Job sharing: driving workforce gender equity

Job sharing: driving workforce gender equity

This case study was provied by the Queensland Department of Education

Challenge

The Department of Education (the department) fosters an inclusive and high performing workplace culture that is responsive to current and future education needs to ensure every student succeeds. The department supports upward of 570,000 students across more than 1,200 state primary, secondary and special schools employing 53,000+ teachers. 96 percent of the department’s 90,000+ workforce are in front-line roles dispersed across seven regions.

21 percent of all staff in the department are men and, prior to COVID-19, were 6 percent less likely than women to access or use flexible work arrangements. The general perception is that job sharing is for women returning from parental leave. Job sharing is often perceived as problematic due to difficulties in finding suitable partners as well as a lack of process and knowledge about managing job sharing arrangements. The onus traditionally has been on employees to find suitable job-sharing partners across a geographically distributed workforce of 90,000 +.

With the ongoing focus on attraction and retention of employees, the department needs to continue to position itself as an inclusive employer of choice. Offering flexible work arrangements, including job sharing, is a key strategy to retain valuable teaching staff, increase job satisfaction and provide unique opportunities to students.

Strategy

The department’s approach to inclusion and diversity – the We All Belong framework – was launched in 2018 to grow together as an organisation, valuing and embracing the different skills, knowledge and experiences each of our staff brings to our work. Students who feel they belong, are understood, and have role models like them, have the best chance of succeeding to create a Queensland for the future.
In March 2020, the department’s Pathways to Parity workforce strategy was launched, aiming to provide a working environment where women and men have the same rights, access and opportunities to employment and career pathways enabling them to balance work and life commitments and participate fully in our workplaces. Students form gender stereotypes based on their observation of role models, including within the school environment. Creating inclusive, gender balanced workplaces are vital to delivering inclusive educational services and a better future for all Queenslanders.

“Role models…influence children’s, adolescents’, and young adults’ achievements, motivation, and goals by acting as behavioural models, representations of the possible, and/or inspirations.” (Morgenroth et al., 2015)1

Job sharing offers the opportunity for men and women to balance work and life commitments whilst providing career path possibilities.

A deliverable of the Pathways to Parity strategy is the 12-month trial of a job-sharing online platform, providing a proactive approach to flexible work arrangements, and assisting staff to meet caring responsibilities, access promotional opportunities on a part-time basis, and transition to retirement.

Actions

The 12-month trial encompasses nominated metropolitan, Cairns and Townsville secondary schools with a focus on:
1. culture — shifting mindsets and assessing the demand, viability and cultural appetite for job sharing outside the current permanent part-time arrangements
2. visibility — trialling an innovative cloud-based job-sharing platform to support employees in identifying job sharing opportunities and finding job sharing partners.

By trialling the job-sharing platform, job sharing opportunities and partnerships become visible for all employees, irrespective of gender. The online platform enables employees to:
 create a job-sharing profile with work, time and subject preferences
 match to job sharing partners that have similar work style and availability
 create a joint CV, collating job-sharing partner’s information.

Outcomes

The department partners with Australian start-up company Gemini3 to implement a cloud hosted and supported job-sharing platform. Gemini3 have also collaborated with Victoria Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP), the NSW Public Service Commission including Department of Premier and Cabinet, and Stronger Communities and Justice, as well as Commonwealth Bank, Macquarie Bank, Unilever and Lion.

To date, secondary school principals are signed on to the trial as executive champions. Permanent employees are registering for job sharing by completing the platform’s Working Styles and Skills Survey to find compatible partners and are exploring the job-sharing platform for future opportunities.
To drive broader cultural change across our schools, case studies and videos are being developed to highlight:
 workforce planning and flexibility: engaging in proactive conversations and planning for opportunities
 flexible work options and culture: benefiting students and teachers
 authentic learning: to connect students to the real world.

An evaluation conducted at the end of the 12-month trial will focus on the trial’s two key elements:
 identifying cultural change towards job sharing
 the effectiveness of the job-sharing platform.

Surveys, focus groups, case studies, data analysis and semi-structured interviews with participating schools and teachers will inform the department’s next steps and approach to flexible work arrangements as it focuses on continuing to position itself as an inclusive employer of choice.

The prevalence of job sharing a leadership role in the department is low due to perceptions that job sharing leadership tasks is unmanageable. The following case studies demonstrate examples of successful job sharing in leadership and in teaching partnerships. Job sharing in a leadership role is both achievable and beneficial to leadership, schools, staff and students. Job-sharing leadership positions provide positive role models for innovation, trust and respect, encouraging equity in the workforce and diminishing gender stereotypes.

Case study

Ensuring opportunities: mentoring and leadership continuity

Mentoring in schools offers staff development opportunities and ensures continuity of school culture and values are passed on to future leadership. Leaders are responsible for creating school culture, and school culture is shown to be the largest factor in teacher retention2. Job sharing provides an exceptional opportunity to mentor staff in higher duties, providing them with an authentic and enduring leadership experience that benefits the school, the staff and the students.

Terry Heath, Principal

Terry has 16 years’ experience as principal of a Brisbane metropolitan high school and began job sharing his role one day a week with the deputy principal. Terry says that mentoring using job sharing is a little bit different from just stepping in when the principal is away, when staff just look after the school, rather than co-leading the school.Terry job shares all aspects of his role, and believes “job sharing provides an apprenticeship for future principals to actually experience what leadership is in a real context – where they are the principal of the school. Job sharing the principal role also provided a lot of other opportunities within my school – it benefited the wellbeing of all the staff at the school by giving other leaders an opportunity to step up.”
Strength in partnership provides continuity for students

“Successfully job sharing a leadership role – it’s absolutely essential to have someone that you trust, that you have absolute confidence in – it’s very easy when it’s in a school situation and you know the person that you’re working with. That’s what happened in my situation,” Terry said.

“Job sharing allows partnership over a longer period of time – they are working with you on decisions. You are mentoring them, you are enabling them to get that principal mindset through an authentic experience.”

The leadership continuity offered by job sharing also benefits students by providing a co-leader they know and are familiar with.
“Students have two leaders to approach should there be an issue. Students know who the principal is on a certain day, there’s stability because it’s regular. We share the stage and students get an energised principal. Job sharing is an exceptional way to offer a leadership process for the school – its win-win,” Terry said.

Case study

Job sharing flexibility: supporting workforce equity for carers

Many of our workforce have caring responsibilities including at least one dependent child under the age of 183 . Teaching remains largely represented by women with over three quarters of the department’s workforce identifying as female. Flexible work policies, including part-time employment, remote work, parental leave, and job sharing offer the opportunity for both men and women to manage work and life commitments. Gender imbalance in the teaching profession, and its conceivable effect on students’ learning, warrant detailed study4.

Men need to take advantage of and have equal access to flexible work for policies to have meaningful impact on our workforce wellbeing and student success5 6.

Dan Ward, Secondary Teacher

Dan immigrated from England and was teaching at a Brisbane metropolitan high school when he needed to take time off to share the caring responsibility of children with his partner.
“I’m an experienced full-time teacher. I’ve been teaching five days a week for many years and teaching in Australia now for the last five years. With needing to take time off to help care for my children, job sharing worked really well. It definitely took pressure off, for myself and my family too,” Dan said.

Job sharing benefits teacher wellbeing and student continuity

“I was feeling under pressure to try to be at school and at the same time pressured to take time off to be at home caring for my own children. I was getting to the point where the burden was making me feel like ‘what do I do, where do I go?’ The job-sharing arrangement helped by balancing caring for family and teaching my students.”

“When students have two teachers, it’s a richer experience of teaching and learning. With job sharing, it was the same teacher taking the same day every day of the week. It was definitely more beneficial for the students, having that learning continuity.”

“Job sharing is definitely something that schools and other organisations should look at, as job sharing is for anybody. I’m a thirty something father of two, at the time, job sharing was what I needed. It gave me time to get things a bit more organised at home without letting down my kids at school. Some people consider job sharing is just for mothers, but dads want to take time off too, so why shouldn’t they do that? Job sharing should be available for everyone — for anybody. Having the extra time at home recharged me to return back to work full-time. Win-win all round,” he said.

Case study

Job-sharing partnerships: supporting teacher wellbeing

The department supports students’ learning and wellbeing 7 and acknowledges the link between teacher wellbeing and student learning highlighted by a growing body of research 8 9 As one of the largest employers in the state, the benefits of workforce wellbeing are far-reaching, not only for individuals, but at a wider school community level also. Supporting job sharing partnerships in schools contributes to teacher wellbeing by providing flexibility to realise roles, both in and outside the school. A healthier workforce positively influences student engagement, leading to better learning outcomes and supporting students to succeed.

Jane Chapman and Marnie Crymble, Secondary Teachers and Year Coordinators

Jane and Marnie have a successful four-year job-sharing partnership at a Brisbane metropolitan high school. With over 35 years combined experience, they share teaching roles and the Year Coordinator role and are strong proponents of job sharing and its benefits to wellbeing.

“The benefits supercede us personally. By having this option of flexible work and job sharing, it’s transformative for our families too,” said Jane.

Job sharing creates far reaching benefits for staff and school

“Job sharing has allowed me to look at my purpose and have work life balance. The benefits go beyond the walls of this school. My family is better off for it. My life will be forever changed. I’m consciously very grateful that it’s changed the direction of my life. Job sharing also allows me the time to study for my Masters in Education.”

“The benefits for me are also time with my children, having that work life balance, being able to do both jobs — home job and school job — to the best of my ability without feeling like one is lacking.”
Marnie

“Job sharing is a really powerful option. I doubt I would be doing as well as I am if I wasn’t given that option. I didn’t think I could be a year coordinator working part-time. Knowing what the school has done for me, the support they’ve given me, in order to continue working whilst having time to be home with my children, and also giving me the opportunity to progress as a year coordinator, it makes you feel valued. I work so hard for this school because they’ve given me this opportunity,” she said.

1 The motivational theory of role modeling: How role models influence role aspirants’ goals
2 Teacher recruitment and retention strategy, UK Department of Education, 2019.
3 Pathways to Parity workforce strategy
4 Education at a glance 2020: OECD indicators
5 Department of Education, Advancing Education: an action plan for education in Queensland
6 Department of Education Strategic Plan 2020-2024
7 Department of Education Student Learning and Wellbeing Framework

8 Healthy teachers, higher marks? Establishing a link between teacher health and wellbeing, and student outcomes. The Work Foundation. Lancaster University, UK.
9 Staff wellbeing is key to school success. A research study into the links between staff wellbeing and school performance. Worklife Support. University of London, UK.