner and I split everything really equally, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. But I’m sure there are plenty of women who are happy to let work take a back seat when they’ve got kids, but there are probably plenty of men who would like that too. It’s up to you to discuss it [with your partner] ideally before you have kids.

You can have everything, but you can’t do everything yourself. There are a lot of things I’ve let slide or go by the wayside. For instance, there’s a level of chaos that I accept now in my house. I’m just not going to have a beautifully curated magazine-worthy home, because I don’t want to invest any time in that. You’ve got to prioritise really heavily to what matters.

Stephen Younane, Retail Prodigy Group

Stephen Younane, co-founder and CEO, Retail Prodigy Group

I have been through various stages of my career where balancing work and life has varied. The biggest catalyst for change was when we started a family. That put everything into perspective and was a big wake-up call as to the importance of switching off from work and being present for my family when I’m at home.

On being home in time for dinner

My personal time is precious to me and I have learned to prioritise the important stuff. I have 2 children, a daughter in year 9 and a son in year 11. I do my best to be home every night for dinner when I’m not travelling. I share the responsibility with my wife with school drop-offs and pick-ups. I ensure I am available to attend school events, such as concerts and presentations. We allocate time during school holidays to do stuff together whether it’s day trips, going out for dinner or the occasional holiday. I also prioritise health and fitness. I schedule time in my calendar before work for workouts. Nike has definitely inspired me to keep fit and I really feel this has help with managing the pressures of work.

On a reliable team

I am comfortable with the amount of I spend on my personal obligations. I have learned to prioritise and to schedule personal obligations into my calendar, whether it’s school commitments or workouts. The business does however go through changes that requires me to zoom in and zoom out depending on the issues. I am blessed to be surrounded by some amazing people in the business that are trustworthy and dependable. This enables me to delegate and empower others when I need it most. Surrounding yourself with the best team I feel makes the biggest difference to how effective you are as a leader and how you get the right balance. In my role, it’s also important to not get buried in emails and meetings. You need to be available and accessible for your team when they need you.

On doing what’s right

At RPG, we believe that having a happy family life will make you more effective at work. Juggling the pressures of family and work can be a real burden particularly in the retail industry. We just try to be flexible and allow our team to take the time required to do what’s right for the family. That can be as simple as taking time off for school commitments, or offering flexible work hours to manage childcare. There’s nothing more important than family as far as I’m concerned.

On choosing to be a leader

Leadership is a choice… it comes with the enormous responsibility of the impact you have on others. It’s not a title. Early on in your career, be curious and be a sponge. Look for mentors and those leaders that inspire you, but also take note of those leaders that don’t represent the sort of leader you want to be. Think of yourself as a ‘brand’. What’s your brand proposition, what are your values, what’s your brand promise? Put this down on paper and start building your own brand. Be flexible and open to change but never compromise your personal values to be liked. Leadership is not a popularity contest.

It terms of “juggling it all”, there is no special formula. If you value family, friends and life experiences, then you will find the time. It does however take good planning and discipline. In a nutshell, if you’re truly an effective leader, juggling will come easy.

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