Mums in Ads: The Part Time Pitch
Here at Creative Natives, we’re passionate about helping working parents stay in or re-enter the creative / marketing / PR / tech space. That’s why when Mums in Ads launched The Part Time Pitch in September – an initiative where creative agencies agree to label every role they advertise as full time/part time negotiable – and they asked us to come onboard as their recruitment partner, we couldn’t say yes fast enough.
To tell you a bit more about Mums in Ads and The Part Time Pitch, we caught up with the duo behind Mums in Ads, Regina Stroombergen and Julia Spencer. They talk about their experiences as mums in the creative industry, the importance of having someone in your corner and the changes they hope to see for future mums working in the industry.
How did Mums in Ads get started?
Regina: Back in early 2021, I was working in an agency and juggling two kids and all of the family admin in my house as my partner was working full time, and I wondered “how on earth did people do all of this, where are they and can I talk to them?”. So I wrote an opinion piece for Campaign Brief, asking mums in advertising to come and meet up, and Jules showed up. We actually knew each other beforehand as we did AWARD School together and then kept track of each other afterwards but hadn’t actually seen each other for about 10 years, so when she showed up, we founded Mums in Ads together.
From there it became quickly apparent that even though we wanted to create a social network, there weren’t actually enough of us mums in creative departments to do that. So we broadened our conversations to beyond just the creative department and we had mums approach us from all across the advertising industry, saying, “this is great, I’m finding it really hard as well”.
All of the barriers we were encountering as mums in the industry we had in common. And motherhood is undeniably a huge gender equality issue. So it made more sense for MIA to shift towards advocating for what needed to change for women in our industry, rather than just sit around talking to each other about it.
What kind of response did you receive when you first started Mums in Ads?
Julia: I don’t think anyone took us seriously in the beginning, including us. When you’re in the minority of anything it can feel like you can’t rock the boat because you don’t have the number in your corner saying, “yeah, what she said. I agree!”. But really all you need is one person backing you to give you that confidence to say things out loud and Reg was that for me and vice versa.
For us, we started with opening up conversations about gender equality and equity in public forums – mainly in the form of Linkedin posts and comments. So when creative agencies started talking the talk, we’d gently and diplomatically poke the bear with something like, “this is great creative work for gender equality, but can you walk us through what you’re doing for women inside your agency?”.
And while a lot of the industry might not know who we are or care that much, there was definitely a tipping point where no one listens to a few people listening and then eventually the others have to follow suit, because the conversations are happening and their absence is noted.
Lots of people in the industry, women and men, parents and non-parents, have always supported the kind of things we were saying or changes we are pushing for, but it takes that tipping point before they can openly show that support and get involved in those conversations.
What change have you seen in the industry for working mums?
Regina: Reflecting on the past few years, Covid was good for mums as they were given more flexibility and it made parenting and life easier. However in the last two years, since Covid restrictions have eased, some agencies have started going backwards. Work from home policies have become less flexible and some employers are expecting their employees to be in the office more – almost back to pre-Covid times.
That’s not ideal for many people, not just mums, which is why The Part-Time Pitch is more important now – to keep the progress for flexibility moving forward.
Julia: Recently there’s been a real groundswell of people who want to be in this industry, but don’t want an ultimatum between their career and their life. And this isn’t just about parenting. There’s a real push back happening on the grind culture that this industry has cornered itself into and conversations like the ones MIA are having help to fuel that groundswell.
What is most fascinating and hopeful for me, because I got quite jaded at one point, is this new wave of younger women who are having these conversations about what it means to be a woman working in our industry, women who plan on having career longevity and are thinking about how family will work into that equation. You would have not seen younger women talking or engaging in this conversation 10 years ago, when I was about to have my first child. When I was pregnant with my first child, you just didn’t see women with kids in leadership roles, so you had no idea how those two worlds came together.
The younger generation of women question this, and rightly so, rather than just letting the tide take them out to sea and hoping for the best – like I certainly did. With the changes these women are demanding, they’ll hopefully pave the way for themselves and I can’t wait to see what happens when they take the reins in a few years time, because it’s going to be pretty impressive.
The Part-Time Pitch is such a great initiative – what is it and where did it come from?
Regina: There’s a lot of talk in the space of gender equality and equity and I think we’re all ready to see more action and progress. We’ve done campaigns in the past and this time wanted to do something that would move beyond just talking about issues and give the industry something clear to act on. We wanted a campaign that was positive that could energise the industry while shoving it forward.
Julia: Because the huge barrier of accessible part-time work was something we had spoken about countless times to countless other women, from colleagues to mother’s group friends, it seemed like a good place to start making change. Leading into the part-time conversation is generally horrendous when you’re trying to get a new job and it’s one I’ve been doing over and over since I had my first child – and now I have four.
When you look at the statistics, 69% of Australian part-time workers are women and 77% of women are mothers, but if you try and look for a part-time role in our industry, and many others, you definitely don’t see them. Which makes you think of all the women being shut out of roles, and the knock on effect that this has on not just them personally but on the pipeline of female talent in the industry.
Along with those stats, the Create Space Census (run by the Advertising Council of Australia) had a really great statistic that showed women dropping out of the industry around the age of 35, which corresponds with motherhood. This, to us, was this neon sign of obviousness of a fixable problem, but agencies are scratching their heads saying, “why is the senior female talent pool so dry?”.
So, in short, we created The Part-Time Pitch document and sent it to over 200 industry leaders across 75 agencies. We simply presented the facts and asked companies for a small and doable change to all recruitment language – specify that all roles are part-time negotiable. For us, simply opening all doors to this conversation is a step towards keeping women in the industry. So far, we have 53 agencies signed up as supporters of this initiative, and that number is still growing as word spreads.
Regina: The other important part of this concept is allowing women to move around the industry with ease. If you go on maternity leave with a company, you can often come back on a part-time schedule, which is great. However, what people mightn’t realise is when all other doors in the industry are closed to the part-time conversation, you are stuck with that employer. So if that employer isn’t giving you adequate pay increases, or is giving you a full-time workload on part-time pay or overlooking you for career opportunities, you can’t actually negotiate fearlessly or leave because with a part-time work requirement, there’s often nowhere else to go.
We want to make sure women who are working part-time can move around the industry and have access to the same opportunities that full-time workers have in terms of pay, working conditions and promotion and leadership opportunities. There are some great employers out there who continue to give part-time mums pay bumps and opportunities, but you do also hear horror stories where mums are essentially forced to leave the business, or made redundant, and with part-time roles so hard to secure they tend to leave the industry altogether.
How can businesses get involved in The Part-Time Pitch?
Regina: It’s pretty easy! All they need to do is read our Part-Time Pitch doc and then agree to advertise all job roles as being part-time negotiable. Once they’ve done that, they can send us their logo and we’ll add them to our supporters list, and they can also submit roles to be featured via our website mumsinads.com.
Besides The Part-Time Pitch, what else can businesses do to keep mums in ad-land?
Julia: It is about creating workplace cultures that are safe spaces, not just for parents, but for everyone. You can show up, you can be a whole person, not just an employee and have a life outside of work and do it vulnerably and openly and watch your leaders do the same.
This environment allows people to trust that when things hit the fan, their company will have their back. There’s nothing worse than living in that state of fear that if I drop the ball, things will come crashing down and no one will help me. That’s not just a parent thing, but that’s a human thing.
It’s all about having leaders who lead by example, with empathy and like a human. Having men and women who show up and say with their words and actions “I have stuff ups, it’s fine, you’re not alone.”
Also, encouraging and supporting men to be more active carers themselves and having male leadership set this example will have a huge impact – like a ‘change the whole of society’ kind of impact. So yes, our industry’s women would definitely benefit from this approach!
Regina: Just employ them. Employ mums and do what you can to keep them.
What’s next for Mums in Ads?
Regina: Unlike most groups, we’re not interested in expanding or growing. We would love to just dismantle and become obsolete. So we’re working towards that!
But for the rest of this year, we won’t be doing much more – we just launched The Part-Time Pitch and we’ve got kids to look after and jobs to do, so we’re planning on regrouping in the new year.
Anything else you want to add?
Regina: We’re proud of the success of The Part-Time Pitch, but we don’t think it is the solution to ensuring more women stick around and progress into leadership. It’s simply a small step that agrees to a conversation about part-time work. When you zoom right out, unless mindsets have changed from a business standpoint, these small conversations won’t make any difference to the bigger picture. However, it’s the bigger conversations the Part-Time Pitch has triggered – like the one we are having now – that we think is most important. It’s shining a light on part-time work and how it can play a huge role in either keeping women in the industry or seeing them leave.
Julia: I’ve been in plenty of interview-like scenarios where you’re debating when to tell them that you need part-time work. It’s just a terrible process that knocks your confidence and makes you feel like your talent and your worth is invisible. We hope that this initiative gives more women the confidence to back themselves, knowing so many people are in their corner and what they’re asking for isn’t some sort of huge favour – but something normal and necessary for women as carers. Our skill sets are valuable, our perspectives are even more so. Employing us is not a favour – it’s just smart business.
Keen to get your business involved in The Part Time Pitch? Want to see what companies are involved and the roles they’re advertising? Head to the Mums in Ads website today.