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Daddy Cool: Why music must lead on shared parental leave

We recently celebrated Father’s Day.

It didn’t exist when I was growing up, and neither did maternity or paternity leave, paid or otherwise; this was made law in 1975 and 2013, respectively. Last month the outgoing UK prime minister stated her commitment to legislating for 12 weeks’ paternity leave, a significant improvement on the present paltry two weeks. Today’s millennial fathers are playing an increasing role in childcare and want a balanced work/home life, and yet outdated working policies are not supporting them to do this. I’ve lost count of the number of new dads that want to take shared parental leave but won’t because, “I worry it will adversely effect my career”, or “My line manager said, ‘Are you joking? Why would you want to do that?’”.

I’m calling on the music industry to increase paternity paid leave from the statutory, unfit-for-purpose two weeks to a minimum of four weeks, and to promote a flexible/smart/agile working policy for EVERYONE.

If action is not taken, top talent will move to more enlightened competitors. ‘Older’ industry leaders were often not very present dads, with long hours the norm, but they have an opportunity to create the conditions to enable dads as well as mums to play an active part in their young children’s lives.

Why am I and increasingly many others, calling for increased paternity leave? It’s good for dads, good for babies and good for mums, and promotes gender equality by giving women more options when returning to work.

One dad told me this: “Most of my two weeks’ paternity leave was spent in and out of hospital as my wife and new son were unwell – and then I was back to work, still in a state of shock…”

A recent DaddiLife survey, the Millennial Dad at Work, surveyed over 2,000 dads between 25 and 40 and found that nine out of ten are closely involved in day-to-day parenting, many sharing equal responsibilities with their partners, but most comment that their employers have failed to adjust to change and most admit to having to invent excuses when they are needed for childcare. (“I needed to be at home with my sick child and the response I got was, ‘Why isn’t your wife doing that?’”)

If action is not taken, top talent will move to more enlightened competitors

A third of dads in the survey said that trying to achieve a balanced life in an out-of-touch work environment was affecting their mental health: “There’s no point HR having family friendly policies if the line manager isn’t supportive. And of course, they’re never called out on it…”

This is borne out by my own research where I’ve found that line managers are rarely trained or held accountable in actively implementing and supporting family friendly policies. “I have a great line manager who has encouraged me to take shared parental leave and is totally cool with me doing compressed hours,” said one music-industry dad, “and yet in another department, on the same floor, a colleague’s line manager belittles him if he requests flex working.” Why is this blatant unfairness allowed to continue, and why is there a reluctance to enforce company HR policy?

It would send such a strong message if even one company increased their paternity leave now, rather than waiting for the big stick of legislation, which is surely coming. We all know it’s the right thing to do, that’s why Google gives two weeks, Facebook 17 weeks, and Spotify gives each parent six months’ paid leave!

Last year the British parliament’s women and equalities committee recommended legislating for three months’ paid paternity leave but, like so many other important issues, it’s been subsumed by Brexit. But it will return.

In 2015 shared parental leave was launched, but only 1% of eligible dads have taken it, mainly because they can’t afford it and are often discouraged to do so. In Sweden new parents can share 480 days, of which 390 days are paid by the state at 80% of salary, and three months is allocated to each parent on a ‘use it or lose it’ basis. Surely if Sweden can do this, the UK can?

Most of the music companies, in their 2019 gender pay gap reporting, mentioned family friendly policies and the provision of flexible working – but they need to be embedded in the culture, communicated fully to all line managers and equally available to men and women.

 


Claire Singers is an executive coach, consultant and public speaker on diversity issues.

An equal opportunities industry? Diversity in live music

A black, female student recently asked me: “Why, is the leadership of the music industry so white and male yet the artists are a mix of women and men, often from ethnic backgrounds?”

It was such a simple and direct question, and went to the heart of the diversity problem that exists in the live music industry. My brain whirled through the usual pat explanations for this, and then the utter ridiculousness of the situation hit me… Why in this 21st century creative industry have we allowed power to remain in the hands of old white men? How much longer will this lack of diversity amongst the leaders of music industry companies be tolerated?

I firmly believe, not for much longer, equal opportunities are a human right and everyone has a part to play in using their voice to demand it and create a dynamic industry that truly reflects the public it serves. Legislation will be the main driver of this change, especially if, in the near future, the threshold for reporting on the gender pay gap is reduced to 100 employees.

Last April, the systemic inequality in the music industry and many others was laid bare by new gender pay gap legislation. All companies in the UK with over 250 employees had to report their gender pay gap figures, not by choice, but mandated by legislation passed by prime minster Theresa May. The music industry, long used to playing by its own rules, did not come out of this looking good. The overwhelming trend was for double-digit pay gaps between men and women, and when it came to bonus data, double-digit chasms were reported. The music majors reported the following data: Universal 29.8%, Sony 22.7%, Warner an eye-watering 49%, AEG 43%, and Live Nation 46%. Many companies were quick to release statements to explain these startling figures, and a recurring theme in those explanations was that the number of men in top earning positions had skewed the figures.

Whilst filing their dire pay gap figures last April, companies also submitted reports setting out their commitment to a gender equal and diverse music industry, and laying out policies that they would implement to create this.

In April 2019, companies with over 250 employees will have to repeat the exercise, revealing pay gap figures filed last April – so while it may be the case that the gap won’t have significantly reduced in such a short period of time, the focus should be on monitoring and assessing progress with these policies, rather than obsessing about the numbers. Disappointingly, none of the companies committed to setting a target for diversity or mentioned linking progress to leaders’ bonuses.

Why in this 21st century creative industry have we allowed power to remain in the hands of old white men?

Keychange has led the way creating 50/50 male/female line-ups for festivals but no such quotas exist for women working “backstage.” The barriers for women to flourish as agents and promoters are many, not least the bloke-y, boys’- club culture, and the myth that it’s a 24/7 lifestyle and “not suitable for women.”

One female agent was told she was “too nice to be successful,” a promoter was heard saying “why would women want to be promoters, hanging around shitty venues,” a female manager was call a ‘c..nt’ by an agent, a female promoter told me she felt guilty about having to play “the boys’ game and take part in their sexist banter.”

Women are every bit as capable as men of becoming managers, agents and promoters. I hope and expect that the new school of leadership will resist aping the behaviour of the baby boomer predecessors and create a modern industry open to all, which is also family friendly.

The key policy that will open up the music industry to diverse groups is flexible working for all. In the UK, there are thousands of companies, and the number is growing rapidly, that already offer all employees some form of flexibility, enabling staff to create a work/life balance. The current common practice in the music industry of leaving flex-working decisions to individual line managers is inept and iniquitous.

Companies implementing flexibility across their workforces will discover it’s good for business. They will discover it’s good for mental wellbeing. Flexible working is based on trust and output, rather than judging an employee’s commitment by the hours he or she spends shackled to a desk.

Accountability in senior staff’s annual appraisals is another game changer. They should be asked: what have you done this year to progress the careers of BAME staff, women, LGBT, and people with disabilities? Are we recruiting the best person for the team? Who are you mentoring?

Incidentally, my response to the black female student that questioned the lack of diversity in the music business was“come and join the industry, and be part of making the change.”

 


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Why gender diversity leads to better business

2017 looks like the year when the industry finally started walking the talk about amplifying women’s voices, both on and off stage.

In June, Spotify’s Daniel Ek and Max Martin launched the Equalizer Project, which focuses on increasing the number of female songwriters; in August, Melvin Benn’s Festival Republic announced ReBalance, a three-year project aimed at addressing the chronic gender imbalance in the music industry; and in October, PRS Foundation went live with Keychange, a European project that will empower 60 female artists and industry innovators. Meanwhile, many Scandinavian festivals are already committed to a 50:50 gender-balanced bill.

Anders Wahren, of Roskilde Festival in Denmark, said: “We try to inspire – through the very talented artists we have on our stages; through the work we do with organisations and underground promoters such as Freemuse, Girls are Awesome and Femtastic; and by having debates and talks with artists such as Madame Gandhi and Princess Nokia at this year’s festival. We can encourage our audience, upcoming artists and potential future artists, by supporting campaigns for more girls to pick up an instrument, and setting up summer camps for girls. There is a lot to be done that does not start with the big festival stages – but the beauty of it all is that when we, as a non-profit festival, fund causes like this, we actually also help develop the future headliners that we will be presenting in five to ten years.”

These initiatives are to be applauded, and are clear signs that the 21st-century music industry has finally realised that there are huge business advantages to be gained from promoting women on stage and behind the curtain. All the research reports that diverse teams of people are more creative, more dynamic, and more profitable to an organisation than homogenous teams, which in the music industry’s case – and in many others – means middle-aged, Western, white men. It makes good business sense to fully capitalise on the talents of the entire workforce. It makes good commercial sense to design festival bills that reflect the diversity of consumers and the multicultural society we live in.

Progress on gender equality and diversity is not an either/or – the work needs to progress in parallel. Both need targets and strategic plans if they are to change the mix of leadership teams. Both are at different levels. BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) staff struggle to reach middle management in numbers, and women hit the wall at middle management, so a talent pipeline needs to be built.

“The working culture was designed by men in the middle of the last century”

Here, unconscious bias recruitment and mentoring is key: if you can see it, you can believe it.

Digital technology has transformed our lives and yet its potential to transform our working lives, known as ‘smart working,’ is still to be realised in most music biz offices. The working culture was designed by men in the middle of the last century, and it’s based on command and control, presenteeism, an obsession with process, the jacket on the back of the chair, the need for the boss to look out at his team. Modern companies are task-and-output focused – employees are encouraged to work flexibly, and they are trusted and given responsibility: if you can’t trust your team, then why are they working for you? Smart working increases access to a much broader range of people, for whom working in an office five days a week is not practical or desirable. In 2014, government legislation was introduced giving every employee the right to flexible working – who knew?

Smart working is a proven game-changer for creating a diverse and more gender-equal workforce, and it allows a more balanced work/home life, which, thankfully, is a huge priority for Generation Y – the days of the macho, stay-in-the-office-all-hours type are thankfully dying out, as are the industry’s old guard.

The music industry is largely made up of small- to medium-sized companies that often have no HR function and certainly no company manuals, hence knowledge about employee rights, such as shared parental leave, can be sketchy. This is an area that should be addressed with the utmost urgency and requested by staff.

The future is looking bright, in the hands of a new generation of leaders who grew up with diversity, increasing gender equality and a life that has balance. Everyone has a part to play in bringing this change.

 


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