Weeknotes S9 Ep8

A weird old week

[Gif] Adam from Girls shrugs and says “The plan is: There is no plan”

This week just feels as though it hasn’t really gone to plan, not with work but all of the other stuff around work. It’s meant that the work stuff has been pushed out to the edges of some days and left me feeling slightly stressed. I know that I’ve been busy but I can’t say I’ve felt like I’ve done enough, so I’m hoping these weeknotes will help me work that through.

Before I begin, here’s my Trello reading list for this week: https://trello.com/b/BBJ726mr/progress-bookmarks

A screenshot of my Trello reading list

I feel like I haven’t had much space for reading this week, and it looks as though I’ve read less too. Maybe I’ll be able to make up for it over the weekend.

Working from where? And working, when?

On Monday I chose to work from home because I didn’t have any meetings in my diary and I wanted to use the day to pull together a few pieces of work, and write a document for my Director. As it was, I got into a good flow, and I worked through until 7pm (when my little boy’s nanny finished work). It was good because I didn’t lose momentum by having to rush off for the train home.

[Gif] A cartoon, fingers typing on a keyboard

Now, I’m not advocating for working late. This was my choice and I was able to because I can afford to have help at home. I know that’s a massive privilege (more on that later). Working late or working longer than your contracted hours, should be an individual choice, not something that is imposed. For me, childcare means I sometimes end up working at strange times because it fits around my life better that way. I flex, and I get my work done.

Anyway, it was a pretty good thing that I did work later because my other half came home on Monday evening and reminded me that it was school parents evening the following day, and I had arranged to see the school’s SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disability) advisor at 4.30pm.

We are currently in the process of getting an EHCP (Education and Health Care Plan) in place for my little one, so there are lots of meetings and things I need to attend so that the council get the information they need to make sure that he gets the support he needs. It takes a huge amount of time and it’s quite demanding to keep on top of everything. Not to mention, slightly stressful.

Anyway, on Tuesday I headed into the office but had to head off early to be back in time for that. Thankfully I finished at the school by 5.30pm and picked up work again when I got back (thanks again to my brilliant and magical nanny).

[Gif] Mary Poppins flies away on her umbrella. For the record, it turns out that having a nanny is a lot more mundane than Mary Poppins would have you believe, and although I have a chimney that could possibly be swept, my nanny is yet to bring round a dancing man with a weird accent to help with it.

On Wednesday I worked from a cafe, hospital waiting room and friends house as my other half was at the hospital and I wanted to be nearby for him. It was a bit of a disrupted day, but again, I worked late, and I managed to get what I needed to do, done. Then, on Wednesday evening my mother in-law called to tell me that she had a bug and couldn’t pick my little boy up from school the next day #facepalm

So that meant also working from home on Thursday, and asking our nanny to work a few extra hours to pick little man up and get him dinner. So that’s a totally unprecedented amount of WFH days in one week.

Why am I telling you this?

I guess there are a number of reasons…

  • to point out that sometimes our plans don’t go quite how we expect them to, especially when it comes to childcare.
  • to show how difficult or problematic things seem to cluster together and happen all at once rather than distributing themselves evenly across a year (EHCPs and Hospital appointments and a new temporary promotion and and and…)
  • to once again make it clear how our lives outside of work are important and part of our work and part of us, and that’s ok.
[Gif] A stick man stands on a seesaw, it says Life and Work on either side, the seesaw goes up and down
  • and finally, to talk about privilege. Because I’m aware that I am incredibly lucky; lucky to be able to stay on top of my work because I can afford to pay someone to look after my little one — that means I can afford to progress my career.

I wrote recently about what I was doing in 2009 and talked about having to get into debt to progress my career. Is it really that different that I pay childcare now so that I can progress?

View at Medium.com

Women end up being out of pocket just for being a woman, in the money lost from being off work to have a child, in the lost income from being part time when they go back to work (or choosing a lower paid job closer to home) and then from the lack of pay increases if they can’t afford childcare. I can’t even imagine what this looks like if you’re a single mum, or from a lower income.

On that note, I’ve just taken a break from writing these #weeknotes to become a Fawcett Society member, you can find out more here:

View at Medium.com

Anyway, let’s talk money because people don’t get needlessly cagey about that at all, let’s get uncomfortable.

In my temporary promotion to Grade 6 the entry salary is £61,900 (at the Cabinet Office and crucially, in London), so that’s what I earn right now. It’s pretty much public knowledge because the civil service publishes all of their pay info.

Pages like these below are really interesting if you’re interested in Civil Service pay:

View at Medium.comView at Medium.com

I know that what I currently earn is very high compared to the average wages in the country (my privilege) but to be honest, coming from the background that I have I never ever thought I would earn this much. It is quite baffling to me, though I know that I have worked hard to get here. When I go back to my Grade 7 role at MHCLG I will be earning less again (this is a temporary promotion).

[Gif] A visual joke designed to make things less awkward. That crab guy from Spongebob Squarepants has a shower in money. Notes and coins shower on him while he washes.

But, I work 4 days per week, so I automatically earn 20% less than my peers so that I can be at home one day a week for my child (though it’s debatable that I do 20% less work). Thats £49,500 before tax.

I pay childcare costs of around £12k per year and have paid for childcare for the past 5 years. My childcare these days is more than most because my son needs extra care (but the “tax” you pay on having a special needs child is a moan for another day).

Though I share bills with my husband, childcare would generally fall to me as a woman so hey, let’s take that money away too. That leaves £37,500 before tax. Still above the national average, I know.

Median weekly earnings for full-time employees reached £585 in April 2019, an increase of 2.9% since April 2018.

The above quote is from the Office for National Statistics link below:

View at Medium.com

My pay hasn’t increased by that much over that time, so I’m essentially paying for childcare so that I can maintain my career at this level until I can progress.

Anyway, where am I going with this? I don’t know. Sometimes these things just need to be said. Obviously I love my son and I love my job, I want to work. That has a big impact in how I’ve made the decisions I have. Similarly yes, I am immensely privileged, I am white, I have a husband, we share the bills, he earns a good wage, so I have the choice. I know many others don’t.

[Gif] from a TV show I don’t know but will assume is American, a (white) woman says to a man “Alexa, define “privilege””

So this is all from my (very limited) perspective, I would love to hear other people’s thoughts and experiences.

What else happened?

On Tuesday I met with Matt from my old team the Local Digital Collaboration Unit and it was really good to catch up and hear about the funding interviews that were happening for the next round of funding. It sounds like a lot of our projects have really moved on in their work and thinking, which is awesome.

Jess and the Networks team organised a lunch and learn for the team on Tuesday and Francesca Gains from the University of Manchester joined us to talk about Place-based Policy Making — Equality Matters.

It was really interesting and I have a load of follow up reading now. If you’re interested in some of the discussion here are my notes.

Sketchnotes from the Lunch and Learn with Francesca Gains.

Most of my week was taken up with thinking about several procurement activities that I have to do imminently, and doing some early market engagement to work out the shape of our budget next year. I also worked with the team at Convivio about what they’ve been learning about our teams needs and difficulties in delivering their services, so that we can consider opportunities to support them better using Connect (our service).

It felt good, and like “proper” product work, which was really satisfying and we used a value/effort matrix to decide where we might start. This is all good for building a simple roadmap.

Getting ready for Service Design in Government (SDinGov)

One of the slides from our presentation at SDinGov next week, it says Hello! and has pictures of me, Rahma, Hattie and Katy on it.

On Thursday I had a call with Hattie, Katy and Rahma ahead of our talk at SDinGov next week, and it was really great. They are all women that I admire, and I’m so grateful that they agreed to come and do this with me because they all have so much important stuff to say! I’m feeling like this is going to be a good session with a few different but overlapping perspectives.

I’m really looking forward to going to Edinburgh next week because I learned so much at the conference last year and getting to see lots of people will be really nice.

Empowered Employment

I was disappointed on Wednesday that I couldn’t get along to a report launch that Salma suggested to me. The report was called Empowered Employment: Unlocking the Workplace for Muslim Women.

It is:

“ the largest and most comprehensive study of its kind to be conducted on Muslim women’s experiences of work and career development anywhere in the world”

It’s a really hard but important thing to read and I could quote the whole thing here for you, but as I seem to have already been speaking about being a woman, social mobility and privilege I won’t. I’ll just leave you with these nuggets

“A report by the Government’s Social Mobility Commission (Stevenson et. al: 2017) found that widespread Islamophobia, racism and discrimination increasingly punctuate Muslim men and women’s professional and career development. This is despite the strong work ethic and high resilience amongst Muslims that result in outstanding academic results.”


When compared to the industries women aspired to enter whilst at secondary school, the results showed large discrepancies for industries such as journalism and media, medicine, and law.

While 79 participants wanted to enter the medical field in secondary school, only 1 participant entered the field as a doctor. Similarly, while 46 participants wanted to become lawyers, only 12 became lawyers upon graduating university, and while 39 participants wanted to become journalists and/or enter the media profession, only 7 entered the profession.

A major challenge to work and career development was a lack of confidence which 54.3% of participants selected. The second major challenge experienced was a lack of career advice with 47. 8% of participants having made this selection. The third major factor was the lack of opportunity, with 43.5% of participants making this selection.

You can find the full report here and I really recommend you give it a read, because there is just so much more we could all do.

View at Medium.com

If you read all of this (unintentionally mammoth) weeknote this week. Thank you.

[Gif] A cartoon blob person holds a heart and shows it too us, the words ‘Thank you’ appear underneath

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