Managing to be Dad

My company, Vilo Sky, is hosting it’s very first conference, ‘Managing to be Dad’, on the 26th November this year. It’s a scary and exciting time. We have fantastic partners, great speakers and a venue with a view of Edinburgh Castle. So far so good. However, this is new territory for us. I’m no event manager and we’ve never hosted anything like this before. Organising a large event is stressful. Very stressful! So the question I keep asking myself is why. Why bring on all this stress when we’re already busy and stretched? And the answer I keep coming back to is, because we can’t not.

Most of my coaching work revolves around helping women manage their careers during the transition into parenthood. The motivation for me to focus on this was my own workplace maternity experience where I changed from being a high performing, ambitious, intelligent woman to a timid, flustered, baby-brained shell of my former self. My physical and mental health suffered as a result of increasingly low confidence and the pressure I felt to be superwoman, which in turn impacted my relationships with my husband and children. No job was worth that, so I became a statistic. The female leader that leaves work in her late 30’s due to the insurmountable challenge of trying to balance family and career.

It’s a common, well known problem but, as I started to realise after working with so many other talented, capable, determined women, the issue has never been us. Women are not broken. We never were. But we are required to operate in a world that has structural bias and cultural stereotypes that force us into the role of predominant child carer.

Take parental leave for example. The latest figures show that shared parental leave is taken up by only 1% of eligible couples. The reasons are obvious. In most cases, parental pay is not enhanced above the statutory £149 per week for men. It usually is for women. Gender pay gap reporting shows that, on average, men earn more. So, the financial penalty for taking parental leave is much starker for men than it is for women.

Then there’s what happens when a dad does decide to stay at home. They’re faced with the cold shoulder of ‘mother and baby’ groups and comments such as ‘career on the skids is it?’ or ‘ah, how nice to be babysitting for the day’.

Attitudes towards parenthood are changing. Research from organisations such as Fathers Network Scotland and Daddilife indicate that father’s involvement with children has grown, with an increase from less than 15 minutes a day in the mid-1970s to three hours a day by the late 1990s. Shockingly though, of the 63% of millennial dads requesting flexibility, almost 65% are refused.

Vilo Sky’s ‘Managing to be Dad’ conference is about raising awareness of the challenges faced by working dads and the solutions we can create to address parental inequality. By accommodating working dads more effectively, we will automatically help the progression of women and their careers. One doesn’t work without the other. None of us are able to be in two places at the same time and at the end of the day, someone has to look after the kids.

Workplace equality isn’t a question of men versus women. It’s about creating equitable workplaces that offer unfettered opportunity for all. When I envisage a workplace of the future for my own son and daughter, I imagine one where my daughter is as equally likely to become a business founder as my son is to become a nurse. I want them to be limited only by their desires, not by the gender they were born into or what society dictates those genders should do. I believe equality creates a fairer society that benefits us all, and I also believe our conference is a signpost on the path towards achieving that.

So that’s really why we’re doing it. Stress is nothing compared to the buzz of seeing positive change happen before your eyes. Actively contributing to the creation of a fairer, more inclusive and equal workplace is why my partner and I started Vilo Sky. I hope you can contribute too by joining us on the 26th November.

Vicky Zuiderent is the Founder of Vilo Sky

The Managing to be Dad Leadership Conference, in conjunction with Family Friendly Working Scotland, takes place on Tuesday 26 November in Edinburgh. Tickets are available here.

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