I had the pleasure of being part of two panels at BloomFest. What I experienced left me with a huge sense of clarity on what still needs to be done ahead, and also how much conviction there is within the Bloom movement, and those associated with it, to do so.
A Bloom First Timer
I have to admit, I had not heard of Bloom before now, but in hearing the background and story I was genuinely captivated by what current and previous bloomers had done to stoke such important and challenging progression within our industry.
In running DaddiLife, one of my big passion areas is around raising the level of discussion and debate needed around dads at work, and the role modern day dads have in supporting and enabling thriving families –for both mum as well as dads themselves.
It’s a position that I don’t always get friendly ears on to be honest, and a lot of my discussions over the last few years on the subject of Gender Balance have often been met with a mindset of ‘what on earth do Dads have to do with this!?’
But I was hugely enthused by just how many at Bloom fully understood that the issue of Gender Balance isn’t just a womens’ or mums’ issue – it’s a wider parent one. In looking at genuine equality across the board even the very prominent are now starting to address it publicly too.
Here are my reflections from a dad perspective on the two panels I was on.
To Flex or Not to Flex
Chaired expertly by Siobhan Brunwin, and joining Annie Auerbach, Katie McAuley, and Heleana Blackwell on the panel - the purpose of the panel was to discuss the modern-day challenges around flexible working.
Here were my big three takeaways:
The economic imperative is NOW – there was debate amongst the panel around the perception around flexible working as something that has to ‘be earned’ or something that for many still indicates someone doing ‘less of a job.’ I enjoyed this session in challenging that stereotype. I thought Annie Auerbach nailed it when she said that the UK has the longest working hours across Europe but one of the lowest in terms of productivity. So shaping new ways of working really is an imperative now.
Managing Clients is the next juncture – as a service led industry, in practical terms we are in control of our own destiny only to a certain spectrum, and I thought one of the audience’s observations around managing clients and being brave around that area is just as important. This was raised by both the men and women in the audience. As a self-reflection, I’ll never forget that Gabby, Proximity CEO, once re-arranged a pitch date so I could go to my son’s first day at school. It may have seemed trivial for everyone else, but it was massively important for me, and it’s something I’ll always be grateful for. It took bravery that’s for sure. What will bravery in the flexible age mean for the managing clients? I’d love to have even more of a discussion there.
Dads and the hidden aspect of Gender Balance – Gender Balance is an increasing strategic priority across the board-rooms of clients and agencies alike, but one area within that debate that often gets neglected is the role of modern day dads, who want to be more active, and more involved as a key enabler of the fullest change possible – and their important role in realizing full equalization for both mum and dad. As long as statistics like only 1 in 5 dads being granted work from home in the industry, this will continue to happen.
The Fork: To have kids or not to have?
Chaired by Sally Keane, and joining Jackie Stevenson, Sarah Honeyball and Meagan Bickerstaff this session really got under the skin of a large question around the industry – how does having (or not having) children impact on our careers and life choices.
It was emotive, richly human and really spearheaded the true diversity of the day for me – the chance to discuss something that invariably will touch many people’s lives – directly and indirectly.
My big three takeaways:
It’s about personal choice and circumstance – Jackie and Sarah shared very personal stories and backgrounds around their own choices around their careers and family, and I for one was left inspired by their bravery and honesty in discussing them so openly with the bloom audience.
Big decisions are never far away – I really enjoyed Meagan’s thought process around children and wider family decisions with her first child, and it made me reflect on how big decisions are always around the corner, and how much we need to trust our gut on some of the biggest decisions of our lives.
It goes beyond kids – A member of the audience asked an incredibly thought-provoking question on why there was so little consideration around new ways of working and more policy change around primary carers – not just those who are parents or even direct family, but those who are looking after indirect family, who are sick or elderly?
A final thought
It’s not easy to create an event, even harder to start a movement. But that’s what Stephanie, Sally, Victoria and the whole Bloom team have done. My hat goes off to you, and thank you for welcoming me.