workingmums.co.uk spoke to Clare Twelvetrees, co-founder of Equality starts at home, about its focus on the home agenda, a vital part of equality in the workplace.
Equality at work cannot happen without equality at home and a new organisation has been set up to focus more on the second part of the equality challenge.
“We are all about the home sphere. People don’t talk about that as much. It’s more of a closed space, although Covid has blurred the lines,” says Clare Twelvetrees, co-founder of Equality starts at home whose background is in international development and gender equality.
Equality starts at home developed out of an international Aspire panel on women’s leadership that Clare spoke on in June 2020. The panel asked how Covid might affect women’s equality, particularly equality at home given the pandemic had thrown a spotlight on it and more men were at home. For the panel Clare, who was interim chief executive at the Cherie Blair Foundation before taking a post as Director of Strategy and Performance at an animal charity, did a short survey of 50 people in her broader network of men and women. She was interested to see how Covid had affected equality at home and gave each question a red, amber or green light option. Quite a few people were green – meaning things were shared equally at home; some were amber, for instance, women who said their partner was helping more with cooking; but some of the reds were, says Clare, ‘horrendous’. They included a woman working full time who was doing everything even though her partner wasn’t working.
From the conference the idea for an organisation to specifically address equality at home emerged and not just for parents. Carers’ issues were high on the agenda during the pandemic, for instance. There are four co-founders – Clare; Jackie Carter, professor of statistical literacy at the University of Manchester; organisational development, Diversity & Inclusion consultant Lesley Macniven from Scotland; and self-help career development author Venise Vinegar from the US.
The group meets online every Tuesday at 6pm and recently achieved charitable status. Clare, who is also a Trustee of Age International, says it was established from the bottom up, but now has a steering group and is developing its strategy and vision. It has linked up with social enterprise Third Shift, a tech platform which measures how well people balance their home and work lives in an aim to settle the arguments that often flow from discussions between partners in a couple about who does more. The aim is to provide people with the resources they might need to acknowledge and improve equality in their home, to raise awareness of the issue – mainly on social media – through its campaigning arm and to build partnerships with organisations which are campaigning on the same issues.
The organisation holds safe space events where people can talk about the issues, for instance, they had a recent event for dads where there was a lot of talk about isolation and how to counter stereotypes that mean dads don’t feel they can take their paternity leave and participate more at home.
Everything is run on a voluntary basis and they are always looking for more trustees and advisers. “We are starting slowly, but we hope to build into a global movement,” says Clare.