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Oliver Black talks to Workingmums.co.uk about the first Work + Family Show.
The first Work & Family Show has big ambitions. The two-day event is being held at ExCel in London next year and aims to attracts over 10,000 visitors.
Not bad for an event that came about almost by accident. The Show, which will take place beside the hugely successful Baby Show on 21st and 22nd February, is organised by My Family Care, providers of child and elder care solutions, and events company Clarion Events.
Oliver Black, managing director of My Family Care, says the idea for the Show came about when My Family Care moved into its new office in Putney Bridge a year ago. Clarion Events had an office in the same building and among the events they organise is the Baby Show.
The building had a shared cafe and Oliver took a friend from university to it. His friend knew Nicole Muller from Clarion who had the Baby Show in her portfolio and introduced Oliver to her. She said the Baby Show wanted to move more into providing advice and services as well as baby products. As the two talked it became clear that the Baby Show was missing a trick by not addressing the fact that many of their visitors had a shared interest in work life balance issues. “We showed them data which opened their eyes to a whole new audience and to the issues that many parents are struggling with and the people who were missing from the talent pipeline,” says Oliver.
Research showed 2.2m women were not working due to caring responsibilities and that 60% would like to go back to work at some point, but did not know how to. “In the first year they have enjoyed being with their babies, but slowly they become more and more desperate to go back to work,” says Oliver, “but the world has moved on. How do they find jobs? How do they cover their cv gap? There are many practical things they can do and then there is the emotional side – issues of lack of confidence and guilt. We are experts in these areas.”
He added that similar smaller shows have been done before, but the idea of the Work + Family Show was to give the issues a national platform. The event, for which Workingmums.co.uk is media sponsor, will give working parents and women on a career break the chance to talk to experts about creating an ideal work-life balance, mix with family friendly companies, develop their business ideas and discuss their future career opportunities. There will be practical workshops on issues from starting a business to flexible working as well as presentations by leading experts, including representatives of the Women’s Business Council, set up by the Government to maximise women’s contribution to the economy.
It is not a recruitment fair, but will, says Black, “give parents all the solutions they need and help to remove any unnecessary barriers to returning to work and finding work life balance”.
Black says that the Show is not just aimed at women. Increasingly men are involved in work life balance issues and want to be more involved in family life. That means breaking down stereotypical gender roles. My Family Care has been organising workshops for dads to give them the space about being a dad and about a range of issues, including flexible working. Many companies are realising that to help women progress in their careers they need to do more to support dads to take a greater role at home. Black says this means “normalising” greater sharing of caring roles. He says: “That means sitting down and working out what everyone does so that it is about the division of labour rather than assumed roles and appreciating what both sides are doing.”
He adds that dads workshops are very different to those for mums and that dads want to be spoken to in different ways. Rather than coffee mornings and cakes, they want lists of topics and practical advice, he says. They want to talk about things like flexible working and are very comfortable with putting over a business case for it. “They are very comfortable with the idea of presenting it as a win win,” says Black. Giving dads the space to talk about parenting issues is very interesting, he adds. “You just watching things unfold and the barriers coming down.”
*Advance tickets are available in advance for Workingmums.co.uk readers and mean you can save over 35% off the on the door price and pay £10 each, plus transaction fee. Click here to go to the show website and quote MUMS.